By the editorial board of the Herald
Mountlake Terrace and its nearly 10-year project to turn a former municipal golf course into a more naturalized park may be one of the first projects to be completed with significant funding from the federal infrastructure program passed by Congress. Last year.
If a largely passive park with trails, boardwalks and boardwalks and birding opportunities, natural vistas and quiet enjoyment amid the growth and development of southern Snohomish County doesn’t look like an “infrastructure,” take a closer look, especially at the Creek Park Hall, says Jeff Betz, director of recreation and parks for the city.
“What we hope to do, the main piece is Hall Creek. It’s really about restoring habitat in Hall Creek and the surrounding area for amphibians, birds and potential salmon habitat and really trying to bring back that native growth,” Betz said.
Think of the park as one huge rain garden, providing stormwater treatment, helping habitat and supporting native plants and animals, and improving the water quality of Ballinger Lake.
Plans to reinvent the former 42-acre golf coursecombined with existing urban land in a 55-acre park, disguises a needed infrastructure project: more natural stormwater treatment that improves water quality in Ballinger Lake south of the park, improves bird habitat and animals and increases recreational opportunities for the 21,000 residents of the city and surrounding communities.
Currently, Hall Creek would not be mistaken by many for a creek; it is mostly a straight ditch that runs through the old golf course and is now choked with Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic plants that have spread into the lake.
Project designs will restore a more meandering course for the creek, with wetlands, native plant species, bank restoration and more, providing a more natural flow for the creek that will slow the water in the creek and allow the creek and its plantings to absorb more of the nutrients that contribute to the growth of non-native invasive plant species in Ballinger Lake.
Over time, as culvert replacement work continues to remove barriers to fish passage elsewhere, a more natural Hall Creek could even see the return of salmon, Betz said.
Although less space is available at the north end of the park to alter the creek’s path, the naturalized creek south of the park will feature a boardwalk and a new footbridge near the park’s senior center.
With an estimated price tag of over $5 million, it’s not a project that Mountlake Terrace, or most towns, could handle on its own. About 65 percent of the project will be funded by federal funds—about $3.25 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, another $1 million in grants for recreation and wildlife from the state and about $875,000 from the city. own money, Betz said.
Federal and state funds, Betz said, come with conditions and reporting requirements, but those regulations ensure that taxpayer funds are used as intended.
The city’s ongoing work with the Army Corps was one reason Betz was recently asked to speak on an online conference call with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., And the Biden administration’s infrastructure implementation coordinator, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who accompanied other local government officials through some of the infrastructure funding hoops.
“It’s a difficult process,” Betz said. “Even the state process is difficult for some jurisdictions.”
Major help, Betz said, came from Larsen and his staff, as well as that of the corps.
So federal money will do its job to improve water quality; state money will improve habitat and local funds will “ensure that people in the park can enjoy it,” he said.
Since the golf course closed in December 2012, the planning process for the park has been long and methodical, but with several public meetings where visions for the park have been shared. Design work for the park, done by the same company that redesigned Seattle’s Magnuson Park and Spokane’s Riverfront Park, is now complete, and Betz expects the project to go up for appeal. offers in the coming months. Construction is scheduled from spring to next fall.
“It’s been a long road, but these kinds of projects take a long time and need a lot of partners,” Betz said.
Other infrastructure projects, totaling $8.6 billion of projects in Washington State, will follow, including $4.7 billion for highway repair and maintenance; $605 million for bridge repair and maintenance; $1.79 billion for public transit; $882 million for improving water supply systems; $385 million for airport projects, including $16 million for Paine Field; $172 for culvert replacement and other salmon habitat restoration work; and at least $100 million to bring high-speed Internet to unserved and underserved rural and urban areas. A detailed overview of other projects in Larsen’s 2nd Congressional District is available at tinyurl.com/WA2Infrastructure.
But Hall Creek’s slow meander through Ballinger Park will serve as an early example of the investments provided by the federal infrastructure package partnership and state and local funding.