Downtown to Defiance celebration will unveil new trail

Staff writerSeptember 18, 2013 

Tacoma plans to host a party Sunday that will stretch from the Tacoma Dome to Point Defiance Park.

It’s called Downtown to Defiance, and during the event cyclists, walkers, runners and other self-propelled users will replace motorists on the waterfront streets from 8 a.m. to noon. Parks along the 7-mile-long route will host an array of activities, including Zumba, bike decorating and nature interpretation.

Organizers, who hope this will become an annual event, believe they’ve saved the best for last: Downtown to Defiance will be the official introduction of a 0.6-mile-long temporary asphalt trail linking Point Defiance Park and Point Ruston.

“It gives people a notion of what it will be like to connect you from the dome to Point Defiance (without driving),” said Diane Wiatr, the City of Tacoma’s active transportation coordinator.

The new Point Defiance Interim Trail and Sunday’s event have the same objective, said Nancy Johnson, spokeswoman for Metro Parks Tacoma. They’re designed to inspire active lifestyles and alternative transportation.

Wiatr has been pondering for years the idea of shutting down streets on a Sunday morning to give people a chance to enjoy them without having to worry about motorists.

The idea originated in the 1970s in Bogota, Columbia. Each Sunday and on holidays, the capital city closes more than 75 miles of streets to vehicles between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. These Ciclovía Sundays inspired many other cities, including Spokane, Seattle and Portland, to open their streets for a time on Sunday mornings.

Wiatr has visited several of these Sunday Parkways, including Mexico City’s Ciclovía.

“It’s quite astonishing, really,” she said. “I saw all kinds of people and even little old ladies learning to ride a bike in these public spaces created by closing the streets.”

Sunday’s Downtown to Defiance will be a pilot program for a potential Tacoma Sunday Parkways program, Wiatr said. Some promotional signage for this year’s event is designed to be reusable, Johnson said.

Metro Parks, the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department are partnering to put on the event. The three organizations and sponsor U.S. Bank dedicated an estimated $32,000 to make the event happen, Johnson said.

Downtown to Defiance is free to participants. As of Wednesday, more than 800 people had registered for the event, Johnson said.

Helmets will be available for purchase. Bikes, helmets and locks will be provided for 20 children from low-income families. Seattle-based Outdoors for All Foundation will bring bikes for people with disabilities.

“We want people to know we are trying to be very inclusive,” Wiatr said. “From the middle school kid on a BMX bike to the recreational cyclist on a $6,500 bike and everybody in between. For every type of person there are that many types of riders.”

The Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club will start the event by leading bicycle tours that will cover the route and then continue to Gig Harbor before returning to the Tacoma Dome via the Scott Pierson Trail. A women’s riding club called CycloFemmes will lead its own ride at 8:05 a.m. At 11 a.m., Kidical Mass will stage a ride for kids on the new Interim Trail with frozen fruit treats distributed at the finish.

Along the way participants can take part in events at Thea’s Park (events have a culture and heritage theme), Dickman Mill Park (nature and environment) and Marine Park (active living and wellness). Marine Park will have Zumba, hula and an inflatable obstacle course.

The event will finish at the Point Defiance Bowl, where there will be games, an appearance by a zoo animal and other activities from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Downtown to Defiance participants will enter the park via the new $60,000 Interim Trail. While the trail surface is complete, workers are rushing to finish installing fences and signs before Sunday’s opening.

The Interim Trail is expected to be in place until late 2015, when it will be replaced with a 20-foot-wide permanent trail that’s part of an $11 million project that will include a pedestrian bridge over Ferry Road.

“I think people will be blown away by the views in that area,” Johnson said. “They’ll see Puget Sound and Vashon Island. It’s just breathtaking.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497


When: Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon Sunday

Where: Waterfront streets and parks between the Tacoma Dome and Point Defiance Park.

Cost: Free

Activities: Visitors can use streets and trails by bike, skates, on foot or other self-powered means. The route will be closed to motorists. Various events will take place at the parks along the routes. The Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club, VeloFemmes and Kidical Mass will stage rides.

Road closures: D Street between Wiley and East 26th streets and Northbound D Street between East 26th and Dock streets (7:30 a.m. to noon). Dock Street from D to 15th streets (8 to 9 a.m.). Southbound Dock Street between Schuster Parkway and 15th Street, open for limited access (8 to 9 a.m.). Northbound Dock Street closed to motorized vehicles (8 a.m. to noon). Westbound Schuster Parkway (8 a.m. to noon). Ruston Way eastbound will have one-way only vehicle access (8 a.m. to noon). Hillside Lane open to southbound traffic between 49th and Seventh streets (8 a.m. to noon). Point Defiance Park will be close to vehicle traffic (8 a.m. to noon).

Note: Ferry Road and the Marina complex will remain open. Motorists can reach the zoo, Fort Nisqually and Owen Beach via Point Defiance Park’s Mildred Street Entrance.

Shuttle service: There is no shuttle service for the event. Pierce Transit will offer transportation between the park and the dome for $2 per adult and 75 cents for youth, seniors and people with disabilities.

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