Thousands of visitors to Birch Bay State Park are being greeted with new playground equipment, the first time since 1995.
Each year, about 55,000 to 60,000 campers visit the park, one of 110 in the state park system. Another 800,000 people are day visitors, said Ted Morris, a park ranger and manager of the 194-acre park.
The equipment includes a pair of slides, a set of swings, wall climber, mini zip line feature, gyro pad spinner, net wall, a double slide, a spiral slide and a tree house ranger station.
“We’ve been working on this since 2010,” Morris said. “I’m super excited to provide this to our campers.”
The new equipment is the result of survey feedback. They were distributed widely to park staff, guests, and campers. They overwhelmingly agreed that a playground for children would be a welcome addition to the park, according to Doralee Booth, president of Friends of Birch Bay State Park.
The organization supports and promotes the park by helping with routine maintenance, facilitating public education and hosting special events.
Equipment and installation cost roughly $45,000, Morris said. Money came from a variety of sources, including donations from Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2, $30,000; Friends of Birch Bay State Park, $9,000; the Washington State Parks Foundation, $2,500; the Washington State Park System, $2,500; and BP, about $5,000.
Crews began constructing the playground on Sept. 22. It took about two weeks to install.
The playground is the latest improvement to complement the park, Morris said. The park also is home to the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education.
The Center serves as the stage for high-quality interpretive programming at the park, giving local school children a place to gather and warm up after blustery beach walks and the public a facility in which to learn from park rangers and local experts about the abundant wildlife in the Birch Bay ecosystem, Morris said.
When not in use by organized school groups and interpretive programming, the facilities are available by rental to the public for picnics, reunions and other events. Proceeds will be used to maintain the facility and to fund enhancements to future programming.
The vision for the Heron Center was developed by Scott Walker, president of the Friends of Birch Bay State Park. His desire to provide the local community with an educational environmental center is now reality.
Various entities financially contributed to the project including, BP Cherry Point Refinery, ALCOA, Jerry Larson, Birch Bay State Park, local donors and Friends of Birch Bay State Park, and countless volunteers made it a reality.
The BP Heron Center can accommodate more than 140 people inside the building. Also, more than 300 guests can be accommodated on the covered patio and surrounding grounds.
In summer of 2017, the local park stewardship group Friends of Birch Bay State Park hosted Beach Fest & Feast, a waterside celebration at the park’s BP Heron Center. The mission was to inspire residents and visitors with an appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of the park.