Planned shelter at Dockton Park concerns some park users

The county plans to place a steel structure in the grass near the Dockton Park playground. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
The county plans to place a steel structure in the grass near the Dockton Park playground.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

A plan to install an open-sided shelter at Dockton Park has stirred some controversy among park users, some of whom think the structure will block water views and break up a flat grassy area.

But proponents of the plan and King County officials said the simple structure will cause little disturbance at the park and perform an important function — honoring the heritage of Dockton, a Maury community that once boasted an impressive maritime culture and industry.

The 16-by-16-foot steel structure is slated to be erected between the park's playground and the water, and will house two informative signs about Dockton's heritage. The shelter will be topped with a belltower housing Dockton’s original shift bell and complemented by a tiled obelisk designed by the Vashon Tile Guild.

The shelter will be the trailhead of the Dockton Historical Trail, a one-mile loop of informative signs scattered throughout the town. Only the signs at Dockton Park — honoring the Dockton dry dock and maritime industry — have not been erected because they are slated to be housed in the yet-to-be-built kiosk.

“The idea is to have it be a destination visible from the parking lot that’s accessible,” said TJ Davis, a King County Community Partnership Grants coordinator. “The interpretive panels will be making references to things people standing right there will be able to see.”

The county grant program has committed $65,000 to the Dockton Historical Trail project, about half of which will be spent on construction of the shelter at the park.

“It’ll be a fairly benign, low-impact structure,” he said.

Davis said a volunteer committee of 25 vetted the kiosk’s location at public meetings and chose the space between the park playground and bulkhead for its “accessibility and visibility from the parking lot.”

“We spent a good couple of months looking into other locations, but they were just too far away or caused parking problems,” he said.

While the kiosk will be located near the shoreline, something that the county often frowns upon, in this case Dockton Park is already heavily developed, with a large bulkhead running the length of the park. Davis said the group will work to mitigate the effects of installing the kiosk by removing an impervious surface somewhere else in the park.

“The impact and education that will be able to occur there” outweigh concerns about its placement, he added.

“It’s important to remember that this is about the history of the Island,” said Dockton resident Anita Halstead, one of the leaders of the group that has worked for two years to create an informative walking trail in the town. We are bringing back the heritage of this place.”

She said she hopes the shelter will fulfill its primary purpose of informing park visitors about Dockton's history, not detract from the park’s functionality or personality.

Others visiting the popular park on Sunday agreed.

“It’ll be cool to see the history up there. Kids and adults should know, and that’s a perfect place,” said Bridget Lehet, pausing from her work on her boat at the dock. “It’s not going to block anyone’s view.”

But some Islanders are

concerned that adding a

structure to the park is unnecessary and will de-tract from the park's natural scenery.

“I think it’s always good to let natural structures predominate,” said Islander Julian Dahl, who was exploring the park and beach on Sunday morning with his children. “The world has enough manmade structures, definitely.”

Islander Lyman Houghton concurred. He said when he lived and worked at the park and told visitors about the planned structure, everyone seemed to be opposed to its placement near the playground.

“Literally, there’s not one person who isn’t concerned about it,” he said. “Everybody who goes down to the park says they wouldn't want it there.”

Houghton formerly worked at the park as its “dock host,” living on his boat and keeping an eye on the park day and night — until his boat was torched on Christmas day. He suspects the arson was in retaliation for his actions at the park, which sometimes included breaking up parties and other unsavory activities.

Still, his affection and care for the park runs deep, and he says the informative kiosk at the park will chop up one of the only flat stretches of grass at the park, which he says is a popular place for picnics and lawn bowling.

He even voiced his concerns to the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council last month.

“I don’t have anything against the historical trail group or what they’re doing; it’s just one particular choice is really unfortunate for a lot of people,” Houghton said.

Davis said he and community members plan to apply for the structure’s building permit and shoreline development permit this week or next. After that, King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services will review the permit applications, and if it accepts them, will put out a two-week call for public comments.

“We want to make sure we hear all the comments,” Davis said. “We want to try to get it in this summer, but it’s all up in the air until we hear back from permitting folks and the community.”

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