Slide at new Brookville Gardens Community Park. Credit: Nikki McCoy
On a recent trip from Seattle to Olympia, my family and I took a much-needed break from I-5 to explore the recently opened Brookville Gardens Community Park. We found the park nestled near an industrial area in the city of Fife. For the unfamiliar, Fife is a small city east of Tacoma. While some know it for its bounty of auto dealerships, it also has family-friendly features such as this delightful new community park.
The first feature of the park we encountered was the inviting rust-iron bridge, which provided a walkway over the historic Wapato Creek and was the official entrance to the 15-acre park. We couldn’t help but pause to hang our heads over the rail and see what kind of Northwest foliage and critters thrive in the area. Informative, decorative signs helped us interpret what we were seeing, such as the description of the rain gardens, which filter pollution and provide habitat. Fun fact: Brookeville Park features 19 rain gardens.
The next eye-catching element we noticed were the unique rooftops of the restrooms and picnic shelters. The green-growing roofs showcased the park designers’ commitment to the environment.
On the playground, kids climbed the slide tower, chased each other around the monkey bars and challenged themselves to balancing acts on the play structures.
"The slide tower was unique — it was very vertical, not so much at an angle as others," analyzed my 13-year-old, whom I caught giggling down the slide more times than I would have imagined for a mature guy of his age.
"I thought it was interesting that you could climb up more than one way," my 9-year-old chimed in.
Younger kids were happily climbing and sliding as well, and a wee one looked content as his mother pushed him in the baby swing.
A mile-plus walking trail rims the park and appears pet-, wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. In the middle, a large green field offered a great spot for tossing a Frisbee or laying out a picnic.
The shelters were well-inhabited on our Saturday afternoon visit. One family had decorated for a birthday party, complete with unicorn pinata. Another group fired up the on-site grill while a team of siblings rolled coolers over the bridge.
Blending past, present and future
The vision that inspired the new Brookville Gardens Community Park encompassed more than surface beauty and functionality. The community park was designed to pay homage to the history of the area, specifically Wapato Creek, which begins in North Puyallup and winds through Fife, ending at the Blair Waterway at Commencement Bay.
Restoration of the creek, which historically provided local tribes the gift of the mud-grown tuber — the Wapato — was an essential piece to the development of the park. Widening of the creek corridor and construction of the wetlands was necessary to achieve that goal.
"Within Brookville Gardens, Wapato Creek will be restored to its natural state," reads a statement on the park’s website. "Through careful management of sinuosity, the bend or curves in a stream, as well as flow rate … constant movement of water will be maintained in the creek throughout the year. The creek was cleared of debris, dredged to an appropriate depth for salmon and other wildlife and re-planted with native vegetation."
We enjoyed learning more about our Puget Sound-area history, and we continued our conversation on local tribes and wetland conservation during the car ride home.
Whether you live nearby or use this park as a rest stop, it definitely warrants a visit. For us, taking a 30-minute rest in the middle of our commute was the highlight of our day. My husband and I lightened up, the boys’ cheeks were flushed from playing and their hair was damp from the sprinkle of rain. We all left mentally and physically refreshed.
As my children get older, I realize more each day how important it is to stop and play. And this park provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.
If you go...
Find it: Find Brookville Gardens Community Park at 6518 Valley Ave. E. in Fife. Fife is about 5 miles east of Tacoma, 30 miles south of Seattle and 35 miles northeast of Olympia. The park is approximately 1.5 miles off of I-5, using exit 137.
Parking: Parking is free and the parking lot is wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. If you’re hosting an event, the lot can hold up to 55 vehicles.
Plan a party: Reserve a covered shelter and grill at 253-922-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snack time: Try Pick-Quick Drive In, just a few miles away. This burger shack has been serving the South Sound since 1949 and has an emphasis on fresh food. If you're lucky, the shake of the week might be Almond Roca. (Note: Fife's Pick-Quick closes for winter during December and January.)
More new parks: Parks are sprouting up all over the greater Puget Sound area! Put all these on your route.