| Family fun

Richmond Beach Saltwater Park

Sandcastles on the Sound
2021 N.W. 190th St., Shoreline

Richmond Beach Saltwater Park offers breathtaking views of Puget Sound, short kid-friendly view trails along a high bluff and a driftwood-strewn beach perfect for imaginative play and walking.

History: The Coast Salish used the area as a camp, for digging clams and for gathering wild berries and a tobacco-like plant called q'q'e'waide (k-eh k-EH wai dut), but by the early 1900s, the Great Northern Railroad owned the beach land. The little community of Richmond Beach, which became famous for the delicious strawberries grown on the five-acre farms that comprised much of the area, was developing on the bluff during this time. The Richmond Beach Sand and Gravel Company began operation on the beach, sluicing the sand and gravel hill just east of the beach with huge fire hoses. The base of the bluff was a gravel pit with bunkers into which the gravel was sorted by size. The sand that remained formed the present-day sandy strip of the beach. The beach served as a loading area for the barges that carried away the sorted gravel, and the wooden dock (now long gone) was a popular fishing spot for local children. During the 1930s and early 1940s, Richmond Beach was a funeral pyre for many outdated large ships. The vessels were dramatically run aground, soaked with oil and set afire. Steel survived the blaze and was salvaged for reuse.

In 1959, the Great Northern Railway sold the land to King County, which developed the 37-acre property into a swimming beach and built a foot trestle overpass for safely crossing the railroad tracks. Richmond Beach became part of the City of Shoreline in 1994, and in 1995 King County began the process of passing ownership of the park to the city.

Features: A paved _-mile loop trail along the bluff starts directly past the park entrance and leads to several benches and two large madrona trees. The main road winds down the hill from the entrance past an upper terrace with picnic tables. A second terrace farther down the hill features many more picnic tables--some covered--plus barbeque grills and a small play structure. At the bottom of the road, a short path through a tiny wooded area leads to a wide, well-fenced overpass above the train tracks. Trains pass below frequently and the bird's- eye view is thrilling. Richmond Beach is rocky along the shoreline but features a wide sandy strip perfect for sand castles. Since the beach area itself is remote, parents may be wise to make this a group outing on all but the sunniest days when beach fans pack the park. Look for the bronze Coast Salish Welcoming Figure and a marker identifying geographical features visible across the Sound. There are bathroom facilities on the beach.

Access: The play structure has an accessible path from the parking lot and curb cut access. The beach can be reached without using stairs but the path is steep. There is a drop of several inches at both ends of the train track overpass where path meets ramps.

Nearby: Picnic supplies are available at Richmond Beach Foods (2002 N.W. 196th St., 206-546-1944). The Wild Horse (2001 N.W. 195th St., 206-542-5000) offers burgers and ice cream at a walk-up window on the road down to the beach. The Richmond Beach Coffee Company (1442 N.W. Richmond Beach Rd., 206-542-0511), housed in an old auto-repair shop, offers interesting teas. Full Moon (1441 N.W. Richmond Beach Rd., 206-542-5777) features delicious Thai food and fast service for a take-out dinner on the way home. The Richmond Beach Branch of the King County Library (19601 21st Ave. N.W. 206-546-3522, www.kcls.org) has a lovely children's area guarded by a touchable bronze raven. More sculptures are scattered around the building's exterior. If possible, visit the Shoreline Historical Museum (749 N. 175th. 206-542-7111, www.shorelinehistoricalmuseum.org). Housed in the circa 1912 Ronald Elementary School, the museum collection includes a room full of antique radios, a re-created period schoolroom, a display about the now-vanished Playland Amusement Park and many other fascinating artifacts of Northwest life from the 1890s on. The building is accessible via ramp and elevator.

Paula Becker is a contributing editor for www.HistoryLink.org and a mother of three.

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