Making up for lots of lost time: Tacoma's Chinese park takes shape after 14 years —

Making up for lots of lost time: Tacoma's Chinese park takes shape after 14 years

By Kris Sherman; Feb. 18, 2007 © The Tacoma News Tribune

The first phase of a long-delayed Tacoma park could emerge by June. It stands for multiculturalism and tries to atone for the expulsion of Chinese natives in 1885.

Sometime in this new Year of the Pig, which begins today, Tacoma residents will be able to walk the pathways of Chinese Reconciliation Park.

Completion of the facility on Commencement Bay is millions of dollars and years away, and there’s still much fundraising to be done. But Tacoma city officials are delighted that earth is finally being moved and the park is beginning to take shape – 14 years after it was conceived and 122 years after Tacomans forced the Chinese out of town.

The first phase of the 4-acre waterfront park should be open by June.

The park won’t be finished, but there will be walkways, some interpretive displays and the beginnings of a lush garden, said Bart Alford, the city’s development division supervisor.

The city and the nonprofit Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation are partners in the effort.

Ground was broken in August of 2005, but construction didn’t begin in earnest until recently.

“There’s a considerable amount of earth being moved,” Mayor Bill Baarsma said with a note of pride. Baarsma was a City Council member 14 years ago when the city began moving forward with the project.

It is at once a celebration of the city’s multiculturalism and an atonement for Tacoma’s expulsion of its Chinese community in 1885.

Taiwan native Theresa Pan Hosley is leading the community effort to build the park.

“I have lived the richness of both cultures, and I believe we can learn from another,” she told The News Tribune before the groundbreaking.

The first phase of the park, which lies along Schuster Parkway near North 30th Street, will cost a little more than $2 million, Alford said. The Washington National Guard, former owner of the land, already spent $1 million on environmental cleanup on the property.

“We still need probably another $5 million to $6 million to complete the whole park,” Alford said. When it can be finished “depends on how we can raise the money,” he said.

Tacoma officials and project leaders cobbled together $2.8 million in state grants, city funds and donations for the park’s first phase.

Baarsma and others, meanwhile, are working with Tacoma’s Chinese sister city, Fuzhou, and friendship city, Mianyang, to secure artwork for the site.

There could be a trade of sorts, he said. There’s a possibility of sending some glass art from the Hilltop Artists in Residence program to Mianyang in exchange for Chinese artwork.

Getting public access to a phase of the park could open the doors for more donations, Baarsma believes.

“It’s a very complicated project,” he said. “We’re dealing with the shoreline, and there are a lot of regulations to be tended to,” he said.

More importantly, the mayor said, there are human relations to be repaired.

On the web
For more information or to donate, go to

Paying for the park
Here’s a list of money acquired for the Chinese Reconciliation Park in the past few years:

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant: $554,221
State Aquatic Lands Enhancement grant: $478,099
State heritage grant: $343,000
Community Trade and Economic Development allocation through the Legislature: $540,375
Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation: $20,000
Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation donation of artifacts: $3,480
City of Tacoma: $479,304 (to match grants)
City of Tacoma: $463,403 (for design work)
Washington National Guard, environmental cleanup: $1 million
Land donation: Washington National Guard

Total: $3,881,882

© News Tribune
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