Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Daniel Rahe


Frank Herbert Park Options?

The effort to name a Tacoma park in honor of native son and Dune author Frank Herbert has hit a snag.

Erik Hanberg, the man behind the initiative to name the slag-heap peninsula at the southeast end of Point Defiance Park after one of our city’s few international celebrities and literary heroes, discussed the setback on his blog this morning.

Metro Parks finished its review of the public request to name the peninsula that forms the yacht basin “Frank Herbert Park.”

Their conclusion was two-fold:

  1. “Frank Herbert” is eligible to be a park name.

  2. The peninsula is actually a part of Point Defiance Park, and thus can’t be named Frank Herbert Park….

….Is the name “Frank Herbert Park” still possible? I would say it’s a possibility, if public support is high enough and if there is no major blowback from the community to renaming a piece of one of Tacoma’s oldest (and most recognizable parks). Frank Herbert Peninsula or something similar could also be in the mix. It could most definitely still be named after Frank Herbert.

The Peninsula Park site was chosen as an ideal place to commemorate Herbert, the famous science fiction novelist, because of his strong opposition to the pollution practices of the smelter that created the slag on which the park will be built, and which inspired the environmental themes of his Dune series.

Hanberg, who is a commissioner for the park district, went on to explain that the construction work for this park will take at least two years. Once the project is completed, Metropolitan Parks will perhaps be willing to re-conceptualize its name as something other than a portion of iconic Point Defiance.

Two years is a while to wait for an uncertain outcome, which leads us to wonder if there are alternative sites for a Frank Herbert Park.

Perhaps none could ever be as fitting a tribute to a champion of environmental responsibility as a peninsula composed of slag from the very smelter that inspired many of Dune’s themes, but other sites might make worthy candidates, which Hanberg has also acknowledged.

One such location is the Point Ruston Waterwalk.

The Pt. Ruston Waterwalk  extends from Ruston Way northeasterly near the intersection of 49th Street and runs northwesterly toward Peninsula Park

The Pt. Ruston Waterwalk extends from Ruston Way northeasterly near the intersection of 49th Street and runs northwesterly toward Peninsula Park

Just south of Peninsula Park sits the new Point Ruston development, which occupies the former Asarco plant property. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, this sprawling mixed-use center will soon sell a 100-foot-wide swath of its shoreline acreage to the City of Tacoma for use as a waterwalk – the connecting path from Waterfront Park to Pt. Defiance Park. (Map here)

This trail corridor also traverses the entirety of the former Asarco Smelter property, land so contaminated it is capped by layers of plastic sheeting and  trucked-in soil. The rebirth of this property as a pedestrian route with a striking view of Commencement Bay is potently symbolic of Tacoma’s transformative ambitions, if not as dramatic as the rehabilitation of the massive slag heap.

Once the waterwalk property is owned by the City of Tacoma, it is possible that a petition for naming or renaming could be initiated, which would then be discussed in public hearing before reaching the City Council for vote of approval.

Since this bayview walkway connects to the existing well-known Ruston Way Waterfront sidewalk system, naming it separately could create confusion. But given the horrible legacy of this particular site, some kind of distinct recognition seems appropriate, as a contrast and celebration of its cleaner future.

Calling it Frank Herbert Park Memorial Walkway might accomplish this nicely, since his was one of the earliest voices in the fight against Asarco’s pollution.

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About the Author

Founder of Post Defiance, Dan is a father, surveyor, writer, and runner.

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