Kenmore initiative aims to get residents to the water

Kenmore city officials continue working on increasing public access to Lake Washington and the Sammamish River.

City officials in Kenmore continue to look at ways of developing a more vibrant and accessible waterfront along the banks of Lake Washington under an initiative known as “Get Me to the Water.”

Kenmore City Manager Rob Karlinsey said access to the lake has long been an area of interest for residents since most waterfront property is privately owned.

“Very little of it’s accessible by the public,” he said.

The city owns three plots of waterfront land along Lake Washington and the Sammamish River, which includes Squire’s Landing, Rhododendron Park and Log Boom Park. A Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch also borders Rhododendron Park and shoreline in Saint Edward State Park is also accessible from hiking trails to the water.

Squire’s Landing is a large plot of wetland owned by the city and encompasses the mouth and partial length of Swamp Creek where it connects with the Sammamish River.

A mobile home and garage sit on the property in front of a dock protruding into the Sammamish River. The dock came with the purchase of the land, which Karlinsey said was important due to the difficulty and red-tape associated with permitting the structures. Eventually, the city will remove the house to open up the park.

“It’s a work in progress. Acquiring the property is step one,” he said. “We definitely want the public to know they can come and be comfortable there.”

While the house generally is unused, the dock holds equipment for the Kenmore Waterfront Activities Center, a rowing group which organizes canoe, kayak, dragonboat and stand-up paddle board events.

Doug Ritchie is the director of the group.

“Squire’s Landing is a great place, because the river is protected and we can teach beginners,” he said.

The Sammamish River is a slow-moving river originating from the Lake Sammamish near Redmond. Its lazy pace lets rowers paddle up and down the river and into Lake Washington with ease Ritchie said. He is also happy to see Kenmore encourage water-based sports

“It’s a really low cost way of doing things for people,” he said. “It really helps the city identify itself as a type of place that’s trying to work on quality of life for families.”

Squire’s Landing also has a man-made lagoon where Karlinsey said the city wants to eventually construct a boardwalk around the perimeter to let people enjoy the natural wetlands.

A little more than a quarter-mile downstream across the river is Rhododendron Park, which includes waterfront access, two play areas, a basketball court and other development.

Contiguous to the park is the boat landing owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife where Karlinsey said the city worked with the department to resurface the parking lot, revegetate surrounding areas and install a bathroom on top of adding an additional boat-input lane.

Log Boom Park lies around a mile west of Rhododendron Park along the banks of Lake Washington and features an undeveloped beach, a play set, a walk way with plaques featuring images and stories about Kenmore’s history and a long dock protruding into the lake.

“Log Boom Park has so much potential,” Karlinsey said.

The city is looking at developing a beach at the site, possibly similar to Kirkland’s beach in Juanita.

“That’s a thing I hear quite often: ‘When can we have our own beach,'” he said.

The current beach is what Karlinsey describes as a ‘critical area,’ which makes the shoreline wetlands incredibly hard for which to get permits.

He said the city is looking at moving a developed beach to the west and offsetting the development impact by improving the wetlands in Squire’s Landing.

Set in the middle of these parks is a large plot of undeveloped land called Lakepointe.

“Lakepointe is our holy grail, our Big Kahuna,” Karlinsey said.

The city has been in discussion with the owners for more than three decades with a goal of establishing a park at Lakepointe by 2023.

Companies building the State Route 520 bridge have been renting buildings on-site for the past few years, but with construction wrapping up, city officials are optimistic about securing a portion of Lakepointe property, which is the last undeveloped property of its kind along Lake Washington.

Estimates for the whole plot including structures is more than $6 million, according to King County, but city officials hope the owners may donate portions of the waterfront to the city.