West Seattle’s Lowman Beach Park will be the beneficiary of a shoreline restoration project thanks to a couple grants given to Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The first grant, of $500,000, has come from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. A second grant of $525,000 from the King County Flood Control District to Seattle Parks and Recreation will also go, in part, to the project. Lowman Beach Park beach restoration will receive $450,000 of this second grant, with $75,000 remaining earmarked for a feasibility study on shoreline improvements to where Scheuerman Creek discharges in Discovery Park.

The restoration efforts will be as a result of the removal of a historic seawall, according to David Graves, strategic advisor with Seattle Parks and Recreation.

"When the park was built in the '30s… they built a seawall that went from the north end of the park, all the way down to the south end of the park," Graves said. "They built a tennis court, and they built a swing set."

The seawall held for a couple decades, but it was eventually replaced.

"In the '50s, the north section of the seawall failed and they built a new seawall," Graves said. “In 1994, the south half of the seawall failed and we just took it out and created the beach that you see there today."

Graves said that by the Thanksgiving storm of 2015, the remaining north half of the seawall began to fail, as it was moving outward from the shore.

The removal of the remaining seawall will have a positive effect on the shoreline, he said, because bulkheads typically cause ecological problems.

"From a strictly habitat perspective, the vast majority of all of West Seattle has concrete bulkheads along the shoreline” Graves said. “Concrete bulkheads refract the wave energy. They tend to not have a lot of shallow water in front of them. They're not really good for… salmon — they like shallow, sloping beaches, natural habitat."

According to the Lowman Beach Park Restoration Basis of design document published by Seattle Parks and Recreation in spring 2019, the project “will substantially improve the natural coastal process at the site while also improving the beach access opportunities at the park.”

In addition to removing the failing seawall, Seattle Parks and Recreation will build a new, smaller seawall to protect adjacent properties, and then new sediment will be introduced to the shoreline to simulate natural processes.

“The project will introduce new beach sediment material to the littoral system,” the design document states. “The new beach material will be similar to the existing material and placed at slopes and grades that will promote natural beach cross-shore processes and backshore ecological function. It is expected that the placement of new material to the littoral system will help to mitigate ongoing erosion at properties immediately to the north of the park.”

Another aspect of the restoration will be the daylighting of Pelly Creek, which currently flows through the failing seawall by use of a pipe.

Currently, there is a tennis court on the land side of the failing seawall, but that aspect of the park will be removed to accommodate the daylighting of the creek, which will create a positive ecological process by the fresh water of the creek flowing freely into the saltwater through the renewed shoreline sediment.

"Freshwater going into saltwater is beneficial for benthic organisms — those little things that live in the sand and gravel that juvenile salmon like to feed on,” Graves said. “So having a little bit of fresh water is beneficial."

Pelly Creek will be coaxed through the park after Seattle Parks and Recreation creates a rock channel for it to flow through. The park will also see a fair amount of planting on the north side of the creek.

The project is in the design process now, and Seattle Parks and Recreation will be getting ready for bid after some permits from the Core of Engineers and from Fish and Wildlife are obtained.

The three-month construction project will ideally begin in August, after it goes out out to bid in late spring, Graves said.

"This is one of the few spots in West Seattle where you can put a blanket out on the lawn and actually walk directly to the beach,” he said. “It is actually pretty unique from a public-access standpoint."

The park will also be handicap and ADA accessible.

 

According to the design document:

“The major ecological benefits and potential benefits of the project include:

- Approximately 16,445 square feet in nearshore habitat and additional 6,915 square feet of backshore will be created.

- With the majority of the seawall removed, the beach will be designed to mimic a natural backshore, and over time, natural ecological processes are anticipated to return to the beach.

- The additional sands and gravels may provide feeding and refuge habitat for juvenile salmon.

- The project would increase the amount of fine material and natural sands across a larger area, it also provides the possibility for additional spawning habitat for surf smelt. Wood recruitment and wrack accumulation would likely increase over much of the site and support larger invertebrate assemblages which would result in an increase in shorebirds.

- The planting clusters of several marine riparian trees and shrubs will provide shade to the restored shoreline and result in ecological benefits. Due to a net increase in vegetation, a net increase in the terrestrial input of organic material and invertebrates is anticipated. The

recruitment and establishment of additional nearshore vegetation is expected, and will support the connectivity between the upland and nearshore ecosystems.”