Monday, March 09, 2015

Dickman Mill

This mill in Tacoma's Old Town was the last of the lumber mills along Ruston Way to close. It shut down in 1977 and burned down in 1979.

In the late 1990s, Tacoma Parks developed a plan to clean up the site and turn it into a park. It required sifting through issues of remediation, wetlands, public access and recreation, ecological restoration, and historic preservation (and probably many others, too). Which wasn't easy, but was eventually successful. 

The concept envisioned a beach and an estuarine marshand it was tricky to figure out how to configure this given the geometry of the old site, but the design actually ended up taking advantage of the historic footprint. The beach is a swash-aligned pocket beach, constrained by the concrete foundation of the mill.  The tidal lagoon fills and empties through an inlet that runs through the old structure, which reduces the likelihood that sediment clogs the inlet (an early idea was to create an inlet in the beach itself, but there was no way to make this work without extensive maintenance).


To see what this site once looked like, check out the Tacoma Library collection:

Dickman Mill, 1948

The old field of piles still lies offshore. The base of the old cone burner is a weird lagoon at high tide. The backshore has filled up with wood debris. and the estuary seems to be doing pretty well (as often the case, it took a while for the vegetation to get established). On the other hand, the park (completed in 2000) looked like it needed some work. Some of the concrete walkaways were having to be repaired and blackberry was taking over the fringes of the marsh.

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