A preliminary design of the lunar rover vehicle and astronaut that could be installed by late 2020 at Kherson Park in downtown Kent. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

A preliminary design of the lunar rover vehicle and astronaut that could be installed by late 2020 at Kherson Park in downtown Kent. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

Lunar rover replica to be built for downtown Kent park

Project to recognize past, future space innovation

A lunar rover replica could be coming in 2020 to a downtown Kent park.

The City Council approved Tuesday spending $123,615 for a company to build the replica, although more than $85,000 of that will come from private fundraising efforts. The rovers were first built at Kent’s Boeing Space Center in 1969. The council’s Parks and Human Services Committee recommended on March 21 that the full council approve the project.

“We have a great opportunity to build awareness about the amazing innovation that has occurred in our community starting over 50 years ago with Boeing Space Center and the suppliers today engaged in the space race based in Kent,” said Michelle Wilmot, city economic development program manager, in a report to the committee. “It’s a great way to tell our story from the economic and business standpoint, and with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this year, it’s a great opportunity to leverage attention paid to that feat and to celebrate Kent’s role in this.”

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the first men to land on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Three lunar rovers travelled to the moon on Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17.

The Museum of Flight in Tukwila will have a special Apollo 11 exhibit from April 13 through Sept. 2, including a lunar landing celebration July 19-21.

Kent hopes to install the lunar rover in 2020 as part of the planned improvements at Kherson Park, 317 W. Gowe St., in the heart of downtown.

“We see this as an interactive piece, where people can take pictures of it and kids can climb on it,” said Terry Jungman, city parks planning and development manager, at the committee meeting.

The $123,615 contract is with Issaquah-based Northwest Playground Equipment. The company is a local representative of Minnesota-based Cre8Play, a custom park and play environment fabricator that specializes in innovative concepts for play elements. City Parks staff recommended that Cre8Play be the selected vendor to build the replica with the city to purchase it through Northwest Playground Equipment.

The city’s Economic and Community Development Department will cover $60,000 of the cost with the rest coming from the Parks Department, according to city documents. A fundraising effort by the Kent Downtown Partnership and the city has raised $85,444 so far toward the $123,615, Wilmot said. People can donate at downtownkentwa.com/lunar.

Cre8Play made a 1,500-pound astronaut last year to help Kent raise funds for the lunar rover project. The astronaut also will be part of the display at Kherson Park. The exterior of the astronaut is made out of fiber reinforced concrete. The core of it is 3D printed out of a foam product. The lunar rover will be mostly metal.

The lunar rover replica is expected to be done this fall, Wilmot said. When the piece gets installed at the park remains to be determined.

“The Parks Department is proceeding into a conceptual design phase for the park,” Wilmot said. “Once that process is complete, we’ll have a better idea of the timing of the park’s redevelopment and subsequent installation.”

Wilmot cannot wait to see the project completed.

“An interactive lunar rover replica in a Kent park is a meaningful theme, and provides an opportunity to celebrate an historic, national feat; one that is so closely connected to our local history, our present and our future,” Wilmot said in an email. “While we look back to honor and celebrate the incredible achievements made 50 years ago, we can inspire kids to pursue the out-of-this world opportunities still available to them today.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version as far as when the lunar rover replica might be installed at Kherson Park.

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