A renovated park has emerged from the shadows of Kent’s new YMCA.
City and community leaders gathered on a sun-graced late Thursday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of improved Morrill Meadows Park, now combined with East Hill Park and adjoined by a redesigned, relocated off-leash dog park.
Project partners said the conversion will better serve residents.
“Whether you are one of our four-legged friends, a kid, an adult, a senior – it doesn’t matter – there is something for you in this park,” Mayor Dana Ralph told a small crowd of project workers, leaders and supporters. “It’s everything the community has been asking for and more. This was already a great natural space, but now there’s all those recreational opportunities built into it. … It serves everybody in our community.”
The conversion of the two parks and dog area – replete with a dedicated parking area – completes a city-funded and grant-assisted endeavor that took years in the making. The park, at 10600 SE 248th St., includes a multi-sport court, new walking trails and pathways, open space, gathering spaces for picnics and community events and a dog park that features a separate section for small or shy dogs.
Areas of the park remain closed with temporary fencing until the hydro-seeded grass is fully established.
A community plaza in front of the Y offers a flexible, welcoming area to host events.
Such amenities of the reshaped park will integrate with the recently-opened Y – a two-story 50,000-square-foot facility, giving city parks and Y staff the opportunity to work together to provide indoor/outdoor recreational activities and programs.
“Absolutely beautiful,” said Kent Morrill, whose grandfather, Merton Morrill – a former Kent mayor, legislator and banker – the park was named after. “It’s great to be here and to share it with the Y. I am glad the dog park did not disappear when they brought in the Y. It’s a great legacy for the Morrill family.”
The city budgeted an estimated $6.5 million to pay for the improvements and changes at the park as well as for a new 250-spot parking lot. The city also will pay about $2 million for frontage improvements along Southeast 248th Street – a three-lane road, new sidewalks and bike lanes and moving the overhead utilities underground.
The new-look park follows the recent grand opening of the Y – a state-of-the-art, recreational facility the community had long sought. The Y officially opened to the public on Sept. 14.
“Getting the YMCA was a big deal,” Ralph emphasized. “It was a big partnership between community members and people who stepped up and made donations, the city and the Y, and everybody having faith in the fact that we could make this a reality in the city of Kent. And I could not be prouder of everybody … who made this happen.
“Our residents deserve our commitment to equitable parks and recreation and social services through collaborative projects like this,” Ralph said. “This is not something that the city could do by itself, and it’s not something the Y could have done by itself. Without this partnership, we wouldn’t have all these amazing services.”
Added Kelly Guy, the Y’s executive director: “The park is beautiful. The residents will really enjoy and benefit from it, both their physical health and their mental health.”
Morrill Meadows is one of Ralph’s favorite parks. As she was winding down her opening remarks to the crowd, a fidgety dog yelped.
“See,” the mayor said. “That’s our bark of approval.”