Kids FIshing Day is a popular event each May at the Water Reuse Demonstration Site. — image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
With a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology nearly 29 acres neighboring Carrie Blake Park was bought by the City of Sequim to transform into a water reuse demonstration site. In doing so, the Water Reuse Demonstration Site has become a place for a variety of community groups, gatherings and activities.
Although not a city park, the Demonstration Site has a park-like feel with picnic tables, walking and biking trails traversed across the site, horseshoe pits, roughly 14 manicured acres with soccer nets scattered about, community gardens and a performing arts stage. Since the purchase of the property in 1998 various community organizations have become part of the site in one way or another.
Although the acreage has provided some serendipitous community opportunities the primary function of the Demonstration Site is to educate and demonstrate the sustainable practice of reusing wastewater.
“The Department of Ecology implemented multiple water reuse demonstration sites throughout the state and we have one of them,” Patsy Mattingley, Sequim Parks and Recreation board member, said.
Partnering with city’s wastewater reclamation facility, treated Class “A” wastewater is piped to the Water Reuse Demonstration Site where it is kept in holding ponds and used for a variety of uses.
“A majority of the reuse water is utilized on public lands including roadway medians, landscaped areas and park sites,” said Joe Irvin, special projects manager.
Complimentary to the reuse of water, the entire site is designed with a consistent focus on water conservation using “low impact development” strategies. The Clallam Conservation District, with help and contributions from local businesses, volunteers, Sequim High School FFA and multiple grants, installed examples of low impact development such as porous paving, a rain garden (a garden of drought-resistant plant species) and water-wise landscaping.
To continue to utilize the Demonstration Site’s potential, city officials have future plans to “do more infiltration and move and enlarge the holding pond south/southwest of the existing holding pond,” Irvin said.
The reused water is fittingly recycled about the Demonstration Site. The restrooms within the James Center for the Performing Arts uses the water and both the Terrace Gardens and Albert Haller Playfields are irrigated with it. In addition, the holding ponds support fish for youths to hone their fishing skills.
By day the fields within the Demonstration Site are fairly undisturbed, but once work hours draw to a close the fields are used primarily by soccer players. Last spring the Sequim FC Adult Co-ed Recreational Soccer League took form. The league started with a group of local youth soccer coaches and their desire for an adult recreational league. Since, the league has grown to more than 10 teams and still growing, Quincy Byrne, director for the league, said. During the league’s fall, spring and summer seasons at least 200 people use the fields weekly with roughly 15 players per team and family and friends that come to watch.
Before the Albert Haller Playfields, which were spearheaded by the Sequim Family Advocates, there “really wasn’t much of an alternative for public fields,” Byrne said.
But, the playfields are just one example of the community’s interaction with the Demonstration Site. In 2004, the James Center for the Performing Arts was built by the nonprofit organization the Sequim City Band. The organization has since gifted the center to the city with the stipulation that they can use the rehearsal hall and stage for their performances. With more than 60 band members, the Sequim City Band needs a large venue, like the James Center to play and practice. The James Center’s stage was carefully engineered to properly promote acoustics and those on the stage can be heard across the Demonstration Site, Mattingley said.
“Nearly everyday of the week the Swisher Rehearsal Hall is occupied with one organization or another,” Mattingley said.
Similar to the Albert Haller Playfields, the James Center for the Performing Arts has seemingly filled a community niche.
Aesthetically, the Demonstration Site is pleasing. For example, the Terrace Gardens near the James Center are planted with various flowers that peak at different times throughout the seasons. The gardens started as a Master Gardeners project, but has since fallen into the hands of a local volunteer group.
“Part of the goal (of the gardens) is to provide a community space for people to enjoy,” Lee Bowen, Terrace Garden manager, said. “The site (Water Reuse Demonstration Site) is a great location with a lot of foot and bike traffic.”
Although most of the gardens and landscaping is mature at this point, more than 15 years later the Water Reuse Demonstration Site continues to develop new gardens and amenities appear as community organizations and individuals get involved with the site. Additional parking and restrooms are among the future goals for the Demonstration Site and the Sequim City Band hopes to expand the James Center.
“It’s a lot of property, but it has filled up quickly,” Mattingley said.
As with Sequim City parks, the Water Reuse Demonstration Site’s most challenging aspect is allocating staff and the maintenance and operations cost. Following the Master Park Plan visioning workshop “[i]mprovements are desired to the James Center seating area by providing tiered (built into the ground) seating,” Irvin said. “Furthermore, a lot of the comments emphasized the importance of maintaining a balance between the built and natural environment at the Class “A” Water Reuse Demonstration Site.”
The wide array of community interests invested in the site perhaps “highlights the importance and need for a Master Park Plan update,” Mattingley said. At the core of the Demonstration Site however, is the original objective to use the site as a place to demonstrate what is possible with reclaimed water.