City of Burien photo
The photo shows how the beach looked in 2005 after its restoration.

Burien's Seahurst Park wins best restored beach award

Burien's Seahurst Park is being recognized nationally for its beautiful beaches.

The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced on May 24 that the beach at Seahurst is a winner of its 2010 Best Restored Beach Award.

The Best Restored Beach Award pertains to Seahurst's beach area south of the beach parking lot. The City of Burien and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up for the initial phase of the restoration project in 2004, which cost $1.5 million.

This work involved removing a 1,400-foot seawall, restoring the beach to its natural state and restoring the marine habitat for federally listed threatened species such as Puget Sound Chinook salmon. In 2008, the city completed $1 million more in habitat and recreation improvements to complete the south shoreline project including rebuilding trails, adding picnic areas, replacing the restroom, and revegetating the shoreline with native plants.

The city and Corps are again partnering to restore the beach at the northern section of Seahurst, a project twice the size of the southern beach restoration project. Work is expected to get underway in fall 2011.

Seahurst Park stands in tall company with its award. Only four beaches in the nation are given the award, two on each coast. Other winners are Seal Beach, California; Navarre Beach, Florida; and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Seahurst Park was the first project funded by the Army Corps of Engineers "Puget Sound and Adjacent Water's" program and has effectively served as a prototype project for addressing many Puget Sound ecosystem restoration issues.

The King Conservation District awarded Burien the 2009 Local Government Conservation Award for the Seahurst project.

"We are so proud to have Seahurst Park receive this recognition," said Mayor Joan McGilton. "Seahurst is the crown jewel of our parks system, and one of the finest waterfront parks in the region. It's a park people can love and it's a park that is vital to the ecosystem of Puget Sound."

The Mayor credited city staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, local and especially national elected officials.

"None of this would have been possible without the help of our congressional delegation in securing funding." Federal funding accounted for a large portion of the $2.5 million total cost of the south shoreline project, including $272,000 from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

The Army Corps of Engineers, and Anchor QEA designed the project, Seattle based environmental consulting firm.

The beach restoration also was supported by a partnership of 16 cities and King County that is working across city boundaries to restore the lands and waters of southern King County.

One of the primary goals of the restoration project was to help re-establish and enhance the habitat for the threatened Chinook salmon and species they depend on. Restoration of the gravel beach provides a place for forage fish such as sand lance and surf smelt to spawn.

These fish species are a primary food source for salmon.

In addition to helping salmon and the Puget Sound ecosystem, Seahurst Park is the most popular recreation and environmental education facility in Burien, and attracts visitors from a large area.

Therefore another goal of the project was to improve the shoreline for use by the public for recreation and environmental education programs. Access along the shoreline, and to the beach was improved, and sandy beaches are wider and more useable than before restoration. Picnicking, parking, trails and the restroom have all been improved for the public to enjoy.

Building on success, Burien is seeking grants to complete the northern beach restoration project, and has already received grant support from the Washington State Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program for $1.1 million, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for $750,000 and the King Conservation District for $510,000.

The 2,865 feet of northern shoreline currently includes a mix of rock and concrete seawalls which will be removed and replaced with sand, gravel, vegetation and other natural features. As with the southern beach project, the goal is to restore natural processes to sustain a naturally functioning park shoreline, and to provide the public with expanded and more accessible beaches.

For the last 40 years, beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities on the east, west and Gulf coasts, according to the ASBPA.

Coastal communities have restored more than 370 beaches in the United States, including such iconic beaches as Jones Beach in New York, Ocean City in Maryland, Virginia Beach, Miami Beach, Galveston Island in Texas and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

Coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration in the Best Restored Beach competition, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on the economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community, the short- and long-term success of the restoration project, and the challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.

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