Federal Way downtown park to feature chess, Farmers Market and more

Mayor Jim Ferrell (center) speaks with city staff on site of the new Town Square Park, which features a chessboard. - Courtesy city of Federal Way
Mayor Jim Ferrell (center) speaks with city staff on site of the new Town Square Park, which features a chessboard.
— image credit: Courtesy city of Federal Way

With the new Town Square Park set to open next week, the Federal Way City Council heard an update on the programming and activities the city plans on making available at the new park.

John Hutton, interim parks director, highlighted a number of programming features the city hopes to incorporate in its newest park during the Council meeting on Tuesday.

“I wanted to talk to you about the chess sets we’ll have out there,” he said. “That’s going to be a central figure in the park. Our [chess pieces] are about 25 inches. We will also have side table games going on, including speed chess. We’ll also have other board games, including mahjong, dominoes, checkers. We’re looking for some intergenerational programming going on here.”

Hutton added that a regular part of the park’s programming will also be volleyball in the grassy areas of the park, citing the popularity of a volleyball tournament in Olympia that’s held on the grassy areas of the Capitol Campus.

Additionally, the city plans on making music a regular feature at the park, along with yoga demonstrations, Tai Chi demonstrations, picnicking and, perhaps most critically, the Farmers Market is slated to be a regular park feature.

While the Council expressed interest with these programs, there were continued concerns about the basketball courts planned for the park.

“The concern I’ve heard, over the last several weeks, is the basketball courts,” Councilman Martin Moore said during the meeting. “Is there a plan put in place that’s going to assure the public that there’s not going to be negative behavior?”

“Basketball is a great sport,” Hutton replied. “The game is a beautiful game, and it can be a very fun activity. We’re very conscious of any impression that we don’t want any negative behavior whatsoever. We’ll have it well staffed, keeping an eye on the court. I don’t believe it’s going to be a problem. I’m willing to say we’ll take care of that. We’re working with the police department to take care of that.”

Hutton added the city plans a number of programming options for the basketball courts, including coaching clinics for young players, possible tournaments and signage, “to outline what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior and the consequences.”

The park will also be closed after dusk, which city officials hope will keep out any undesirable elements from the park. City spokesman Chris Carrel also addressed these concerns in a post-meeting phone interview.

“There’s going to be a staff person present at the site during hours of operation,” he said. “One of the things they’ll be responsible for is managing the chess pieces. There’ll be a process for checking in and checking out the chess pieces, which will be stored onsite in a lockbox … The key thing for us, in having a park in the downtown, is it’s really important to have active management, especially since it’s going to be so intensively programmed. We want to keep people active there, and that means keeping a close eye on the park.”

In a separate email exchange with the Mirror, Carrel said that onsite staff person “will be addressed under existing budget authority,” and that it’s likely that staff member will be drawn from the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The park will likely utilize three of these positions,” Carrel wrote.

Carrel also noted that the park’s safety should be ensured, between the close presence of the Federal Way Police Department substation, along with SafeCity cameras.

“The park will have surveillance through SafeCity Cameras,” Carrel wrote. “In addition to the staff presence, the active programming of the park and the regular visits by officers from the nearby substation, activities at the park will be viewable and recorded by SafeCity cameras as an additional security enhancement.”

The park’s grand opening is scheduled for July 12.


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