Strong parks system enhances city’s livability

With more than 30 parks in Federal Way, residents of all ages have plenty of recreation areas from which to choose for exercise, play or just enjoying the outdoors.

“Our parks are tremendous,” Parks Director John Hutton said. “They are one of the very best things about our city.”

While he admits to being somewhat biased, Hutton said the city’s emphasis on having a strong parks matrix has increased the livability for Federal Way residents, adding people expect cities to have them. Parks not only provide people of all ages with recreational opportunities, they are open to all people, regardless of their finances.

Hutton said the city’s parks department also hosts numerous special events throughout the year, including concerts in the park. Most of the events are free or come with a minimal charge. The Fourth of July Red, White and Blues Festival at Celebration Park draws 23,000 people.

“It’s one of the best in the region,” Hutton said.

Hutton said about 20 of the city’s parks are categorized as neighborhood parks, and most have playgrounds. The parks are American Disabilities Act compliant and are inspected by trained individuals.

Hutton said the castle-themed playground at Steel Lake Park, Family Funland, is “an unbelievable playground” and popular with children.

“It truly is one of the best in the state, if not the best,” Hutton said.

Steel Lake Park, which is situated on 52 acres, attracts not only Federal Way residents, but also draws in visitors from the region. In addition to the playground, it features a beach, natural area, parking, picnic area, restrooms and walking trail. It also has horseshoe pits and a skateboard park across the street, a sand volleyball pit and swimming with lifeguards from June 20 through Sept. 7. The lake has a small boat launch, and canoes, row boats and paddle boats are permitted.

Once a year, the lake is stocked with fish, and the parks department hosts a fishing derby for children. The remaining fish in the lake can be caught from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31, according to the city’s website.

“Our parks and recreation department is doing things nationally that nobody else is doing,” Hutton said.

Another popular park in Federal Way is the newest addition: Town Square Park, which features a 66-foot-long zip line, a children’s play area, basketball court, picnic area, seasonal splash park, parking and restrooms. A rain garden at the southeast corner of the park acts as a filtration system for Hylebos Creek, which is the city’s prime salmon-bearing stream.

Celebration Park, where many city functions are hosted, is also a very popular park, Hutton said. Situated on 83.5 acres, the park has a play area, picnic options, restrooms and walking trails that connect to the city’s BPA Trail. It also draws in people from throughout the region because of its athletic facilities — four lighted baseball and soccer fields.

For people looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, Hutton recommends people visit Dumas Bay Sanctuary, Palisades and Adelaide parks.

Dumas Bay Sanctuary has a beach, natural area, parking, picnic area, restrooms and walking trail on 19.55 acres, which ends on a sandy beach front of the Puget Sound and interpretive signs for the large heron rookery, according to the city’s website.

“It’s a gorgeous walk down to the Puget Sound with a beautiful trail that ends up right at the beach,” Hutton said. “It’s not a big beach area, but it’s really gorgeous.”

Adelaide has a quiet wooded area, tennis courts and a brand-new playground, while Palisades is tucked off the side of Dash Point Road and has a grassy area, walking trail, basketball court, parking and picnic and play areas on 4.5 acres.

Hutton said most of the city’s parks have walking areas or trails, with West Hylebos Wetlands Park a popular destination for residents seeking a nature experience. Set on 120 acres off of 348th Street, the park features a large trail network through the Hylebos Wetlands. A 1.7 mile boardwalk takes visitors deep into the nature area, which is ripe with wildlife, Hutton said.

The park is home to more than 80 bird species during the year, a protected species of frog, deer, owls, coyotes, bald eagles and otters. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted in the park.

For a complete list of the city’s parks, locations, hours and picnic rental information, go to and click on the Parks and Recreation link.