One of the reasons I moved my family to Tumwater was because of its historic roots and convenient location relative to the rest of Thurston County. Aptly named from the Chinook jargon for “waterfall,” Tumwater was the first settlement in our area and has been the site of many new beginnings. Now, one of the city’s first parks is embarking on a new beginning of their own.

“Historical Park is Tumwater’s oldest park and has always been dominated by play toys,” states Tumwater Parks and Recreation director, Chuck Denney. The 17-acre park has been a destination for families since its official opening in 1980. With the historic brewery and Deschutes River in the background, it continues to serve the community as one of the best parks in all of Thurston County.

Over time, the beloved playground located at the park began to deteriorate. “The playset that was there before was from a local company, BigToys,” explains Denney. “We partnered with them in 1994. They needed somewhere to install a playset for a photoshoot and we gave them the park for a month to complete their work. They ended up donating the toy that was there. BigToys was then purchased and moved to South Carolina. As a result, as the structure began to fall apart over time, the parts that were needed were no longer being made. We just took pieces away to meet safety standards without the opportunity to replace them.”

The new playset at Tumwater’s Historical Park is visible from I-5. ©ThurstonTalk

As the city begins a growth spurt, Tumwater Parks and Recreation seized an opportunity to move the past into the future. “We got to the point that we wanted a better toy. Our community needed it. So we went to the city council for approval and money.”

With the city council’s approval, Tumwater Parks and Recreation began an undertaking that changed the shape of the park. “Our goal with the new structure was to greatly expand the availability of ADA compliant and diverse play elements, while offering some educational and musical experiences,” says Marketing Specialist, Marissa Worden. “We here at the Tumwater Parks and Recreation are very happy with the design and variety of play that this site offers.”

On first approach, this playset is out of this world. “There is a 17-foot-tall big tower in the center. I’ve been to the top and it is really tall,” says Denney. “It includes four slides, a large climbing wall, spiders nest rope cable, a swing set with four swings, and an 80-foot zipline that crosses the perimeter of the grounds. The entire structure is visible from I-5!”

Tumwater Park
Kids are lining up to try out the new new toys offered at Tumwater Historical Park. ©ThurstonTalk

One of the main goals of this new playset was to add ADA accessible elements. “There are a lot of parks that say they are ADA accessible, but it usually just means it includes ramps and pathways to get up to the toys,” says Denney. Once they get there, there isn’t usually anything they can do. We made sure everyone can get to the toy and then actually enjoy the toys that are available. We really wanted to focus on making this park inclusive to our entire community.”

“It’s the biggest and best we’ve ever done,” explains Denney. “We pushed working through the winter and fighting the rain so that it could be ready for kids in time for spring. Construction time is just about done and we should have the toys open to the community later [in February].”

As Tumwater looks back at its historical beginnings, it has made clear strides toward progress into the future. Tumwater Historical Park is just the start to continued change in this flourishing city.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete events calendar.

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