As with most everything and everyone around the globe, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls has had a trying past year for a variety of reasons. Luckily, as life slowly begins to regain some normalcy, the local treasure for almost 60 years is officially set to reopen on April 1, 2021.
Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls pays homage to the Schmidt family that founded the Olympia Brewery Company and has been owned and maintained by the nonprofit Olympia Tumwater Foundation (OTF) since 1962. The expansive 15-acre park was built to nestle perfectly along the falls of the Deschutes River before it tumbles 82 feet into the nearby Capitol Lake and Puget Sound. Being located on the falls makes for an incredibly picturesque setting that’s set the scene for year-round entertainment for generations of community members and visitors to the area.
Throughout the park guests can find winding trails and footbridges lined with towering trees, shrubs and flowers, not to mention the impressive boulder rapids, reflective pools and cascading waterfalls. Brewery Park also serves as an ideal location to hold family gatherings or small parties in the well-maintained lawns complete with picnic facilities, children play items and plenty of parking. All-in-all, Brewery Park is an excellent place to spend a summer afternoon, view the changing colors of fall, get some fresh air in the winter or celebrate the reemergence of spring.
While the park has long stood as a local escape and place of relaxation, the OTF made the difficult decision to close access to the public in early 2020. The decision was made after a variety of hurdles came into view, including work to the hatchery, construction and trail repairs, further repairs due to a necessary PCB cleanup and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has completed work on the hatchery after a complete removal and rebuild project. Families will be thrilled to once again view the spawning salmon through new glass walls and bid them farewell before they traverse the Deschutes River. Other features of Brewery Park that visitors will soon experience are the improved trail systems. The eastern trail received some needed repairs while the western trail now features a paved, ADA compliant, .25-mile bicycle trail thanks to the City of Tumwater. This bike trail compliments the existing western walking trail and stretches from underneath the Falls Terrace Restaurant to the Historical Park.
The longest project that’s officially been completed is the cleanup of a toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) spill that could have been detrimental to the park. In late February of 2019, the Department of Ecology responded to an oil spill coming from a vandalized transformer at the former Olympia Brewery site. Over 600 gallons of oil spilled into storm drains, Tumwater Falls Park and the Deschutes River. When released into bodies of water, PCBs can accumulate in the aquatic food web and drastically affect native marine life over time. Responders to the scene were able to successfully remove over three miles of oil-contaminated shoreline vegetation and PCB-contaminated soil. Luckily, the rapid response prevented Brewery Park, Capitol Lake and other areas from becoming increasingly affected and are once again safe to enjoy for both the wildlife and visitors.
While the park was planning to remain open during the pandemic, the construction work made certain areas of the park more condensed, resulting in the ultimate decision to close back in March of 2020. “We’ve had a lot of people asking when the park is set to reopen,” explains John Freedman, executive director of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. “After this long closure, we’re very happy to once again welcome guests to the park.” During Brewery Park’s reopening, social distancing and proper mask wearing is encouraged to keep all who enjoy the park comfortable. Additionally, to keep guests and staff members as safe as possible, public restrooms will remain closed until further notice.
Brewery Park, as always, is open free of charge, while donations are graciously accepted to help with continued upkeep and maintenance. “Each year,” explains John, “we see some 250,000 people per year through the park. We’re now expecting an even larger presence and hope to continue offering this urban oasis to the community for many more years to come.”
In the future, OTF plans to launch fundraising campaigns as well as break ground in late 2023 or early 2024 on a new Visitor Event Educational Center.
For further inquiries about the current state and reopening of Brewery Park, visit the Olympia Tumwater Foundation website, call 360.943.2550 or email OTF@OlyTumFoundation.org.