Seattle's Child

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Mt. Rainier themed playground in Kent

$50M+ project: Van Doren’s Landing Park features mini mountain and Kent’s first zipline

Psst: A Mount Rainier-themed playground quietly opened over the summer in Kent. Van Doren’s Landing Park, next to the Green River, features a climbing mountain with three slides and Kent’s first zipline. In addition to the playground, you’ll find two park shelters, new restrooms, a pickleball court, a wiffleball area, and a parking lot right next to the playground. Everything you need for a fun and easy family outing.

Playground renovation

This playground, which closed in 2020 for renovation, will officially open in late June. You’ll want to come to check it out before then because once the secret is out, it’s going to get busy. “It’s just another cool, unique playground,” says Brian Levenhagen, deputy director for Kent’s parks department. “It’s one of a kind. I’m not aware of another replica of Mount Rainier like it. Hopefully, it inspires kids to go explore the real Mount Rainier National Park.”

Climbing Mt. Rainier

The centerpiece of the playground is a custom-built mini Mount Rainier as a climbing structure for kids. One side looks like the mountain, with concrete faux rock and rubber surfacing; the other side has three slides. One of the slides is accessible — yay for inclusive play!

A ship moored nearby, the SS Playworld, has two smaller slides perfect for kids not ready to glissade down a volcano (yet). The ship play structure was chosen as a nod to the nearby Green River’s past when boats ferried produce up to Pike Place Market for sale.

First-ever zipline, swings, climbers and more!

The zipline, the first in Kent’s parks, is another very popular feature. This Playworld version has a ramp leading to the starting point, which makes it easier for adults to help kids who need a boost. We love the Apollo net climber, great for spinning and playing together with friends. A Kompan Supernova looks simple enough — it’s a slightly tilted rotating ring — until you try balancing and walking on it. Watch out!

Two belt swings and two toddler bucket swings round out the playground equipment. Just past the picnic shelter, there’s a wiffle ball area and a pickleball court. Speaking of the picnic shelter, pack a lunch! The two covered picnic shelters even have grills, a container to deposit hot coals, electrical outlets and water bottle filling stations.

Homage to the history of Kent

There’s another local history tie-in with the shelter design: hops was the dominant crop in the Kent Valley in the 1880s, and the city of Kent itself was named for Kent County in England, a region known for hop growing. The two picnic shelters are built to look like hop kilns that would have existed back then.

The Green River Trail: Biking

A bike path runs by the playground and along the Green River. It’s flat and paved, perfect for beginning cyclists. The Green River Trail stretches nearly 20 miles from Kent to South Seattle. Part of the construction project was making the bike path safer; it used to share Russell Road with cars. “We see this as a great improvement that will really open up the Green River Trail and the Kent Valley Trail system to bicyclists of all ages and abilities,” Levenhagen says.

More than just a park

The total cost of the project is more than $50 million. $50 million!?! That’s because the playground is just one element of a bigger project that’s been underway for more than a decade. Building new earthen levees and flood walls along the Green River, creating a salmon habitat, and improving recreation in a public space all fall under this project. “When you go out and see it, you understand the extent of the excavation for the salmon area, and relocating the park,” Levenhagen says. “As land becomes scarcer and scarcer in our urban areas, we have to do more with what we have.” “It’s been a labor of love for a lot of folks,” Levenhagen adds. “It really turned out amazing.”

The entire 10-acre Van Doren’s Landing Park was moved away from the river, turned, and completely rebuilt. The area where the park used to sit is now a fish habitat planted with native plants and trees to help continue historic Green River salmon runs. “When the river’s really flowing during flood season, it can flush the salmon out into the Sound,” Levenhagen explains. “They don’t survive if they don’t have time to grow. So the backwater area is where the water will slow down and those little salmon fry can find refuge and hang out there.”

A few more final touches

When we visited during the soft opening, Van Doren’s Landing Park was still waiting for a few finishing touches: an observation tower in the playground, art panels for the wiffle ball fence, and Adirondack chairs for the viewing deck. Even before the park is 100 percent complete, we can tell, this one is going to be a superstar.

Other awesome parks to check out in Kent

Kent, in general, knocks it out of park in terms of creative playgrounds. Kherson Park in downtown Kent opened in mid-May, featuring a replica lunar rover and its own augmented reality app. West Fenwick Park, just south of Van Doren’s Landing Park, is a life-size Chutes and Ladders board game. Now this new Mount Rainier-themed playground is nothing short of spectacular. Way to go, Kent!

Extend your outing

Van Doren’s Landing Park is a green oasis in an area that’s mostly warehouses and residential lots. It’s quiet and peaceful, but you won’t find much nearby in terms of other amenities outside the park. Westfield Southcenter, 5 miles north, is our trifecta happy place: soup dumplings (Din Tai Fung), bubble tea (Meet Fresh) and marble taro bread (85 °C Bakery Cafe).

Know before you go:

  • Van Doren’s Landing Park: 21901 Russell Road, Kent
  • Open dawn to dusk
  • Parts of the play structure are all-inclusive
  • Bring a picnic: table and grills are available
  • Scoot or bike around the newly remodeled Green River Trail

 

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About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is a photographer and writer in Seattle. Find her on Instagram @photoj.seattle and at photoj.net.