TWA members and others are talking to writer Sharon Babcock about enduring inspirations, life lessons, and perspectives from their experiences on the working waterfront.
This month’s feature: Roger Stanton, a project manager with Metro Parks Tacoma.
Roger Stanton is Metro Parks Tacoma’s project manager in charge of the waterfront and peninsula work taking shape at Point Defiance. In addition to redesigning the undeveloped area near the Pearl Street entrance and remediating contaminated soils, he is also working on developing long-term visitor parking and services including new boat trailer parking to support the existing boat launch, and protecting and enhancing Puget Sound through habitat and shoreline restoration. The Pearl Street entrance is being redesigned and a bike and pedestrian-only trail and bridge—an elevated walkway 50 feet high with views of Puget Sound – will connect Ruston Way with the park. There will be a new roundabout and an additional ferry lane.
The project will create 11 acres of new recreation space, a sustainable park with grasses and flowers with unobscured views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and Vashon Island on the peninsula near the Tacoma Yacht Club, as well as an innovative storm water treatment facility for improving Puget Sound water quality.
When finished, a total of 400,000 cubic yards of dirt will have been moved for the work—the equivalent of 22,222 full truck and trailer loads. Of that, 40,000 cubic yards still remain to be touched.
Q: Who are the stakeholders in this project? What is your role with them?
A: Metro Parks Tacoma, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Point Ruston, the Tacoma Yacht Club, Breakwater Marina, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the cities of Ruston and Tacoma, and Point Defiance Marina. It’s my job to think about everyone else’s job. I coordinate the structural, mechanical, design, electrical, civil, and landscape elements. I am an architect by training but am not building buildings now. The same rules apply, however.
Q: In your view, what are the most critical needs of Commencement Bay?
A: Access to it for the general population. During high summer, it can take 30 minutes to drive from one end of our waterfront to another.
Q: What part of this project have you enjoyed most?
A: I enjoy interacting with people. This project brings me to tables I cannot invite myself to. As an architect of buildings, I would never meet the directors and federal agents I get to meet with here.
My “strength finder profile” identifies me as an “includer.” This work has given me the opportunity to exercise my skills in coordinating and maintaining relationships in an effort that is a part of Tacoma’s history — for example, the roundabout we are creating was in a Tacoma plan dating to 1911 — and I don’t take that lightly. At 38, I have a lot of my career ahead of me, and I want the relationships to be good ones. This has forced me to have more friends. I look at who is leading, who is following, and who is listening throughout our work. My wife and I volunteer in the largest recovery program in the state. I carry into my work what happens there as we assist individuals who need help. It keeps me humble.
Q: What is most urgent in this project?
A: Right now it is coordinating the installation of utilities—water, power, sewer, and communications—particularly on the peninsula. The timing of switching from the old to the new conduits is critical.
Q: Is there a moment you can recall that changed your outlook on what you are doing with this project?
A: When I started, I was assisting the project’s visionary; I was Robin to his Batman. He left, and I had to step in. I was used to being the Clydesdale, a very different thing from leading the Clydesdales. I fought it; my colleagues said “we will help you.” So, here I am.
Q: With all the moving pieces, how do you decide what is most important to focus on?
A: Sometimes the fires that need to be put out make that decision for me. In normal times, my goal is to stay out of the way. I prioritize my actions based on seeing that a contractor is not held up in doing his job.
Q: What happens at the conclusion of the project?
A: The ribbon-cutting for the new bridge and trail will happen in the fall of 2017. The park on the peninsula will be completed in the summer of 2018. Those are the opportunities for the community to come in and experience the impacts. It is rare that at a ribbon-cutting I am done, though. There are usually at least six months of process following a ribbon-cutting to manage a variety of things. Real completion is unceremoniously done when the board of Metro Parks signs off on the final details.
Q: If you could change one thing about the project, what would it be?
A: I would have fought harder to start earlier. The weather turned on us fast. It changes the amount of dirt we can move. It is much harder to compact the dirt when it is raining.
Q: What have you learned about yourself from this project so far?
A: It has caused me much self-reflection regarding my profession, building strength –I have gotten myself to the gym and eat healthier — using my faith, investing in relationships with my family members.
Q: What do you want the legacy of your effort on this to be?
A: It is not my legacy. That will reside with all those who I interacted with about it.