By Jean Janes
Ruston Way is a lovely paved path to jog, stroll, or roller blade. My family enjoys this coastal feature of Tacoma often. Until recently, however, we had not really taken the time to stop along Ruston Way to visit the piers and parks that pepper the coast. We took a walk last week with the exploration of Ruston Way in mind. We discovered several neat spots that reflect the history and character of Tacoma’s beachfront. Three stand out worth taking a look at, if not dedicating an afternoon or full day to the specific charms of these locations. Les Davis Pier, Cummings Park, and Old Town Dock each provide the ideal backdrop to a family day at the water.
Even though it was not the first pier on our path, we started our day with Les Davis Pier. People stood fishing along its length while others sat on benches gazing across the water. Covered benches, notches to hold fishing poles, and excellent views set this stop apart. If fishing is your activity of choice, or you enjoy watching the sport, Les Davis Pier is a great place to hang out. Ample room for casting and sinks set up for fish cleaning make this pier a fishing paradise.
Although the wooden beams of the pier made for a bumpy stroller ride, my kids didn’t mind. They were too fascinated by the fishing and the boats floating by. We did not stay long enough to see anything caught, but some of the folks fishing told us they had already been successful.
While my kids are not quite old enough to fish, this will be a great place to return to when they are ready to learn. In the meantime, with the views of Mount Rainer and the surrounding area, we will be back another time to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere again.
After walking from the Schuster Parkway end of Ruston Way, we were all ready for a break by the time we made it to Cummings Park. Stopping on the grass, away from the rest of the foot traffic, it was a lovely respite. Cummings Park is a picnic-perfect location with a sprawling lawn and abundant shade trees. A rock garden also adds to the attraction of the grounds. Even at the height of heat with the mid-day sun shining, this park is still great for lounging. Waterfront and beach areas make for prime sunbathing while the thick foliage among the trees protect and cool picnickers.
We took some time to inspect the rock garden. My husband and I explained some of the plants landscaped among the rocks to our four-year-old. We will soon be back to this lovely location armed with sandwiches and snacks as well as a Frisbee or kite. It would be easy to while away an afternoon here, either in the water or in the shade. For this trip, however, we had more to see. As dusk began to descend, we started back toward our final stop of the day at Old Town Dock.
Of the three Ruston Way stops, Old Town Dock is my personal favorite. Besides being historically noteworthy and having amazing views, it also features original art by local artist Chandler O’Leary. Each of the twenty-four pictures placed on various benches or railings depict historical moments that are significant to this spot. More than just an affectionate name, Old Town Dock is truly old by most standards. The Metro Parks website says that it has stood on Ruston way for more than 140 years. Recently, the Dock has been renovated and repaired to make it safe for pedestrians. Besides a lovely sitting area, people can swim from the Dock since fishing is prohibited and there is a ladder to the wager and mooring area for water craft.
The day we went, it was our final stop before home. The light was beginning to fade, but the lamps on the Dock provided ample light and allowed us to search for the Droplets. The delightful images would have been easily missed had I not known to look for them. Subtle and innocuous, they are as much part of Old Town Dock as the beams and posts that compose it. We sat and watched the splendid display of the sunset across the Puget Sound. Even as late as it was, there were still many strolling couples and families milling about. As the air cooled and the sun sank out of sight, the city lights lit up the horizon.
Les Davis Pier, Cummings Park, and Old Town Dock are interesting finds along a route that is familiar and well loved. The variety and amenities of our parks and attractions here in Tacoma and the South Sound area is a treasure trove, and I know my family and I have barely scratched the surface.