Updated and Accessible Mercerdale Park Playground Reopens

July 18, 2022 | by Wendy K. Leigh

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Photo by Wendy K. Leigh, with permission of parents

Laughter and lively conversation returned to the Mercerdale Park playground at the end of June, ending the beloved play area’s year-long closure. Known as “Train Park” for its original train feature, the gathering spot emerged from major renovations plagued by numerous delays just in time for summer.

The improvements were crucial in correcting issues such as failing equipment, structural challenges, and drainage issues, according to Mason Luvera, Communications Manager for the City of Mercer Island. But the renovation also created the opportunity to add important new features.

Photo credit City of Mercer Island

“It’s now a playground where children of all ages and all abilities can gather to play, together – something we all should be proud of,” said Mayor Salim Nice, noting that the playground has already received much love from local children since the crews wrapped up work. The design team took great care to incorporate accessibility features, such as the ground cover around the play structures made from a special anti-static material, which helps children with hearing devices avoid static buildup issues.

The remodel makes this the island’s first fully accessible playground, explained City Manager Jessi Bon, one of the results from the park’s many stakeholders working together. The Mercer Island Preschool Association was one such parter, raising over $54,000 for the new playground.

“This was truly a community-driven project,” she said. After countless hours of planning, committee meetings, and public input, the project launched in early summer 2021. But supply-chain issues, a factory fire, and an unseasonably wet spring that stalled ground-cover installation meant the project took much longer than expected. 

Child plays new bongo drums at Mercerdale Park, Summer 2022 | Photo by Wendy K. Leigh, with permission of parents

Now that the park is open again, islanders say the infusion of energy into the 19-year-old park is just what the city needed. In the first week, islander Susan Conrad stretched on a blanket with daughter Emily and the family pup, watching adventurous Elise swinging from a brightly painted playground equipment. Elementary schooler Zaine Isgrol played larger-than-life tubular percussion bells, and a curly-haired toddler banged out rhythms from newly installed bongo drums. Giddy youngsters darted back and forth from the centerpiece M.I. Express train, scrambling from top to bottom, in and over the shiny new caboose and carriage. Most say that Mercerdale remains their favorite park, as it’s been for years.

The play area’s footprint remains about the same, leaving plenty of room for other park features embraced by the community at large. Picnic areas, walking trails, and exercise platforms dot the space, while pre-teens and teens practice tricks and jumps in the nearby skatepark. Other parkgoers walk the loop, amble through meandering paths in the bordering Native Plant Garden, or lounge or play ball on the sprawling central green lawn.

Though it took a lot of work and far longer than expected, those who’ve visited the new playground agree that it was well worth the time and investment required to bring it back to life.

Mercerdale Park is located at 3009 77th Ave Southeast. Free parking is available in a lot shared by Mercer Island Thrift Shop. Park hours run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.