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Image for post The Origins of Dune Peninsula Park, the Sci-fi themed destination of Tacoma

The Origins of Dune Peninsula Park, the Sci-fi themed destination of Tacoma

The Dune Peninsula Park is a wonderful place in Tacoma with a rich history and a beautiful landscape.

Named after the popular book written in 1965 by Frank Herbert, Dune Peninsula Park is a testament to Tacoma’s unique qualities and environmental resilience.


The park recently opened in July of 2019. This area of the Puget Sound was originally home to the ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) smokestack used to smelt lead in 1888, and in 1912 it was converted to smelting copper. Frank Herbert grew up around the site in the Tacoma area and witnessed the smokestack at its worst. He described that the ASARCO smelter created “air so thick you could chew it.”


view of Mount Rainier from Dune Peninsula Park

This site was a notable source of pollution, dispersing significant quantities of lead, arsenic, and various heavy metals throughout the Puget Sound's delicate ecosystem, contaminating both its waters and soils. Additionally, slag, a byproduct of copper smelting, was generated and distributed across the Sound to reinforce Ruston's roadways, and was even deposited into the ocean along the shoreline to serve as protection against storms for boats. The dispersion of this contaminated slag posed significant risks to the area, as it resulted in elevated levels of arsenic and lead exposure, leading to adverse effects on the local population's health. ( The detrimental health impacts of arsenic and lead exposure are well-documented, including risks of heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, as well as behavioral problems and hyperactivity in children, and increased blood pressure and impaired memory in adults. Frank Herbert, deeply affected by the environmental degradation caused by the ASARCO smokestack, drew inspiration from witnessing its devastating effects on his surroundings. His firsthand experiences fueled his commitment to environmental protection, a theme intricately woven into his renowned work, "Dune." Ultimately, the smokestack was eventually demolished in 1993 marking a significant moment of environmental progress and community solidarity.

After the demolition, extensive cleanup efforts began, marking the beginning of a remarkable transformation. The once-polluted site in Tacoma underwent a remarkable transformation, culminating in the creation of the Dune Peninsula Park we cherish today. Through innovative terraforming techniques and the strategic layering of rock, fabric, and natural sediment, the park not only significantly mitigated pollution but also rejuvenated the surrounding ecosystem, calling back wildlife that had long retreated. Regular monitoring and maintenance protocols are diligently upheld to safeguard the area from residual pollution. Erik Hanberg writes about the park, “We’ve taken a wasteland—a wasteland created by the very smelter that helped inspire “Dune,” no less!—and we’ve turned it into a beautiful park.”



Today Dune Peninsula Park is home to many species of animals and native plants such as harbor seal, great blue herons, and many species of native wildflowers and plants.

a raised bed with various plants native to WA

Additionally, the park features numerous art installations that celebrate its significance and beauty and pay homage to the extensive cleanup and sustainability efforts that took place.

With its abundance of recreational opportunities, the park offers an ideal setting for leisure and enjoyment. The Dune Peninsula Park is about 5 miles from our Tacoma Office and is in close proximity to Point Ruston, featuring many retail stores, condominiums, apartment complexes, and hotels. These features make this area of Tacoma a hub for local events, entertainment, and community. The park received a gold medal from the National Recreation and Park Association and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. This shows how monumental this project was in the history of environmental protection and restoration. A transformation that Tacoma can be proud of for many years to come. If you haven't had the chance to explore this park, we highly recommend paying it a visit!

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