The legendary Gordian Knot is a metaphor for an intractable problem solved by a bold stroke. For years the city of Gig Harbor had been dealing with its own version of the Gordian Knot: How could they restore Donkey Creek to its natural state when significant parts of it had been covered by a roadway and utility pipes?
The prevailing wisdom had become that it just couldn’t be done with existing funds. That is until Wade Perrow came forward and untied that knot with a simple elegant plan.
“Before Wade stepped in with his totally new idea we were stuck in a very hard spot” said Councilman Derek Young.
The issue dates back to 2002 when the City adopted a master plan for Donkey Creek which runs through the Harbor History Museum property and Austin Park and into Gig Harbor Bay. The city’s long-term vision for Donkey Creek has been to restore the fish habitat by fully daylighting the creek and estuary running under a road (North Harborview) create connectivity between the adjacent park and the Harbor History Museum property and improve traffic circulation in the area.
“In the master plan and later in an RFP the Council set three objectives involving fish habitat traffic and the park/museum” said Perrow. “I went before Council in 2009 and showed them what they had requested in the original master plan and that proposals at that point were coming up short. Nearly $300000 in design fees had been spent without one deliverable that focused on the requirements of the RFP.”
The Council decided to daylight only part of the creek – and to leave the section under the road and utilities untouched. The Gordian Knot had been pulled tight: Fully restoring Donkey Creek as a fish habitat appeared financially undoable within the approximately $2 million budget; the council resigned itself to only partially day-lighting the creek up to the museum side of North Harborview. “The presumption of ‘can’t be done’ set in” said Perrow.
“Last March I talked with the city and its consultants but it seemed they weren’t going to change their mindset” Perrow said. “So the only option was to go to the public hearing and make the case.”
In July Perrow spoke at the public hearing demonstrating a way in which construction of a bridge could allow for complete daylighting of the creek. “All of a sudden what appeared to be rocket science became as simple as digging in a sandbox” he recalled.
Councilman Tim Payne agreed: “While we were hearing tonight’s presentation I thought I was smelling an unfamiliar smell – it was the smell of fresh air and a fresh new idea.”
The council directed city staff to work with Perrow and Parametrix the city’s new design consultant to explore the bridge option. Last month the Council officially adopted the “Perrow Plan” as worked out between Perrow and Parametrix.
The plan calls for construction of a bridge on North Harborview Drive between Harborview and Austin Street. Existing utility pipes will be suspended beneath the bridge which will be approximately 81 feet long and 31 feet wide. A walking path beneath the bridge will connect Austin Estuary and the museum property with Donkey Creek Park.
Perrow donated his services to the collaborative effort and says his firm will not bid on the project.
He said he invested so much attention to the project because he his wife and his company have great affinity for the area. “WPC built the Harbor History Museum and sponsors ‘Park Day’ every year to maintain Austin Park” he said. “Beth and I have long supported the museum. We live nearby across the bay and have always felt it is a great community property that should be converted to more public use.”
Plus Perrow believes it’s important to give back to the community. “There’s a lot to be said about AGC’s motto of skill integrity and responsibility” he said. “Share your skills take responsibility for your community and have integrity to say what you think is true and not let the status quo paralyze you from doing the right thing. That’s a heckuva obligation to live up to.”
Top photo: WPC staff and families annually clean up Austin Park near Donkey Creek.
Bottom photo: In other WPC news the firm won a 2011 AGC of America “Aon Build America Award” for Best Renovation of a Federal and Heavy Construction Project for WPC’s Seal Observation Facilities project located on Alaska’s St. Paul Island. Project Manager Jason Sousie Wade Perrow and Project Superintendent Rory Godinez accepted the award during the AGC of America’s annual convention in Las Vegas.