Photo of closed Eagle Landing Stairs in 2019 courtesy Gregory Rehmke.

The City of Burien recently issued a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) application that will allow them to proceed with removing the rest of the Eagle Landing Park stairway, which has been closed since December, 2014.

The city intends to spend $721,093 to remove the remaining portions of the now-closed staircase that originally extended from the top of the bluff down to the shoreline of Puget Sound. The stairway was a popular spot for those seeking exercise or views in a forest setting.

Restoration to the hillside after the concrete footings are removed will be completed by laying coir or jute fabric over the exposed areas to minimize erosion from wind and rain, the application says. The exposed areas will be reseeded native herbaceous plants to reduce slope erosion.

Eagle Landing Park was acquired in 2002 from the Branson family through a variety of state grant funds. The park was intended to provide natural resources such as wildlife habitat and sediment delivery from its feeder bluffs to Puget Sound.

In 2018, the Burien City Council, engineers, and risk managers recommended removing the stairs to reduce “risks of a massive failure of the structure and potential harm to park users.”

“There will not be an access point to the beach at this park any longer,” the city said. “However, the City of Burien will maintain a trail and a couple of viewpoints for the public to use and enjoy.”

The city says that the landings and stairs will be hauled down the hill to an off-shore barge via a bucket system that will be loaded with debris and emptied onto the barge.

Starting in late 2014, damage to the stairs was noticed and the stairway was closed to public use due to safety concerns.

In late 2015, lower sections of the stairs were removed because they were falling down the hillside from erosion undercutting.

In its June 4, 2018 report regarding the possibility of repairing the stairs, GeoEngineers stated:

“To reduce risk to trail users from tree fall and other slope/landslide related hazards, and fall hazards related to the existing stairway system, we recommend that the landings and stairways be demolished and removed from the slope. We recommend that the City further discourage pioneering of trails down the slope to reduce the potential for slips, trips and falls on improperly formed trails.”

The stormwater drainage system in the park collects stormwater from a portion of the roads, which some nearby residents claimed helped cause slides and erosion that damaged the stairs.

“Since the stairway closure, the site has been frequently monitored and evaluated for hillside stability by geotechnical engineers and arborists,” the city said on its website. “The stormwater project completed in 2021 does help improve runoff at this park, but with all steep slopes there are many hydrological issues including stormwater, groundwater, and seeps in the hillside that contribute to the potential of slides. In this case, beach erosion also contributes to the erosion of the toe of the slope.”

On Nov. 21, 2016, the Burien City Council approved as part of its 2017–2018 budget a project to terminate the stairs mid-slope at a platform and remove the lower portion of the stairs.

Approval processes have included:

    • On Nov. 21, 2016, City Council approved as part of the 2017–2018 budget a project to terminate the stairs mid-slope at a platform and remove the lower portion of the stairs.
    • On Aug. 20, 2018, Councilmembers directed staff to proceed with the removal of stairs.
      In 2020, the City received permission from the granting agency, Washington Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO), to remove and not replace the stairs to the beach.
    • In the fall of 2020, Council approved funding for a capital project to remove the stairs.
    • The SEPA process is currently underway.

Work is expected to begin in the fall.

More info here:

Read our extensive previous coverage of this issue here.

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Scott Schaefer

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