2020 Conference Tours & Activities

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Network & Connect at the WRPA Conference 

Every year WRPA offers offsite tours to help teach park and recreation professionals about the local area.

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Please Note: You must be signed up for the Conference to participate in tours. Golf is the only activity you can sign up for a la carte.

Pre Conference Tour & Activities | April 21, 2020

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park | 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Included in Your Conference Registration
Transportation: Shuttle

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is dedicated to conservation, education and recreation by displaying, interpreting and researching native Northwest wildlife and natural habitats. We are nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which ensure rigorously high standards of animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education and more. Northwest Trek is operated by Metro Parks Tacoma, the oldest independent park district in Washington.

On this tour, see native wildlife on a Tram Tour, hear about utilizing native plantings for animal enrichment from Trek’s horticulturist, and see how the ropes course utilizes the existing forest for high adventure.


  • 11:00 AM Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 12:00 PM Arrive at Northwest Trek (food for purchase)
  • 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM Tour (3 hours)
  • 3:00 Depart NWT
  • 4:00 Arrive back at Convention Center

Meadow Park Golf Course (Traditional Golf & FootGolf) | 12:00 PM
40 (traditional golf) 20 (footgolf)
$50 (traditional golf) $25 (footgolf)
Transportation: On Your Own

The first nine holes of what was then an 18-hole course opened for play Nov. 14, 1915, about six months after the first municipal course opened in Seattle. Back then, what is now one of Metro Parks’ South Tacoma treasures was a privately owned operation. In contrast to the country clubs where membership was required and exclusivity reigned, Meadow Park was the first course in Tacoma open to the public. From the get-go, Meadow Park was promoted as a course unrestricted by the men’s club tradition prevalent elsewhere.

This egalitarian policy endured and grew over the years, including after the course came under Metro Parks Tacoma governance in 1961. In that year, when the Metro Parks board held a public hearing about future course management, one African-American golfer declared that Meadow Park was the only course in the area that allowed him to participate in tournaments.

Now, course superintendent Chris Goodman and the rest of the Meadow Park crew pride themselves on nurturing young players, providing access and support for players with special needs, and embracing innovations.

Conference Tours

Dune Peninsula & Environmental Learning Center Tour | April 22, 2020 | 10:20 AM – 12:35 PM & 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Capacity: 40
Cost: Included in your Conference Registration
Transportation: Shuttle

Dune Peninsula

Dune Peninsula opened in July 2019 is an extension of Point Defiance Park that's part of a larger reclamation of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site that had hosted smelter operations for a century.

The peninsula includes grass lawns and elevated mounds offering panoramic views of Puget Sound, the Olympia Mountains, and the Cascade Range, Metro Parks said in a press release.

The $75 million project also includes the construction of the Wilson Way pedestrian bridge, which connects the park with the popular Ruston Way waterfront. Among the other new features are over a mile of paved trails, an enclosed pavilion, parking lots, and a series of six slides and stairs that the park district describes as a human-sized Chutes and Ladders.

Environmental Learning Center

This innovative Environmental Learning Center features eight SAMI classrooms, including two science labs, plus administrative space, an early learning center, and space for zoo staff and volunteers. This project is a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma which resulted in the new building next to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

The Environmental Learning Center recently took home a Grand Prize Award from Learning by Design, an education design publication.

The building serves SAMI students, zoo staff and community programs. Tacoma's McGranahan Architects designed the building, which was funded by a $500 million school construction bond approved by voters in 2013.

Schedule Tour I 10:20 AM – 12:35 PM

  • 10:30 AM Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 10:45 AM Arrive at Dune Peninsula
  • 11:40 AM Arrive at ELC
  • 12:20 PM Depart ELC and return to Convention Center  

Schedule Tour II 1:30 PM – 3:15 PM

  • 1:30 PM Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 1:45 PM Arrive at Dune Peninsula
  • 2:15 PM Arrive at ELC
  • 3:15 PM Depart ELC and return to Convention Center  


W. W. Seymour Conservatory & Wright Park Arboretum Tour | April 23, 2020 | 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM 
Cost: Included in your Conference Registration
Transportation: Shuttle

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

In 1908 the historic W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park was opened through a generous gift from William W. Seymour, who was president of the Board of Park Commissioners from 1909 to 1911.

The conservatory that carries his name is one of only three public Victorian-style conservatories on the West Coast. Listed on the City of Tacoma, Washington State and National Historic registers, it was the tropical plants inside, however, that enthralled early Tacomans. The Conservatory’s tropical plants and flowers gave many of the early residents their first chance to learn about such exotic and decidedly un-Northwest species.

Today, visitors experience the Conservatory’s permanent collection of ferns, palms, figs, bromeliads, orchids and many other rare, unusual and endangered plants as well as changing floral exhibits

Wright Park Arboretum

Wright Park’s 27-acre site includes a rich collection of native and exotic trees, many of which are over 100 years old. The original plantings included trees from all over North America and Europe. Later plantings added trees from Asia and South America. Currently, there are over 600 trees including approximately 145 species in Wright Park.

A tree tagging project was completed in the fall of 2015. Now, each of about 450 trees bears a label that identifies it by its scientific and common names, its geographic origin and the year it was planted in the park.

Champion trees are the biggest trees of their species. The American Forest Association (AFA) has various ways in which a tree can be considered the biggest: circumference (trunk girth), height, and crown spread.

Eighteen of the trees in our Champion Tree tour were recognized as Washington State Champion Trees by Dr. Robert Van Pelt, in his book Champion Trees of Washington State. 


  • 10:30 Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 10:45 Arrive at the Conservatory
  • 11:40 Switch from Conservatory Tour to Arboretum Tour
  • 12:10 Optional lunch delivery
  • 12:20 return to Convention Center 

STAR Center & Eastside Community Centers Tour | April 23, 2020 | 1:30 AM – 3:30 PM 
Cost: Included in your Conference Registration
Transportation: Shuttle

STAR Center

STAR Center is a 32,000-square-foot community center that was funded by the Park Improvement Bond and adopted by voters in 2005 with an additional $2.2 million provided through state grants.

It includes spaces for residents to gather, socialize, and exercise, and provide programs for youth and seniors as well as include a community/teaching kitchen and rental spaces. STAR Center is the result of the community’s input. STAR Center features a state-of-the-art fitness room with Techno Gym exercise equipment, a Kinesis exercise studio, a demonstration/teaching kitchen, two dance and movement studios (one with a sprung-wood floor), a grand hall with a performance stage, multiple rental spaces, a children’s gym, indoor/outdoor playground, and spacious Wi-Fi enabled lobby with plenty of community space for socializing. STAR Center has a LEED Gold certification.

The partnership between Metro Parks, Gray Middle School, and the Boys & Girls Club's Topping Hope Center has been long-standing, and this unique alignment eliminates duplicated services and increases the quality and quantity of programs each is able to offer to the community.

Eastside Community Center

Eastside Community Center is a $31 million, 55,000-square-foot community center.  It includes a multi-use gymnasium, sound recording studio, social hall, culinary kitchen, weight room, and cardio-fitness areas, and a large pool with party rooms, lap lanes, diving board, climbing wall, water slide, and hot tub/spa.

What makes this project possible is a partnership between Metro Parks Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma Housing Authority, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation and the Billy Ray Shirley III Foundation.


  • 1:30   Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 1:45   Arrive at Eastside Community Center
  • 2:15   Tour departs ELC
  • 2:30   Arrive at STAR Center
  • 3:15   Depart STAR to return to Convention Center  

Conference Socials

Exhibit Hall Opening Social | April 21, 2020 | 5:30 PM

The Exhibit Hall is located on the 5th floor of the Great Tacoma Convention Center. We are excited to introduce Metro Parks Tacoma's Learning Kitchen to the 2020 Conference located in our Exhibit Hall. Mingle with our partners, enjoy some food and beverages, and network with your peers!

This social will be buzzing with activities and fun to kick off the 2020 Conference. A special thank you to Metro Parks Tacoma for hosting us this year! 

Learn More About the Greater Tacoma Convention Center

McMenamins Elks Temple | April 22, 2020 | 5:30 PM

The 1916 Elks Temple has been restored and re-imagined into a vibrant gathering place for out-of-town guests and locals alike. From the Old Hangout, a bar reminiscent of world travels, to the Spanish Ballroom, a grand space hosting live music, you’ll find entertainment at every turn. In the Spanish Ballroom we will feature live bands, food and beverages, and more!

Threads of art, history and elements of the local community are woven into the structure. Wherever you are in Elks Temple, you’ll find the comforts of your favorite neighborhood pub and a world of adventure.

Learn More About McMenamins

TBD | April 22, 2020 | 7:00P M (After the Awards Banquet)

Post Conference Tour | April 24, 2020

Post- Conference Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Tour | 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Capacity: 20
Cost: Included in Your Conference Registration

Transportation: Shuttle

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium isn’t just a fun place to spend time with friends and family. It’s also the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest, nestled inside the 700-acre Point Defiance Park with views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. And with over 520 different animal species, a vintage carousel and Zoolights, there’s plenty to explore.

PDZA is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which ensures rigorously high standards of animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, educatmitment to wildlife conservation, tour our state-of-the-art Pacific Seas Aquarium, and hear how our botanical collection interconnects with animal conservation. 


  • 11:30 Depart Convention Center (third-floor lobby)
  • 12:00 Arrive at PDZA
  • 12:00-2:00 Tour (2 hours)
  • 2:00 Depart PDZA
  • 2:30 Arrive back at Convention Center

Mentorship Program - NEW!

The WPRA Student Connections Committee is dedicated to providing engaging professional development opportunities for students and young professionals who are looking to further gain insight into the exciting field of parks and recreation. One way we achieve this is through our mentoring program.

This program pairs distinguished professionals (our mentors) with a student or young professionals (our mentees) who can benefit from have a networking relationship with a current professional in the industry. If you’re interested in participating in this unique mentoring program for the 2020 campaign please fill out the simple form below no later than April 1, 2020.

Mentorship Program Application

We highly encourage individuals participating in this program to attend the WRPA's annual conference on April 21-24th, in Tacoma WA. This is a great opportunity to meet your mentor or mentee. This program is intended to be a yearlong commitment. We encourage meeting once a month for approximately 1-hour. The benefits of participating in this program for both parties are plentiful. Several includes:

  • The mentee has an opportunity to expand their knowledge and skillset by gaining valuable advice from a professional with first-hand experiences.
  • The mentor is provided an opportunity to give back to the profession as well as further develop their personal leadership skills.

Thank you for participating! You will be contacted via email with your pairing by mid-march by:

  • Carissa Ware, Athletic Programs & Sport Complexes Allocation Supervisor - City of Spokane
  • C.J. Stanford, Recreation Supervisor - City of Mercer Island
If you have any questions before that point, feel free to reach out to Carissa Ware - [email protected]Exhibit Hall Opening Social