Seahurst Ed Munro Park

1600 SW Seahurst Park Road

The jewel of Burien's park system, Seahurst Park offers a saltwater beach on Puget Sound, views to the Olympic Mountains, reservable picnic shelters and tables, a playground area, and several trails.

The park contains many natural features such as forests, streams, wetlands, and shoreline. Volunteer naturalists visit regularly to answer questions about marine plants and animals. It is a favorite for area photographers and families.

The parking lot has 184 parking stalls and an additional 5 accessible parking stalls in the lower parking lot.

Learn more about the Puget Sound watershed.

Park History

Seahurst Park was first used by Native Americans for fishing and clam-gathering. White settlers used the Homestead Act of 1862 to obtain land in Burien. The Act was intended to attract settlers to the west by providing them with land for homes and farms. However, speculators also used the Act to claim land for timber harvesting. 

A.F. Pope, W.C. Talbot, and Cyrus Walker purchased most of what is now Seahurst Park on May 15, 1869. Walker was a lumber mill manager on the Kitsap Peninsula. William C. Talbot, of Maine, and his partner, Andrew J. Pope, built a steam sawmill at Port Gamble on Hood Canal. The mill operated for 142 years—longer than any other in the U.S.—from 1853 to 1995. Pope & Talbot was a major forest products enterprise in Western Washington throughout the 20th century.

The area now known as Seahurst Park was a popular picnic spot in the early 1900s. Charles Hughes, an early Burien resident, recalled: “After the berries were picked and the hay gathered in, his folks would take the kids to the beach in a wagon. No one lived from Salmon Creek to Three Tree Point, so campsites were plentiful.” They picked wild berries, dug clams, and caught fish from driftwood rafts. 

In 1915, the Seahurst Land Company owned 200 acres from 16th SW to Puget Sound, north of SW 152nd St. This parcel contained 12 to 14 springs, many of them in Seahurst Park. Pumps, used to get the water into small tanks, were installed near SW 142nd St. and 21st Ave SW.

World War II brought new homes to the area served by the springs. This led to larger pumps and tanks, which were moved to SW 146th St. Several of the springs, as well as the remains of a pumping station and pipes, can still be found in the area.

In the early 1900s, a portion of the park land became the Fox family estate. There was a merry-go-round on the property. Robert Fox, one of the Fox children, eventually owned the Ford dealership on 146th and First Ave. S.

In the 1950s, Howie Gwinn and others planned to develop the Hurstwood community. At the last minute, King County Parks, through Commissioner Ed Munro, acquired Gwinn's property, plus the adjoining parcel, for a total of 2,000 feet of waterfront. Munro found the money to buy the Seahurst Park land by selling the Burien Fieldhouse site to Westside Federal Bank for use as a headquarters.

Seahurst Park Established

Seahurst Park, also known as Ed Munro Park after the state legislator who helped coordinate funding and resources for the park, was established in 1975. In addition to acquiring Seahurst Park, Ed Munro helped improve other South End parks and playfields. Fred Metzler, son of White Center pioneers Sam and Lucretia Metzler, Highline Times publisher Jerry Robinson, Dottie Harper, Norm Ackley, and others also played key roles in obtaining Seahurst Park.

In 1962, a $2 million bond proposal passed by the King County Commissioners included funds for land acquisition of Ed Munro Seahurst Park. Ed Munro served as a King County Commissioner from 1958 until 1969.

In 1968, a 23-acre addition to Seahurst Park, including 235 feet of waterfront, was made possible when King County voters approved Proposition 6, a Forward Thrust Parks and Recreation bond. $1.125 million was allotted for the addition: $272,000 for facilities improvements and $166,000 for boat-launching ramps (which were never built).

Marine Vocational Training Program

By 1967, the Highline School District was interested in establishing a marine vocational training program at Seahurst Park. Leading this effort were superintendent Carl Jensen; Dr. Robert Sealey, assistant superintendent; Dr. Ben Yormark, the district’s director of Vocational Education; Hugh Albrecht, site director; and Chuck Hardy, science coordinator for the district.

An advisory committee of representatives from marine-related businesses, government agencies, and education was formed in 1968. Studies indicated opportunities for trained employees. It was decided to offer a program for high school seniors as an extension of the new Occupational Skills Center, a cooperative venture of the Federal Way, South Central, and Highline School Districts.

A waterfront site on Puget Sound was needed for the marine program to be effective. This was aided by existing relationships between the Highline School District and King County: a series of cooperative ventures sharing adjacent school and park sites. A request for a small tract in the newly acquired and not fully developed Seahurst Park was negotiated, with certain stipulations to protect public use—such as portholes for viewing aquaria.

By April 1968, the new maritime program had secured approval and Lauren Rice was employed as on-site instructor. A curriculum was developed and materials and equipment ordered for a September start. A one-year lease was first arranged for use of the former Fox guest house. Two half-day classes of 15 students each made up the first year’s enrollment. Students came from high schools within the three cooperating districts. An all-weather trail from the parking lot was built, equipment unpacked and installed, and aquaria and pipelines built.

King County, meanwhile, proceeded with plans to develop Seahurst Park and raze the guest house used by the maritime program. A 99-year lease was therefore arranged for an adjacent lot on which to build a new lab building. Architect Ralph Burkhart worked with staff to design a new Marine Technology Lab. Construction contracts were coordinated with the new OSC facility being built near SeaTac airport.

The new Marine Technology Lab—5,000 square feet of instructional space and storage area on two floor levels—was occupied in 1972. A unique feature was the open aquarium and hatchery water systems. The County also agreed to build a salmon ladder and concrete-lined holding and rearing pond in the adjacent small stream.

The Marine Tech program prepared students for jobs and career advancement in marine-related occupations. Marine Tech grads work all over the world for municipalities, state Departments of Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Navy, EPA, and private companies.

With the new facility and streamwater system, the salmon hatchery program has gradually increased production. Up to 300 three-year-old coho salmon return each fall to the Marine Tech ladder and holding pond, as a result of the prior release of up to 10,000 year-and-a-half-old smolts. 

Forward Thrust Funds Park Projects

King County's Forward Thrust program of the late 1960s included plans for increased development of Seahurst Park, including an 8-lane boat launching ramp, expanded parking lot, seawall, breakwater, and raised picnic areas. Environmentalists, however, were concerned about the impact of these projects. In December 1970, King County Executive John Spellman appointed an ecology team of University of Washington faculty to conduct a four-month review of the ecological effects of development. Among the team's findings were that the boat ramp be scaled down, the parking lot shortened, the seawall reduced, and the breakwater replaced with a more subtle, offshore groin.

Originally, however, plans called for a huge parking lot, which would have wiped out most of the driftwood-strewn beach, for over a hundred boat trailers, and a launching facility with several lanes. This plan was successfully opposed by neighbors, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters. After being sued, King County changed the plans to create the family recreation facility that it is today.

Seahurst Park was a King County park until 1993, when ownership and management were transitioned to the new City of Burien, which was to have taken full control in 1997. But Seahurst Park was removed from the transition while differences were ironed out. The City viewed the park as regional, which would require continued County maintenance, while the County viewed it as a community park. 

The upper beach was modified in the 1990s by adding native vegetation, logs, and rip-rap to restore a natural appearance and limit access to the beach. 

Seahurst Beach Restored to Natural State

In recent years, local citizens, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the city of Burien have helped revive the park's delicate forest cycle. The NRCS provided the City with financial and technical aid through the Natural Resources Stewardship Network for the Seahurst Park Reforestation Project, a multi-year effort to plant seedlings of native trees to return natural succession to the forest.

Logging and other activities altered the natural life cycle of the trees in the park. Alder and big leaf maple dominate, rather than fir, hemlock, and cedar. To help nature reach the normal succession of these species, Burien PaRCS developed the Seahurst Park Reforestation Project. Local groups and Adopt-A-Park volunteers also clear away brush and plant native trees. The National Tree Trust and Puget Sound Energy provide additional financial help. 

In 2004, the Seahurst Park shoreline restoration project began. This was the first effort to be funded under the Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters Restoration program, which received its first congressional appropriation in 2003. Federal funding covered 80 percent of the project's $1.5 million cost.

The project aimed to replace a 1,000-foot section of seawall with a more gradual and natural slope, restoring the sandy, small-gravel beach needed by smelt and other forage fish to grow and become a key food source for salmon. The Army Corps of Engineers used a barge to transport the dismantled seawall and bring in the materials needed to restore the shoreline. On December 7, 2004 a kickoff ceremony included the symbolic release of marine life to represent the beach's rejuvenation.

Since 1972, when the seawall was built, much has been learned about shoreline and habitat protection. As waves eroded the wall, its 10-pound rocks broke apart on the beach, damaging spawning conditions for forage fish. Removing the seawall and grading the shoreline also improved a key migratory corridor for juvenile chinook salmon. The Army Corps planned to bring in 15,000 tons of sand and gravel to supplement and regrade the beach, helping to replenish eelgrass and other critical habitat for the salmon food chain.

As of 2006, the first phase was well underway, including removal of the south seawall, beach restoration, and marine riparian plantings. In 2002, Burien had adopted the Seahurst Park Master Plan, which called for over $11 million in renovation and restoration to return the park to its originally intended use, and to reverse environmental degradation.