Five Mile Drive outer loop closes to cars

TACOMA, Wash. — Metro Parks Tacoma closed the outer loop of Five Mile Drive in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, days after announcing the change.

Pedestrians and cyclists will still be permitted to use the road, which winds around the tip of Point Defiance.

The closure comes after the agency’s review of a recent geotechnical report that confirmed ongoing erosion and instability on the bluffs edging the road.

Five Mile Drive has been an iconic scenic byway for about a hundred years, attracting people to drive through the woods and stop at viewpoints.

Before the gates closed at 2 p.m. Thursday, people lined up in their vehicles for a final trip.

The slow-moving traffic was so heavy that it took some people an hour to make the loop.

Debbie Hill said the closure left her “heartbroken.” “I’ve been coming here for over 60 years,” she said.

Metro Parks says it has been monitoring climate change impacts for years and working to make parks more resilient, including recent renovations to Owen Beach and Dickman Mill Park.

“Metro Parks’ decision to close the Five Mile Drive Outer Loop was not undertaken lightly,” said Joe Brady, deputy director of regional parks and attractions. “We know how deeply our community feels about this tranquil, forested space. But we also take public safety and environmental protection very seriously. This decision is a direct response to the acceleration of erosion caused by multiple forces of nature, and we must respect that inevitable power.”

Vehicles over 8,000 pounds were already restricted from entering the outer loop.

The agency is now exploring the possibility of reestablishing a route that will be accessible to drivers by using an existing service road on the peninsula, which is currently closed to the public.