This is a guest post from Thanakorn W., a student at the University of Washington majoring in landscape architecture.
One way to tell if a city is successful in providing people’s good quality of life is to look at the city’s walkability and the connection with nature. As a college student studying in the fields of built environments (landscape architecture) and sustainable urban developments, Seattle has been doing a great job providing both components. Over the period of two years since I’ve moved to the city, I learn that Seattle is progressive in encouraging the establishment of attractive, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and trails.
I usually get around places on foot and sometimes use public transit. Walking is a fascinating means of transportation as it is the most convenient for me and costs nothing. One of the benefits is that I have become more observant of the surroundings. I begin looking at things more carefully and appreciate the fact that Seattle has a lot to offer. From the eye level, walking is a great way to explore the city in depth because it creates new experience in a journey; it offers more than just getting from one point to another. The journey itself can be as impressive as the destination.
Based on my interest in landscape and plants, I’d like to share my impressions on a few routes I took to and in the parks. I believe that to be able to experience nature, walking into it is the best way, and of course, walking doesn’t leave out those in wheelchairs so long as we can get close to nature and experience it through our senses.
Strolling to Ravenna Park is one of my favorite activities. I love to walk to the park through the neighborhoods after busy school days, especially when the sun is still up in the summer. Because of its tranquility, Ravenna Park is perfect for people who look for a place of refuge. It is a quiet neighborhood park with a trail that runs along a shallow stream and is flanked by a variety of vegetation. Every once in a while, I see joggers and people walking their dogs.
Magnuson Park was once a Seattle’s Navy airfield and has transformed into an urban park that serves both social and ecological functions. It is a place for leisure where various activities take place and is a restorative marshland. In one late afternoon on a nice day in the winter, my friend and I started our trip from UW. We arrived in the park and walked past a few sport fields.
We continued venturing on and off the trails into the ecological wetland until we reached the Lake Shore Promenade that overlooks the spectacular views of Lake Washington. Just before sunset, the sky was cloudless so we could see Mt. Rainier in the background while the orange and blue colors of the sky were changing gradients at the mountain ridges. It sure is a great place to relax and enjoy the sunset.
Washington Park Arboretum and Foster Island, Union Bay
Because spring is coming once again—a season we look forward to, it is a good opportunity to mention the Washington Park Arboretum. The arboretum is home to a variety of plant species and absolutely a pride of Seattle. It is accessible to the public year round and particularly a remarkable place when the flowers are blooming and the leaves growing. It was where I learned about plants and visited quite a number of times. One can also walk to the arboretum through Foster Island on the wooden Arboretum Waterfront Trail on Union Bay. Being on the trail gives you such a feeling as if you could walk on the water.
I would encourage those who can spare some of their valuable time to have a stroll in public parks and walk more as an alternative to driving. To give back to the city, we can continue to improve and maintain its walkability by making sure that our sidewalks and trails are safe and clean because they are the interdependent infrastructure that serves us as a social and environmental network. They actually reflect our quality of life.