Tag Archive for 'park'

Access to Nature through Sidewalks and Trails

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.

Ravenna Park
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
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.


New park and sidewalk in Northgate

An old park & ride near Northgate Mall is being converted into a park. This new park, Hubbard Homestead Park, will be opening soon and features “3.7 acres of landscaped open space” according to SDOT’s blog. There will also be a nice new 12-foot-wide sidewalk along the western perimeter of the park that should open very shortly. Visit SDOT’s post about this for more details.

How do you think Hubbard Homestead Park will stack up against Seattle’s many other parks?


McGraw Square re-opens

Westlake Streetcar Plaza (aka McGraw Square) was reopened in a ceremony yesterday. The SDOT blog has coverage of the ceremony. From the Times:

Mayor Mike McGinn, who presided over the dedication, said the plaza will create a pedestrian-friendly island in the heart of downtown Seattle. He said it’s one of three transportation hubs serving downtown.

The new plaza, at the end of the South Lake Union streetcar line, between Olive Way and Stewart Street, was built with a $900,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation.

Officials envision it filled with trees and tables, even food vendors.

Its location will make it easier to travel around downtown, with connections from the streetcar to the Monorail, light rail and the downtown bus tunnel, said those at the dedication.

There is a lot of potential for this plaza. At a minimum, the area has instantly become more pedestrian-friendly, but its success as a public space will be determined based on how well it is used.

As the trees that dot the area sprout leaves in spring and grow larger over the years, the space will likely feel more inviting and less exposed. People will spend time in the space to wait for the streetcar, but the plaza likely won’t become a lunchtime gathering spot until the city changes its restrictive food cart policies.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens. Anyone else have any thoughts?


Year of Seattle Parks

The City of Seattle has 403 parks.  One intrepid resident is on a quest to visit all of them in one year:

I know what you’re thinking. All the parks in the city of Seattle in one year? Piece o’cake. I thought the same thing, too…. this will be a fun, easy project. I’ll visit one park every week, I thought. Write a few notes about them and throw my musings up on a blog.

Well, much to my surprise when I visited the city’s web site I discovered that Seattle has 403 parks. No kidding.

Now, I’ve lived in Seattle for several years and really enjoy visiting parks for picnics, swimming and walking. And, I considered myself pretty knowledgeable about the parks in this city.

I had no idea.

There are parks I have literally never ever heard of. Like Albert Davis Park and Amy Yee Tennis Center. And, that’s just a couple from the “A”s. How about the tempting Beer Shiva Park and Benefit Playground? Or, the curiously named Condon Way Centerstrip and Counterbalance Park: An Urban Oasis. No clue about those either.

A Year of Seattle Parks contains information on each park visited so far along with photos and suggested walking routes. Stop by to find some new places to walk in the city.


Go walk in a park for health benefits

Scientific studies have found that a walk in a green environment is good for your health. Benefits include improved immune system function, lowered blood pressure, and better feeling of overall health.

Fortunately, Seattle has plenty of green spaces to walk. There are a couple of good green environments to walk in that we’ve covered here already, including Volunteer Park, Schmitz Preserve Park, Seward Park, and Discovery Park Loop Trail.

What are your favorite green environments to walk in?


Walking South Lake Union

This part of Seattle has been transformed over the last several years and this nice long walk takes you on a tour to see the history, the public spaces, and the recent development that this area has to offer.

View Walking South Lake Union in a larger map

Start at Westlake Ave & Denny Way near Whole Foods. You can get here easily by taking the 8 or 17 bus, or Seattle Streetcar. If you’re driving, there is a parking garage off of 9th Ave and there is some street parking in the area.

This development opened in late 2006 and includes the Pan Pacific Hotel, condos, and retail. Originally QFC had signed on to be the grocery tenant, but had to back out because construction did not start soon enough.

The space in front of the store includes the sculpture by UW professor Akio Takamori entitled Three Women.

Take the escalator up. On your left are a couple restaurants and the Pan Pacific Hotel. Continue forward, walking by the storefronts to the right, which include several upscale shops. Turn left at the end of the row of shops to continue.

When you reach the sidewalk along Terry Ave, turn right. On your left is the Main Campus Center of the Cornish College of the Arts, established in 1914 and the oldest music conservatory on the West Coast, and considered one of the top art schools in the country.

Ahead is the Terry Avenue green street, with a single lane for vehicle traffic. Cross Lenora St and then turn left to head uphill. Watch for traffic coming from Denny Way as you cross Boren Ave.

Cross both Fairview Ave and Denny Way to end up in front of Mirabella, a large retirement community. There is some art at the corner and near the courtyard you’ll pass. Walk north on Fairview, past the driveway and courtyard of Mirabella.

Continue across John St and turn right on Thomas St. Note the large musically-themed mural on your left, painted for The WoodShed Studios, home to Noc on Wood Records.

Continue to Pontius St where you’ll turn right by the Southlake Grill. As you walk down the street, notice the building on your left, which was once a laundry building and is now an apartment building. Turn left mid-block to pass through the green alley. When you first turn left, there is an old photo and some information on the history of this building. Pass by the waterfall and meet up with Yale Ave. There are a few shops to your right and immediately across the street is REI’s flagship store.

Turn left to walk north along Yale Ave – be sure to watch for cross traffic at intersections. The Cascade neighborhood used to be home to many immigrants from Eastern Europe, and at Harrison Street, you will see Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral, constructed in the late 1930s in traditional Russian church style.

The old red brick buildings along Yale Avenue give a good feel for the area’s history of industry. A large office development, called Yale Campus, has been planned for the area a couple blocks ahead near Mercer, however that development is on hold.

Turn right on Mercer St and then turn right on Eastlake Ave. Before the construction of I-5, there would have been buildings to your left, and at Republican Street was the Republican Hill Climb, built in 1910 to connect Cascade with Capitol Hill.

At Thomas Street, turn right and head downhill. Soon you’ll pass by the Cascade People’s Center and the Cascade P-Patch. At the corner of Thomas and Minor, turn into the garden and wander through the paths before heading back to Minor Ave. Walk north on Minor Ave. There are a couple benches along a gravel path to your right and picnic tables – behind that is the Cascade Playground.

Turn left on Harrison St, passing the Seattle Streetcar garage on your left and cross Fairview Ave. There are a couple cafes you’ll pass by as well. You’ll need to walk along the north side of Harrison St due to construction of Amazon.com’s buildings on the other side of the street that is blocking the sidewalk.

Turn right on Terry Ave, you’ll pass by a courtyard for Amazon.com’s new headquarters in the area. You may have to cross to the left side of the street to continue north past Republican Street. After crossing Mercer, the sidewalk disappears, but there is still room to walk. This area will be under construction for the next couple years as part of the Mercer Corridor Project, which will make the whole area more pedestrian friendly.

Continue past Valley St and into newly-opened Lake Union Park. As you walk into the park, you’ll pass by the interactive fountains (which you may not notice if they’re not running). On your right is the Naval Reserve building, commonly known as the Armory, which will soon be the home to the Museum of History and Industry. On your left is a model boat pond. Continue forward to the water and step out onto Blanche – you’ll recognize it by what looks like a chrome upside-down boat in the air – the sculpture evokes the feeling of being out on the lake in a small boat. There are boats stationed nearby, many of which are part of the Center for Wooden Boats, which offers various programs and whose collection of over 100 boats is open to the public.

Head toward the bridge over the water and cross it. The bridge has some signs posted on it with highlights from the area’s history. On your left is a cove, which includes a restored salmon habitat. Once you’re done at the park, go back towards Valley St and cross south along Westlake Ave (you could also take the Streetcar back downtown if you’re done walking). Continue south for a few blocks, passing a few retail establishments and a couple new eateries.

You may wish to cross the street at the light at Harrison or Republican to be on the west (right) side of Fairview. Turn right at John St and walk across 9th Ave to find yourself at Denny Park. The oldest park in the city seems to be home to some people who don’t have another one, but it also has a new play area with a zip-line and good shade for a picnic. Walk along the perimeter of the park on John St and turn left into the park where 8th Ave ends. There are a couple benches around here, but you can keep walking to the center of the park, and then Take the diagonal path SE toward Denny Way & 9th Ave.

At Denny Way, continue back toward Westlake. There is a small triangle of open space on the SW corner of Westlake and Denny, but it seems too exposed and irrelevant to be very popular, at least compared to the area in front of Whole Foods where our walking trip ends.

highlights: Lake Union, Cascade P-Patch, some areas with retail, history, active public space at Fairview and Denny
lowlights: some parts of the neighborhood are not very active, no sidewalks along Terry when crossing Mercer, heavy motor vehicle traffic along Mercer and Valley


Walking Union Bay Natural Area

This trail through grassland takes you near wetlands that are popular with bird-watchers.

View Union Bay Natural Area Loop in a larger map

Start near where Union Bay Pl NE changes to NE 41st St. There is street parking in the area, or a parking lot nearby if you will also be attending the UW Botanic Gardens. The 25, 65, and 75 buses stop about 1/4 mile away from the beginning of the path on NE 45th. The land is owned by the State of Washington and under the care of the University. It’s important to stay on the trail to protect local habitat. Union Bay Natural Area is mostly managed by volunteers who continually work to remove invasive species.

Where the street (Union Bay Pl NE) curves, there is a trail perpendicular to the sidewalk. Take this trail away from the street, passing by a small landscaped area with flowers and bushes.

Shortly after passing the building, you’ll pass a informative kiosk on your right, with information on the restoration in the area. Shortly after you reach the grassland and descend down a small incline, you will turn left when you reach the next path.

Union Bay Natural Area trail

Grassland of Union Bay Natural Area

This loop passes the water of Union Bay, with lily pads and different varieties of birds who make their homes near the wetlands. There’s also a view of the Rossellini (520) bridge and Bellevue.

View from Union Bay Natural Area

Bellevue and the Rossellini Bridge past Lake Washington

Continuing on, Husky Stadium will loom large in the distance. At a couple spots, the trail splits briefly into two trails just a few feet part. One of the paths seems newer, so volunteers working to restore the land may be planning to decommission the trail that is closer to threatened area. In any case, it doesn’t matter much, take whichever path you’d like.

You will soon return to the main trail turn right at the trail and head back to the entrance.

You’ll pass a trail leading to the left, which you might think would take you somewhere interesting, but it doesn’t really go anywhere worth going in a way worth getting there. So, continue back to the starting point at Union Bay Pl NE.

highlights: diverse natural habitats, view to east, gravel trail in good condition, birds in the area
lowlights: little shade, not much of an escape from the city as UW is visible at all times


PARK(ing) Day this Friday

Almost 70 parking spaces around the city will be turned in to temporary parks this Friday for PARK(ing) Day this Friday. According to the PARK(ing) Day website, “PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good.”

If you’re able to be out on foot this Friday between 9 am and 3 pm, you might see some of these miniature parks. There will be several downtown on 2nd Ave at University St and others throughout the city.

Afterward, the organizers of the event, Feet First, Streets for All Seattle, and the People’s Parking Lot will be hosting an after-party from 5 – 10 pm at 500 E Pine St.


Walking Discovery Park Beaches

Enjoy this walk through the forest and along the beaches at Discovery Park. It may be challenging for some due to the elevation change.

Discovery Park Beach Route

Start at the North Parking lot – the 33 bus ends here, or follow these driving directions.

Head west from the parking lot – there are two roads leading west from the parking lot, either one will work. There are some restrooms here if needed. Currently, the road that goes left is closed for construction. If that road is back open by the time you get around to hiking this, you can turn left and meet up with us along the Loop Trail, otherwise continue along the road that continues west. Soon, that road will curve left and go uphill. Continue on this road until you reach the Loop Trail, which crosses this road. Turn right onto the Loop Trail.

The loop trail will gradually descend and then cross another paved road. Just past the road, veer right on the Hidden Valley Trail. The Hidden Valley Trail takes you through a densely forested area of the park and descends, sometimes rather steeply, on your way towards the water. It also takes you near the King County Wastewater Treatment Facility.

There will be a sidewalk on your right that will take you further down toward the beach. You will reach a road that you will cross along a marked crosswalk. After crossing the road, feel free to step off the trail to enjoy the view. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Mount Rainier between the southern bluffs of Magnolia on the left and West Seattle on the right.

Mount Rainier

View from the South Beach of Discovery Park

Go ahead and find a log to sit on and enjoy the view. If it’s a good day, you’ll be able to easily ignore the sometimes off-putting smell of the sound and any trash or dead geoducks on the beach.

Get back on a trail and head westward toward the lighthouse. There are two trails that converge, so either one is fine. Once you reach the trail intersection, you can go straight towards the lighthouse if you want to check it out first. Otherwise, veer right to head toward the North Beach.

The trail will take you back across the road and toward the north beach. From here you can see northeast toward Shilshole Bay Marina and Golden Gardens Park. This trail parallels the waterline for about 2/3 of a mile. After several hundred feet, the beach ends and the trail is separated from the water by trees and a human-made rocky shoreline.

Just as the beach ends, there is a very short detour on your left that will take you by the wetlands. The trail is well-shaded around the wetlands, but then is exposed to the water for much of the rest of the way.

Eventually the trail will turn right and you’ll be directed inland where you’ll have to climb quite a few stairs. This is the difficult part of the journey.

After all the stairs, you will reach a split in the trail – take the less-worn path on the left. This will take you back to a road, which you’ll continue on, past a closed restroom, and then will turn left to re-join the Loop Trail.

Or, if you’d like to keep walking and join up with our Walking Discovery Park Loop Trail walking route, you’d turn right at the Loop Trail.

From here you’ll just backtrack by the way we came. At the next road, the Loop Trail may be closed. If so, turn left and follow this road to the parking lot. If not, continue on the loop trail to the next road, where you’ll turn left and follow this road to the parking lot.

highlights: view from the beaches, forest, lighthouse

lowlights: a bit of a hike if all you want to see is the beach


New sidewalks at Junction Plaza Park

If you’re strolling in West Seattle, you might notice the new Junction Plaza Park, but also be sure to note the new sidewalks (SDOT).

If you stop on the way to the West Seattle Junction to enjoy the handsome new Junction Plaza Park at 42nd and SW Alaska Street, you might notice that there are also new sidewalks along the street surrounding the park. The sidewalks are the handiwork of SDOT’s South Concrete Paving Crews, happy to have a part in the creation of the community’s newest attraction, dedicated on Tuesday, June 29. The park provides an enjoyable pass-through retreat on the way to shopping or parking, as well as providing a location for small performances or festivals.