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Seattle Parks and Recreation
THE VIEW FROM DENNY PARK
News and Views from the Superintendent
No. 72. March 31, 2006
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor
Kenneth R. Bounds, Superintendent
A periodic electronic newsletter about Parks and Recreation news, programs, projects and events from Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds
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In this issue:
Parks in the News | Community Center Project Under Way | Starbucks Grant Jumpstarts Powell Barnett | Ballard Commons Park Open | New Park Names | Egg Hunts

PARKS IN THE NEWS: THE VIEW FROM DENNY PARK

Some of you have asked me lately "how are you doing"? clearly referencing the protest at the zoo and other recent news coverage about Parks projects.

I am doing just fine.

One of the advantages I have as Superintendent is that I get to see all of the great things our staff do throughout the city, each day of the year. I not only know about the citizens who are upset about the zoo parking garage and the proposed concerts at Gas Works and the improvements to Occidental Square, but I also know about the several hundred people who celebrated the opening of Ballard Commons Park three weeks ago: a park that was the result of a long and controversial process. The more than 100 Pro Parks Levy projects, and a hundred other Neighborhood Matching Fund, Community Center Levy, or other city-funded projects we've planned, designed and built over the past 10 years give me comfort that while some citizens remain unhappy, many more are satisfied and enjoying the fruits of our staff's hard work and commitment to citizen engagement. In many cases, a project ends up with different elements than when first proposed, and the differences are a result of the thoughtful give-and-take that is an essential part of the public process.

Alki Beach Park
Alki Beach Park

Among the successful projects is a park I visit frequently, Cal Anderson Park, just to see the smiles on the diverse population of park visitors; this is truly one of the city's gems and has been rightly called by one local architecture critic, "the first great park of the 21st century." I also am inspired by the many volunteers who are being trained as Forest Stewards as a part of our partnership with the Cascade Land Conservancy, known as the Green Seattle Partnership. The Partnership's goal is to rid the City's forested park lands of invasive plants and to plant diverse species of trees and under-story, with the vision of recreating the original northwest forests within the city. I am also aware of the 1,400 middle school students who participate in our Community Learning Centers each week after school, supplementing their school experience so they can be successful. This past weekend, we had more than 1,000 young basketball players participate in the year-end tournament, while the hundreds of Little Leaguers have taken to the baseball fields. Last weekend also marked the beginning of another crew season with the annual races at Green Lake. And I always look forward to that sunny Saturday in the spring when my wife and I walk along Alki and see hundreds of people speaking languages from all over the globe, enjoying one of the most beautiful urban trails in the world.

I could go on and on. But it is knowledge and experiences like these that keep me inspired and positive and confident in the excellent work of the best park and recreation staff in the country.

As far as the controversial projects in the news, I can only say that in each of the recent examples - Zoo garage, Occidental Square, Gas Works and Loyal Heights - the public was engaged, voices were heard loud and clear, and decisions were made, either by me or by the Mayor and City Council. The Council voted 9-0 to approve the Zoo Long-range Plan with the garage location where it is; they voted 8-0 to support the concerts at Gas Works; and they voted 8-0 to support the improvements at Occidental Park, including removing 17 trees. I say this not to shift the responsibility away from me, because I support each of these decisions. I only note this to point out that each of these decisions was vetted through a long and sometimes exhausting process. It's unfortunate that we could not reach consensus, but the decisions have been made and we are moving on.

Having said that, at the request of the Mayor, the Board of Park Commissioners will be reviewing our public involvement policies and making recommendations to me in the next few months. Also, Councilmember David Della has asked the City Auditor to examine our public involvement on park projects. I welcome both of these reviews. We are always open to improving how we conduct business with the ultimate goal of providing an inclusive and efficient public process for all of our projects.


COMMUNITY CENTER PROJECTS UNDER WAY

Montlake Groundbreaking
Montlake Groundbreaking

The construction fences going up in certain Seattle neighborhoods mean more than new buildings; we are also "building community."

At Northgate, a new center, branch library and park are still on track to open this summer. We recently began construction on the Montlake and Laurelhurst community center expansion projects. In April, work begins on the renovation of Van Asselt Community Center. All three of these centers are expected to reopen by the end of the year.

If the recently completed centers at Yesler and the International District are any indication, these new public spaces will help transform the community by providing new and varied public spaces for neighbors to meet, recreate and expand their horizons through classes and special programs.

For more specifics about these and other projects, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/index.htm


STARBUCKS GRANT JUMPSTARTS POWELL BARNETT

Powell Barnett Project Plan
Proposed Park Improvements, October 2005
(PDF 796k)

Our partnership with the Starbucks Coffee Company continues to flourish. Starbucks recently announced it will donate $550,000 to help renovate Powell Barnett Park, located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Seattle's Central Area.

This gift is part of the Starbucks Neighborhood Parks Program, a $1 million commitment to park improvement projects in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in 2006.

The Powell Barnett improvements will be the Starbucks park program's "signature project" that includes replacing the play area, adding seat walls, benches, and tables for picnics and game playing, a plaza, improved park entries, and a renovated playfield. The redevelopment plan for the park was spearheaded by a community group called the Powell Barnett Legacy Project. The Pro Parks Levy Opportunity Fund has contributed $200,000 to this project.

Construction began earlier this month on the Pro Parks-funded portion of the project. The Starbucks funding will help complete the project.

Since its inception, the Starbucks Neighborhood Parks Program has provided $1.4 million in funding to benefit more than 73 parks in the Puget Sound region. For more information about the program, please visit www.starbuckslovesparks.com


BALLARD COMMONS PARK OPENS

Ballard Commons Park

The new Ballard Commons Park was officially dedicated earlier this month in a grand opening ceremony with community members and Mayor Greg Nickels. Located at the corner of 22nd Ave. NW and NW 57th St., this Pro Parks-funded park features a permanent skate bowl, ADA accessible pathways, public art, a water feature, and open lawns for passive recreation. It is already a popular neighborhood hangout and meeting place. I invite you to come by and check it out!


NEW PARK NAMES

I recently named three new parks, each of which has a vigorous and involved community constituency and plans for future development: "Pinehurst Pocket Park" at NE 117th St. and 19th Ave. NE; "Maple Leaf Community Garden, at NE 103rd St., east of 5th Ave. NE; and "Counterbalance Park" with a tagline that says, "an Urban Oasis" on the northeast corner of Queen Anne Ave. N and Roy St. at the base of Queen Anne Hill. For much more information about the parks and park projects under way at these sites, please visit our web site at www.seattle.gov/parks.


EGG HUNTS

One of the most popular spring traditions in Seattle are the numerous spring egg hunts happening at Seattle Parks and Recreation community centers on Friday, April 14 or Saturday, April 15. Please visit our web site at www.seattle.gov/parks for details about locations and dates of egg hunts in your neighborhood.

I'll be in touch soon.

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