(added Wednesday afternoon, Junction Plaza Park rendering)
(Susan Melrose of the Junction Association and Isaac Cohen of Seattle Parks Foundation)
From Tuesday night’s first meeting of Friends of Junction Plaza Park, designed to get the long-semi-dormant park project across the finish line: Three women are giving the group a jump start: There’s Susan Melrose, who’s been helping Junction merchants bring new energy to the business district in her role as director of the West Seattle Junction Association; Erica Karlovits, who helms the Junction Neighborhood Organization and co-chairs the Southwest District Council; and Katie Hjorten, who we last heard from publicly when, as chair of Friends of Ercolini Park, she helped celebrate that park’s dedication west of The Junction last July. After the meeting, we asked her, why get involved with another park?
She broke into a huge smile and said that every day she’s so happy to look outside her home near Ercolini Park and see what that space has become — so popular, so often crowded with local families – she’s hoping to help finish the job of making this park site something that will bring smiles, too.
But let’s backtrack to the meeting itself. The chairs in one of the Senior Center of West Seattle‘s smaller meeting rooms were filled, with Hjorten, Karlovits, and Melrose joined by a dozen others, including Isaac Cohen from the Seattle Parks Foundation.
SPF is on board to help the park get done, too. Last fall, it started rekindling awareness with a “park” set up nearby during the nationwide PARKing Day — here’s the photo we took that day (yes, we know, they weren’t set up at the actual park site):
What the foundation has is expertise in handling this kind of project.
And it’s also got the numbers that Friends of Junction Plaza Park would like to get out to those who are concerned about its price tag: While $350,000 may sound like a lot, it’s down dramatically from the price tag the project carried three years ago: $600,000. Said Melrose tonight, “That was kind of a stumbling block for our community. … That price tag didn’t seem right, seemed a little off-kilter.”
So, with the Parks Foundation’s help, they did “value engineering” to get down to the $350,000 design:
The right side of the drawing is hardened surface, so, Melrose says, “It’s still going to be a very usable park for us, even when the lawn is mucky eight months out of the year.”
The design is not finalized; one more public meeting will be required for that, later this year.
But more important than the design — the commitment of community help. And there’s an extra component of urgency; because of stipulations on some of the existing funding, the park money must all be lined up by year’s end.
It’s “manageable,” Melrose insists. Cohen sounded a note of optimism too. $60,000 remains in the bank from before; $100,000 will be sought as a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant; that leaves just under $200,000 to raise some other way.
Hjorten has practical experience in park-grant procurement – she wrote the successful pitch for the $90,000 city grant that helped make Ercolini Park a reality. “We had to show how much it would benefit the community and how involved the community would be in making it happen, and using it.”
And the way that worked for Ercolini Park – as we reported on here, more than a few times back in 2006-2007 — is the same way it needs to work for Junction Plaza Park: Getting pledges of volunteer time, as well as money.
The grant application is due on April 10th, so Friends of JPP want to have all their pledges lined up no later than April 6. Melrose had asked for some e-mail commitments and has since learned that physical signatures are required, so they will be focusing even more on reaching people in person. You will see pledge forms on the counters at Junction businesses; you will see tabling at the West Seattle Farmers’ Market on Sundays, likely starting this weekend.
Hjorten said that for Ercolini Park, 60 volunteers eventually comprised the list, each pledging between two and eight hours.
“That’s doable,” said attendee Doug Baldwin, who’s with Windermere and is on the Junction Association board.
Hjorten added that a “core group” of 12 volunteers went door to door till the commitments they needed were nailed down.
In addition to asking for volunteer hours – which can target any number of tasks, Karlovits said, from outreach to phone calls to manning the Farmers’ Market booth to cleaning up the park site, or park-making work like gardening or masonry – they’ll be looking for similarly “manageable” financial commitment. “Ask 10 friends for 10 dollars each,” is the suggestion.
The volunteer pledges have dollar value too; Cohen noted that if someone pledges professional services, those services can be valued at whatever the pledger usually charges for those services. Melrose suggested that businesses and other organizations can pledge a lump sum of hours, and then work with members/staff to figure out who will do what to fulfill the pledge. Lashanna Williams, a Pathfinder K-8 parent, said she could see some possibilities in working with other school families to make such a pledge.
Now – the quest to get the word out, beyond stories like this one. How about a sign at the park site? one attendee asks. Hjorten recalls the real-estate sign that held an informational shingle at Ercolini, shown in this WSB photo from an August 2007 Ercolini update:
That drew positive murmurs. Melrose mentioned the big planter at the site, perhaps not only a place for plants but also for information. And then there are groups to speak with – such as the Southwest District Council tomorrow, where Karlovits promised her a few minutes on the agenda.
Online: Facebook? Twitter? Watch and see where Junction Plaza Park turns up. As Melrose summarized, “We’ve had community members very invested in this park for a long time, but now is the time to galvanize this effort” – toward ensuring The Junction has a memorable “burst of greenspace.”=
WHAT’S NEXT: Look for the pledge forms; we’ll also have an updated one you can download and print out, and will point you to the weblink for it as soon as we get it. You can donate to Junction Plaza Park online through the Seattle Parks Foundation website, which also has this page with more info on the park.