(Rendering of the infrastructure it’ll take to run the recirculating spray park)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While nature’s own spray graced the world outside the windows of the Highland Park Improvement Club, HP’s forthcoming spray park – or “sprayground” – was the main agenda item for the HP Action Committee‘s monthly meeting Wednesday night.
It was something of a meeting within a meeting, as the first official Seattle Parks community meeting on the spray-park project – to be built at the site of the Highland Park wading pool (above), closed for almost three years – started after a short period of HPAC updates.
Project manager Kelly Goold began with an overview of how it began as a simple project with $200,000 planned from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy – whose Oversight Committee had two members on hand, chair Pete Spalding (from Pigeon Point) and member Donna Hartmann-Miller (from Maple Leaf) – until Carolyn Stauffer, now co-chair of HPAC, led a plan to seek more money from the levy’s Opportunity Fund (as first chronicled here in early 2010). The proposal won approval, and the spray park now has a $635,000 budget, which means “we’re going to be able to build a more robust spray park,” Goold explained. He says the city has applied for an additional $100,000 grant from the state’s Recreation/Conservation fund, but won’t know till early next year whether they’ll get it.
After the basic facts – it was time to talk design.
Mark Brands and Clayton Beaudoin from Site Workshop took over at that point. Mark explained it originally was bundled with the Georgetown and Northacres “sprayground” projects, but now it’s big enough that they’re handling it separately.
One change: It may not be on the exact spot that currently holds the old Highland Park wading pool – it has to be that general area, but maybe not the exact same part of the site (originally, “the same footprint” had been discussed).
The recirculating water system was described by Mark – one graphic (atop this story) showed the mechanical system, which will be housed in the WPA-era restroom building already on the site (but don’t worry, the restroom facilities will remain, he assured an attendee who asked about that). Elsewhere at the site, there’ll be a recirculation tank that’ll hold about 3,000 gallons of water, as part of the infrastructure for the sprayground.
At the front of the room were easels with photographs of features from a multitude of other spray parks, to spark imagination for what might be added to Highland Park’s project.
One big question: What will this space be used for in the eight months of the year when “it isn’t turned on,” as Mark put it. “It shouldn’t just sit and do nothing.” For example, he showed the Northacres design, with a sidewalk around the spray-park zone and a “Zen kind of feeling” conveyed by a labyrinth with a stenciled template on the concrete. At Georgetown – a park that’s about to be built, with a freeway and railroad and airport nearby – they worked on a “planes, trains, and automobiles” inspiration – lots of stainless-steel equipment, a “runway,” and even a checkerboard design. So, what would Highland Park’s inspiration/theme be? he asked.
Clay explained that the sprayground can also improve the general feel of the park – beyond just adding the spray features. They have about 2,500 square feet to work with here, and about half a million dollars in construction money.
The spray equipment will be interactive – a button to press, perhaps someplace to step or stand on, that activates the flow. The season would be roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day – so short, that what happens the rest of the year gains importance. “The more you can consider how that site functions for the community year round …”
Carolyn Stauffer wondered about the history of the site, and if anyone had “unearthed” some of it; that spawned a discussion about some of the wartime history, and Boeing work in the area.
Eventually, the room split into three groups for discussion and brainstorming; The ideas involved “playing well” with natural aspects of the site, though the HPAC members who wrote the Opportunity Fund proposal expressed strong feelings that as much of the money as possible should go into the sprayground itself, not be spent “all over the site.” One group proposed an “all umbrellas” theme – you could stand under an “umbrella” as water rained down. Other suggestions included a tunnel, or perhaps spray features inspired by flowers – dandelions or cattails.
As for the offseason usage, a bike circuit or trail was suggested multiple times, among other possibilities. The site, neighbors pointed out, is well-used, even in winter – if there’s a snowstorm, you’ll find footprints, for example.
The designers will take the ideas back and come up with some alternatives, which they will review with the Parks Department and then bring back to another community meeting (no date set yet).
If you have comments as a followup to the meeting, or if you weren’t able to attend, you can e-mail project manager Goold at firstname.lastname@example.org (the sooner the better).
Timetable? The design phase will last at least “several months” with the project going out to bid later this year, aiming for it to be done by next spring/summer.
The project’s official city webpage is here.