(Photo of Roxhill Park play structure, from Seattle Parks website)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“What’s wrong with the play structure we have now?”
The plaintive question came from a man in attendance at Wednesday night’s community meeting about the two upcoming projects at Roxhill Park – $450,000 playground renovation and $600,000 “skatespot.”
The answer from Seattle Parks staffers in a moment, but first: This was the first of three community meetings on the Roxhill projects. Project manager Kelly Davidson opened the meeting, noting both are funded by money from the 2008 voter-approved Parks and Green Spaces Levy (whose Oversight Committee chair, Pigeon Point resident Pete Spalding, was in attendance).
Davidson briefly mentioned the Rob Dyrdek Foundation donation for the skatespot that led to a “no-cost design” contract with California Skateparks. She said the skatespot and playground projects are intended to be worked on simultaneously, in hopes that’ll enable both to be handled in one construction contract. Design is to be complete next January, with construction expected to take place February through September of next year. Besides the three public meetings, there will be an additional skatespot-design review with the city Skate Park Advisory Committee (open to the public).
The skatepark (technically a “skatespot”) will be in the northwest quadrant of the park, near the corner of 29th/Barton, north of the playground, which is envisioned at its current site. Here’s a roughed-out map shown at the meeting:
Though discussion of both projects kept happening throughout the meeting, it started with playground design, led by Parks’ landscape architects Frank Robinson and Shwu-jen Hwang.
“We’re looking at what’s really cool about this park that we can turn it into something special, but we’re looking at what are the constraints, too,” Robinson said. He pointed out that the relationships between the sectors of the park will be different than it is now – with more links and pathways than exist now.
“Your preference is important,” Hwang reminded the attendees. Some general concepts with which they are working: Younger kids’ playground features on the south side, closer to the restrooms; older kids on the north side of the play area, closer to the skatespot (which might get its own separate entrance, Hwang said, per a consultant’s recommendation). The trees on the east side of the play area would likely get some new seating to reinforce its use as a picnicking or rest spot.
The wetland /bog area southeast of the play area might get a few new trees to make up for tree loss on the skatespot corner, according to Hwang.
As is typical for playground-design discussions, she reviewed a variety of types of play equipment, with an easel holding a montage of photos displaying examples. Hwang also wondered if the community might be interested in adding some adult-recreation/exercise elements in the play area.
And then came a question: “What is wrong with the play structure we have now?”
As the top photo shows, it is a distinctive structure, a two-level wooden castle, a community project from about 15 years ago. But, said Hwang, it doesn’t meet ADA requirements (disability access). And Robinson added, “All play structures have a life span of about 15 years, wood structures are a little less.” The attendee said there had been some renovation work two years ago. Robinson said that doesn’t hold off deterioration: “If time goes on and we don’t do a major renovation like this, pieces (of the equipment) will disappear gradually, and that’s kind of sad.”
The concerned attendee countered, “It’s been a historic landmark for a lot of young families – they call it Castle Park for that structure.”
Another attendee noted, “The new generation of play structures are all kind of starting to blend together.” He suggested something unique; others suggested finding a way to keep the castle theme.
Could a new structure include wood? it was asked. Possibly, Robinson said, though he said it’s been tough to find repairs/replacements for the structure that’s there now. But another issue about wood vs. other materials, he pointed out, is the fact Parks has limited funding for maintenance: “We know we have $400,000 to build this now, but we’re not sure what we’ll have to take care of it in the future.”
Regarding finding a unique component for the playground, Davidson recalled the ferry structure built into the recently renovated Fairmount Playground, at the community’s suggestion. “Maybe rocks for Roxhill,” another attendee suggested.
Donn DeVore of the Westwood Neighborhood Council asked about possible changes along Barton with the project; Robinson said, no modifications to streetlights along Barton are expected. DeVore and Mary Quackenbush, who also has been active with WNC, pointed out pedestrian improvements have been sought in the area too, including a crosswalk at 29th SW.
Next – the skatespot.
Joe Ciaglia, owner of California Skateparks, took over for that part of the meeting, including showing photos of some of the components donated by skateboard star Rob Dyrdek after his performance at KeyArena. “If these things don’t fit into the site, that’s OK too,” he said, an allusion to concerns that have been raised by the Skate Park Advisory Committee (WSB coverage here), which wasn’t consulted before the donation was accepted and announced by Mayor McGinn.
“I’m not envisioning it being one slab of concrete,” said Ciaglia, after an attendee voiced some concern about a “plaza design,” suggesting that hills need to be part of it.
Another skater in the audience said he hoped designers would “take what we don’t have and put it into the plaza,” like features that new skaters might be able to use as they learn and gain experience.
“Is a bowl out of the question?” one man asked. “I know we have bowl-mania at Delridge [Skatepark, opening in a month], but …”
Ciaglia stressed that they are looking for input.
Concerns were raised, repeatedly, about soggy soil near the skatespot site; Davidson said a soils report is due before the next community meeting.
“I’m concerned about the trees that will have to come out for (this site),” said Matthew Lee Johnston (a SPAC member), worried that the community will blame skaters. “You can build a skatepark and go home, but we’re the ones who are going to get looked down on when the trees are gone and people miss them.” He continued on to say, “We’re interested in something super-unique, built especially for this site – we don’t want to turn down something free but not in exchange for a custom-built skatepark in this location. … You could make this site unique.” Ciaglia offered assurances that could be done.
Ciaglia said he started as a landscape contractor, and “trees are really special to me,” and he saw ways to keep most of them. Davidson said she’s been out there with a city arborist and they’re looking at ways to minimize tree loss.
Back to design: Young skateboarders want the plaza style, like a popular one in Bellevue, one attendee insisted, saying that’s the only one of its kind in the region. “Think about building community around the park, rather than just having something they can use,” he exhorted.
“To have it all one way or all the other would be a mistake,” another attendee suggested.
A neighbor wondered about late-night noise; closing time would be 11 pm, but if there are issues, it could be earlier, Davidson said. And she pointed out that if SPD had to come by to clear the park post-closing time, its convenient location at 29th/Barton would enable them to shine lights while driving by. The skatepark is not scheduled for lighting, though, according to Davidson.
What about the lighting at newly renovated Delridge and Hiawatha Playfields? asked one attendee, wondering why those projects got lighting and the skatepark is not slated for any. “We’ll take that back” for discussion, promised Robinson. The aforementioned Bellevue plaza is lit until 11 pm, according to another attendee. The natural area/bog, however, might be disturbed by extra artificial lighting, Quackenbush warned.
What about redirecting money saved by the Dyrdek donations to lighting? Davidson said that sum totals currently about $28,000; low-level lighting, she said later, would cost close to that much. “Anything to keep it open past oh, 4:30 in the winter,” someone hoped aloud.
A neighbor pointed out the bathrooms are usually closed in the winter; that was duly noted.
Then came a flurry of suggestions for features. But one man said: “This is a harsh site to build a skatepark. It’s not going to be an easy site to design. I think the design should come from the site, and not try to plop Stoner Plaza on top … Go out there and walk among the trees, there’s not a lot of flat ground.”
Another suggestion: A spectator area, so “you’re not taking away a skateable area by people sitting.”
Now the suggestions – as well as comments you can get to Davidson via e-mail (contact info here) – will go into the designers’ hands. Their resulting schematic will be reviewed at the September 12th Skate Park Advisory Committee meeting, which Davidson said will likely precede the second community meeting.