(Southwestern side of Roxhill Bog, photographed today by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
Just a short distance past the playground and skatespot in Roxhill Park is Roxhill Bog – historically, where Longfellow Creek begins.
It’s undergone some restoration work in the past, but needs a lot more, and the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council has been working to put together a plan/request for Seattle Parks and Seattle Public Utilities. The bog’s past may be a key to our area’s future – and the proper restoration could help reduce flood problems along the Longfellow Creek corridor, as well as reducing the area where trouble sometimes lurks.
They’ve gathered a fair amount of information already, but, as WWRHAH secretary Joe Szilagyi explains, “At this point we’re just trying to fill in the last gaps of knowledge and information over a very, very long period of time before we can finalize our planning and bring this to SPU and Parks.” So if you have had any historical knowledge of/information about Roxhill Bog, they’ve set up a special e-mail address and invite you to get in touch: email@example.com.
P.S. The area’s wetlands have had rough treatment in the past – while doing some added research, we found in the Seattle Municipal Archives this city photo dated exactly 53 years ago today (March 16, 1961), labeled “W. Roxbury paving, peat bog/26th and Barton,” though we can’t tell exactly where it is in relation to the current park site:
Meantime, if you are interested in more background on the current challenges and potential benefits of tackling them, read on for the text of the letter Szilagyi has sent to city and county leaders on WWRHAH’s behalf:
I’m writing today from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council (WWRHAH) in West Seattle, about the following, which is a possible multi-neighborhood Seattle Parks and Public Utilities issue, with a possible County impact:
We have been, over the past year, pursuing and investigating various issues surrounding Roxhill Park in West Seattle, ranging from it having a new King County Metro Transit Hub put next to it, to it’s crime rates, to a host of other problems. In the process of researching all of this, we gradually began to get more and more people attending our meetings with backgrounds and careers in ecology, forestry, and other environmental sciences, due to the unique character of this park and their happening to live in our WWRHAH area.
Roxhill Park is unique in being a cold-water peat bog, and may be the only known publicly accessible one in the county and region. It is also a wetland and part of the headwaters of Longfellow Creek watershed:
Many people believed that the watershed’s restoration with Roxhill Park was completed. It turns out that this is not completely accurate, and the previous work done may in fact have caused other problems of a possible rise in flooding in other parts of West Seattle due to its incomplete nature. In short:
The bog’s water levels are too low.
The bog’s water levels fluctuate too much.
The reduced water levels could eventually cause the destruction of the natural peat base, which may be irreversible.
The most likely cause: a stormwater drainage system which may be acting as a French drain surrounding the park is draining the bog.
We can’t be positive without a full hydrological study, but it’s highly likely that this is the cause.
The current condition of the bog and park may be contributing to periodic flooding north along the Delridge corridor, all the way to the North Delridge neighborhood.
We’re mailing today to inform you of this and to ask for your support in the investigation of this with the very skilled members of our “Bog Committee.” We initially believed this would be a matter to be pursued through a grant of some sort through the City’s Department of Neighborhoods, but the more our people dug into this, it began to appear to be a general SPU and/or Parks issue. It may be a necessity to address this, versus a “nice to have” scenario better suited for the city’s competitive neighborhood grant process.
If our team’s early assessment is correct, a coffer dam (sort of a water retaining system) would be required to be placed inside of the perimeter of the existing “French drain” system. This would allow rain water, standing water, and natural storm water runoff to be retained more appropriately in the bog year round, while still allowing the existing drainage to continue outside of that, protecting the recreational park areas we have put a lot of restoration and project money into over the years, and protecting the urban neighbors of the Roxhill Bog: Daystar Retirement Village, Westwood Village Shopping Area, Roxhill Elementary School, a SHAG retirement building, a complex of low-income housing, and various single family homes.
To get to that point — if our early assessment is correct — would require the following four steps:
1. Develop a new park hydrology model
2. Design hardware to go into the ground to keep the water in the bog
3. The building and installation of it all
4. Follow up study to make sure it’s working
Parts 1 and 4 could take up to two years each, from our estimation. Parts 2 and 3 may be expensive, but this could have a broadly positive impact in the areas of:
Restoring this unique location to its natural environmental state
Educational opportunities for city schools with a hydrated peat bog; there is no other like it anywhere nearby
Possible local mitigation of storm water runoff, which may aid on the city and county level with Federal concerns on that subject
Crime prevention, as we have seen and reported many documented cases of public drunkenness, open air drug consumption, and illegal camping in the unnaturally dried-out peat bog areas
Secretary, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council
Again, if you have any information to add to what WWRHAH is sharing above, please let them know via firstname.lastname@example.org – and join in the council’s monthly meetings, first Tuesdays @ 7 pm, Southwest Branch Library (35th/Henderson).