That’s “Design Concept B” for the park that will be built atop and around the newly covered Myrtle Reservoir (map). It has a spot saved at the northeast corner for a skatepark. Here’s “Design Concept A,” which doesn’t:
Though there are many design issues to decide, the potential skatepark was at the heart of most of the Myrtle Reservoir park discussion last night at High Point Community Center:
This was billed as the second of four community meetings to be held before the park is built. starting late this year or early next. We weren’t at the first one in March 2007, but by all accounts, including the notes posted online, the majority of park neighbors who attended that first meeting were there to voice strong opposition to the idea of a skatepark on the site.
But that was before any sort of design-concept options were prepared — and while some strong opposition was voiced again last night (as well as some strong support), seeing a more concrete proposal seemed to soften some of it.
As Parks Department project manager Virginia Hassinger explained toward the start of last night’s meeting, “We are at the juncture where we need to decide what goes into this park and what does not.” She acknowledged that neither she nor landscape architect Jim Yamaguchi from Nakano Associates was involved with the project when the first meeting happened last year, but reiterated that the new “design concepts” reflect some of the concerns and interests that the city heard back then.
Perhaps most notably, the potential skatepark is relatively small — more like what is known as a “skatespot” — about 10,000 square feet, which is less than a tenth of the size of the overall park plan. And even if it is drawn into the plan, one huge question hovers over it: Where would the money be found to build it? There’s no money in the Myrtle park budget (set before the city Skatepark Plan was finalized), which includes almost $700,000 for park construction; Hassinger’s guesstimate put the possible cost of a skatepark at half again as much as that, assuming it would cost around $35/square foot to build.
The whole genesis of the skatepark-at-Myrtle concept was questioned, and recapped, last night: a Morgan Junction community activist pointed out to the crowd (which numbered about 100) that the idea dates back to the meetings and discussions that led to the creation of the Morgan Junction Neighborhood Plan (linked here) a decade ago. Closer to the current time, West Seattle-based skatepark activist Matt Johnston (his website here) talked about the meetings and public input that went into the citywide Skatepark Plan released last year (the plan and the meetings that precede it are all linked from this city webpage) — “We took lots of objective factors into account,” he recalled, “such as not wanting to have something that’s too big for a neighborhood.”
As Hassinger reiterated, however, the citywide plan does not unequivocally state that Myrtle is a preferred spot for a skatepark; it suggests locating one at Myrtle Reservoir or near the High Point Community Center. However, as was noted several times, there is no new park development under way or proposed at the High Point site, while the Myrtle parcel is under development right now, because of the city project to cover the reservoir. (“This is a water facility first, a park second,” Hassinger reminded the crowd.)
Meeting attendees included more than half a dozen kids and teens, there to support the skatepark concept. One wondered if they could help raise the money it would take to build — “Is there a place online that we can donate?” he asked — another recalled trying to find someplace in his old neighborhood to skateboard, and talking with friends about “how we wished there was a skatepark closer to us.” And some had parents there to support them, including a woman who declared, “I’m a skateboard mom. The kids who are going to use it are here. They’re good kids.”
The current dearth of skateboarding facilities around the city was brought up frequently by supporters; one pointed out that while it’s seldom hard to find a nearby park with play equipment for little kids, a place for tweens and teens to engage in “healthy recreation” is almost impossible to find: “Why do we continue this disparity?”
Another comment: “I have a four-year-old son, and I don’t know if he’s going to grow up to be a skateboarder, but I want to know, when are we going to start building places so kids can have a healthy lifestyle?”
Skateboarders aren’t just kids, Johnston and others reminded the crowd, including a man who, like several others, took exception to concerns that a skatepark could attract criminal activity: “I’ve never been arrested,” he said plaintively. “I’m a civil engineer!” Another man observed, “We have three generations of people skateboarding now.”
But opponents had emotional pleas as well. One man recounted working for six years to build a memorial to fallen law-enforcement officers, and then, he said: “Skateboarders destroyed it two months ago.” (Asked how he knew the vandals were skateboarders, he said they were caught on video surveillance.)
Several people expressed concern about a skatepark turning open space into pavement (as shown above, the design concept without a skatepark proposes a “rain garden” for that same corner). One man noted that siting it in the space on Design Concept B would lead to the removal of five trees; Hassinger said it might be possible to work around them. A woman said, “I’m here to speak for the earth. I don’t want to see more concrete poured on one of the last green spaces.”
Another area of concern involved the location at the 35th/Willow corner of the park, where there is no crosswalk bridging 35th (the nearest one is at Myrtle, on the opposite side of the park). “35th is one of the most dangerous streets I’ve ever lived on,” one woman said.
As the comment period of the two-hour meeting wound down, it seemed some minds might have been changed. One neighbor said, “I wasn’t excited about a regional (skateboarding) facility here, but seeing this [smaller] design, sometimes you have to take one for the team. The kids need a place to go.”
The decision rests with the Parks Department, but “skatepark or no skatepark” is far from the only decision to be made. Other key park points that emerged last night — before, during, and after the skatepark debate — this will be a neighborhood park, so it’s not currently slated for its own parking area, or for restrooms, although it was acknowledged that the latter could be put into the plan, for a price. In addition — again, because this is a “water facility” first — some features of the site are non-negotiable, such as reservoir-related buildings that will be ringed with a 12-foot black-chain-link security fence. In case you’re wondering, the fill atop the rectangular reservoir will be two feet thick; the playfield planned for that section of the park can only be “informal” because water-quality issues prohibit the type of fertilization the city says is required to create and maintain it as an official sports field. And there was considerable talk last night about what kind of “theme” the park will have: Designer Yamaguchi suggested features would honor its status as the highest point in Seattle, perhaps with information regarding what can be seen from its view; a meeting attendee also proposed including information about the city’s water supply and where it comes from.
What’s next? According to Hassinger, the city work on the reservoir is a little behind schedule, but should be done within a few months. Then, she says, the site will be seeded, and is likely to be reopened to public access by summer. Meanwhile, design, planning, and development of the park will proceed — first step, collecting the comments from last night’s meeting and additional comments sent to the Parks Department in the weeks to come, and creating a “project schematic design.” That will be presented at another public meeting, likely in March (specific date not yet set); then after more discussions including a presentation to the Seattle Design Commission, the “approved design development” would be shown at a final public meeting later in the year, and construction could start in the fall.
If you have something to say about the Myrtle Reservoir park — what you want to see and/or what you don’t — now is the time to say it. Send your comments to project manager Virginia Hassinger here:
Postal mail: 800 Maynard Ave. S., 3rd Floor; Seattle, WA 98134
Her contact information, and project information, can also be found at this city webpage, including eventually the drawings shown last night. In the meantime, since Hassinger was kind enough to forward them to us as PDFs just before the meeting, we have uploaded them here too:
Design Concept A
Design Concept B