Local community groups, from the Highland Park Action Committee to the Highland Park Improvement Committee to sports leagues and dog owners, have long been talking and brainstorming about the 20-acre Westcrest Park expansion to be built atop and around the new West Seattle Reservoir cover – but only now is the official conversation getting under way, after a standing-room-only meeting — read on:
(sketch displayed at the meeting, showing the “hill” and “valley” topography of the added future parkland)
The Parks Department project manager, Susanne Friedman, kicked off Thursday night’s meeting with two timelines – this would be the first of four public meetings to plan the new park area, over the next several months; the $3 million project itself is still a few years away – it may not be done before summer of 2012.
She yielded the stage to Dan Mullins, HPAC chair, who recapped HPAC’s mini-summit about the reservoir area (here’s our coverage from last June) — the group’s been brainstorming about the area’s future for a long time.
He said a potential P-Patch at the new park is high on many people’s wish lists – as are pedestrian connections, more walking trails, particularly through the greenbelt: “Let’s connect this park so we can actually go somewhere” – including regional connections, whose potential was highlighted by this “neighborhood context” map shown at the meeting:
One other issue he brought up – as did others later in the meeting – safety. (And as if to underscore that point, and the fact it’s an issue everywhere, a Parks employee announced to the room at one point in the meeting that a certain car’s owner needed to go out and tend to it – because someone had broken in. A pile of broken window glass was still visible along 34th SW after the meeting.)
Whatever your interest or concern, Mullins stressed, come have a say: “It’s really important for you all to come to the meetings, because they –” he pointed to the sizable contingent of architect/Parks reps on hand — “are going to be listening.”
Mullins was on the committee that helped select the consultant that’s now on the project, Site Workshop, whose staff includes architects and engineers. Its rep said the project would be narrowed down to “one concept” by February – and it will go through other reviews, like most big projects, including the Seattle Design Commission — but by this time next year, they hope to have a successful bidder.
He cautioned that Site Workshop had just been chosen the previous week, so its work was just beginning; it’s dealt with “structured roof deck environments” – which the lidded reservoir will be – before, including the State Capitol site, where there’s “a complex landscape over a parking garage.”
Then the floor was opened to suggestions and questions from the crowd, which had continued to grow and, by our informal count, surpassed 60. Suggestions/requests included:
*More space for the off-leash area (though the attendee and the consultant disagreed on whether the existing Westcrest Park Off-Leash Area, West Seattle’s only off-leash area, is “small” — the consultant considered it “big”)
*Restrooms inside the off-leash area
*More room for disc golf and other disc sports
*”Concert bowl,” suggested by a man who held up the original 1970s plan for Westcrest Park, saying it contained that feature and others that were never implemented
*Preserve wildlife habitat – “And maybe enhance what we have,” added the architect
*More youth soccer fields (proposed by West Seattle Soccer Club reps, noting that even with the fields they have now and more on the way at Delridge and Hiawatha, they still don’t have enough space for the 1,400+ kids playing on their teams)
*Playspace for Samoan cricket (discussed at previous visioning meetings for the park, though now it’s apparently under discussion for the Jefferson lidded-reservoir park space on Beacon Hill) and other ways of respecting the multicultural population nearby — “more than 50 languages,” noted one attendee; later, a request was voiced for park signage in multiple languages
*Display garden space: “What about some beautiful areas, like at the Ballard Locks, with flowers and trees?”
*Another garden idea: “Demonstration garden, maybe for native plants?”
*Public art – though Friedman noted that there’s no plan so far for how projects from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy will be treated regarding the “1% for art” city mandate: “This is one of the more sizable projects, so we are hopeful we will be among the recipients of money”
*Synthetic turf — an idea wholeheartedly supported by the soccer contingent
Winding through the stream of ideas, was also a stream of frustrations – dumping problems at one corner of the existing park, a runoff problem created by the current construction work, a lack of sidewalks along a nearby street, eroded trails making it hard for trucks to get to park trash cans, so it’s clear those will have to be addressed in the planning process as well.
WHAT’S NEXT: Friedman promised that comments from the meeting would be on the project’s official website by “early (this) week” (they’re not there as of this writing, but keep watching this city page); the next public meeting is expected in late January, and it will be closer to Highland Park – Southwest Community Center, said Friedman. (One attendee wondered aloud why Highland Park’s own community-gathering place, Highland Park Improvement Club, couldn’t be used; Friedman was insistent that the meeting had to be held at a city facility.)
SIDE NOTE: The reservoir-park consultant, Site Workshop, revealed it also is the firm working on the conversion of Highland Park’s wading pool to a spray park – another project paid for with Parks and Green Spaces Levy dollars.