By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Vibrant!” is the word Highland Park resident Kay Kirkpatrick offered to describe both the turnout and the discussion during Saturday’s second public design meeting for her neighborhood’s future park atop the under-construction West Seattle Reservoir lid.
Turnout for the first meeting at High Point Community Center two months ago was certainly good (here’s our story) – but this one was even better, despite the tantalizing sunshine outside. A long line stretched through the lower lobby at Southwest Community Center, even as the scheduled starting time came and went; the meeting didn’t start until about 10:20, when most finally were seated and signed in.
(All photos in this story courtesy Dina Johnson)
Parks Department project manager Susanne Friedman started by asking for a show of hands regarding attendees’ specific interests. One such show explained some of the turnout:
Those are some of the attendees who raised their hands when asked who was there to advocate for disc golf – roughly half the room. But some of them, when speaking to the group later, also fell into the “who lives within walking distance” category, which itself sparked a close-to-half show of hands. And more than a few hoisted their hands in the air when the call went out for those interested in the off-leash area.
“This is a great turnout,” acknowledged Mark Brands from Site Workshop, the designer on the project. He offered kudos to the Highland Park Action Committee, whose chair Dan Mullins advised changing the time and location “to capture a broader audience … and I think we have done that.”
Though Brands and Friedman reviewed some of the $3 million project’s toplines, the main event was a table-by-table brainstorming session. Each table got a big black-and-white version of this:
…and used it to sketch out what they would like to see the new parkland become, within bounds – not changing the topography, which “is probably quite close to what it used to be,” Brands noted.
Standing at right and pointing in that photo, it’s HPAC chair Mullins, who was heard telling Pete Spalding – a member of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee (the levy’s funding this project) – “I’m thrilled with this crowd today.” His group has been working for years to get ready for this phase of the park-planning process.
After half an hour of intensive sketching, chatting and imagining, it was time for each table to send a delegate to the front of the room to present results.
The top issue mentioned by most – parking. “Parking is the #1 issue – regardless of what use, you have to provide parking for that use. Cloverdale [on the park’s north side] is a parking lot for the dog park right now,” said a table rep named Gary.
Where that parking would be created, not everyone agreed – the south-central area of the park got some mentions. That mixed with concerns about traffic, particularly along Cloverdale — “all blind intersections,” one man warned — and a sprinkling of mentions for sidewalks desired west of the park.
Walking trails got a lot of mentions too – maybe illuminating them, and certainly connecting them so that people can walk through “without getting trapped by fences.”
What kind of sports should the field offer? Besides – no surprise – disc golf – “We don’t care WHERE we get a park as long as we GET a park,” said one player – a skate spot was mentioned, as were facilities for bocce ball, croquet, horseshoes,
Many spoke in favor of ensuring that the current lookout keeps its position and “great view of the city.” Other facilities with support included a picnic area.
Then there were some one-only mentions, like “an outdoor flat wall for movies to be projected,” as explained by Kyle (above), who also listed his table’s interests as including “lots of accessible bathrooms.” (On the other hand, one table’s discussion included a warning that restrooms cost a lot and could bite too deeply into the project’s budget.)
A swing set in a view location also was suggested, along with a “chutes-and-ladders playground, with ginormous wood and metal slides.” How about nature trails, and displays to “educate people about trees and bugs?” Even, one suggested, a “climbing wall like the one at Camp Long.”
A few table reps mentioned the idea of a small amphitheater in the park, though it wasn’t a universally glowing mention – one woman said her table had viewed the idea as not-so-desirable because they’re not used too much.
No matter what the suggestions, every speaker was given a warm round of applause. And the presentations were punctuated by occasional humor, like the brief mention that a certain section of the park’s south area might be perfect for “skeet shooting.” (Most of the room guffawed.) Another suggestion posited “an offleash kids’ area.”
A few ideas also were offered for the park’s forthcoming public artwork, for which $150,000 has been budgeted and a call for artists has just been issued (as reported here). “We use the word functional, but I think we mean touchable,” offered one presenter. “Not like the sculpture park, where you go in and can’t touch it because it’s precious.”
But as the round of presentations wrapped up, it all came back to parking again. Nancy, representing a group of people living within a block of the park, said, “Parking was a huge part of our conversation, and the traffic along Cloverdale.” She said they supported the disc-golf idea, but maybe in the area of the park “where undesirable activity (currently) is going on.”
“I want to stress the idea of more parking by the dog park area,” reiterated another attendee, noting that visitors who come to Westcrest Park for that use tend to have their dogs offleash as soon as they leave their cars.
To help address those issues, participants implored the meeting leaders to invite an SDOT rep to the next meeting; they promised they would do their best.
WHAT’S NEXT: The sketches/notes from the tables at Saturday’s meeting were to be taken back by Parks and design-firm reps, and they’re supposed to bring design concepts to the next meeting. An informal vote elicited a promise from Friedman that the next meeting also will be on a Saturday morning, either the second-to-last or last Saturday in April. After that, there’d be one more meeting, likely in late June; the project isn’t due to go to bid for another year. Friedman also stressed that e-mail and postal-mail comments also are weighted equally with comments delivered at in-person meetings —