(Rendering of new “design concept” for the park atop now-covered West Seattle Reservoir in Highland Park)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Extra space for offleash dogs, new parking, a “skate dot,” and kinetic-sculpture art likened to characters from Wall-E are all parts of the design concept for the West Seattle Reservoir/Westcrest park expansion, just unveiled this morning during the project’s fourth and final public design meeting at Southwest Community Center.
In general, comments were positive, though concerns remain – read on for the key points of what’s new and what people are concerned about – we also have images from this morning’s presentation, which isn’t on the Parks website yet:
Landscape architect Mark Brands from SiteWorkshop led much of the meeting, though Parks Department project manager Susanne Friedman also was part of the presentation. We’ve broken it down by topic, since there are many components to the new design (we’ll be adding more images, as we have a copy of the entire presentation):
GENERAL LAYOUT: There’ll be a 400′ x 500′ grassy oval atop the “lid” and a smaller (210′ x 210′)one in the “valley” to its south, where the non-covered part of the original open reservoir used to be. They’re hoping some of it can grow into native “garry oak savannah” – as explained here. The park’s play area is relocating to a spot between the upper and lower ovals, by the hillside, and that won positive comments. A shelter with picnic tables also is planned nearby, and a garden space in the area may have an adjacent orchard, depending on how project funding goes. On the northwest side of the park, a restroom structure is to be added – it’ll be like the “open entrance” one at Alki’s Whale Tail Park, Brands explained. Also from the north, a concrete path will connect SW Cloverdale to the play area, while “organic trails” will be found elsewhere on the site.
DOG PARK: More than half those on hand for this morning’s meeting – a smaller crowd than the previous three meetings, but sizable for a Saturday morning – identified themselves as Westcrest Off-Leash Area users (it’s the only official, legal Seattle Parks off-leash area in West Seattle). It will have additional space, and Parks also has acknowledged that a section of nearby trail is used so much by people with dogs, that they will just make it official, by taking down a section of fence that already has deteriorated significantly. (One attendee suggested just leaving it to continue falling apart, since it provides “entertainment” to the dogs.) A major concern involved figuring out a happy medium between dog owners and dogless park visitors as they share a pathway northward into the park; one suggestion that gained traction is a multi-part gate – otherwise, under the current concept, dog-walkers would have to re-leash their dogs while moving between two particular areas, and that, the project team was advised, just wouldn’t happen.
PARKING, AND TRAFFIC CONCERNS: The northeastern parking area will not be improved – they’re hoping that more dog-park users will use new parking along the west side of the park, which will be in a “drive-through” mode, with entrance/exits at its north and south ends, envisioned right now as two-way along the whole stretch. Park neighbors who spoke out at the meeting are still concerned about the traffic on Cloverdale and traffic flow; project manager Friedman suggested that perhaps they could apply for a city grant to address some of those concerns (the stretch of Cloverdale near the park doesn’t have sidewalks), and one neighbor contended that it’s the city’s responsibility to take care of that and make sure that people can walk safely to the park. Friedman tried to explain that she appreciates the concern but it’s not in Parks’ purview. She also mentioned that Mayor McGinn’s office is drafting a response to a letter of community concern that has come in regarding the Cloverdale situation. An attendee suggested that those who are concerned also be sure to work with HPAC, since it’s an “awesome” neighborhood park.
SPORTS: There will be a “skate spot” – perhaps a skatable wall, according to Brands – on the southwest side of the top oval. But neither grassy oval will have an official, marked sports facility, he says, though the top one will be big enough for a full-size soccer field – making it official, he says, would open it to too much use, considering there’s only a foot of soil over the reservoir lid. And he said that neither disc golf nor dog-walking expansion will be allowed in the forest on the park’s east side, since it is considered some of the best remaining pristine conifer forest in the city.
PARK ART: Kinetic-sculpture artist David Boyer revealed his West Seattle/Westcrest concept at the meeting; when he visited Highland Park Action Committee a month ago, this wasn’t done yet. The video below shows some of his work – though no two creations are alike:
The dozen or so pieces he is designing for this park, with a $120,000 budget (separate from the park’s $3 million budget), are described as “flyers” – inspired, he said, by both the natural elements in the air (birds) and the air traffic that’s visible nearby (Boeing Field, Sea-Tac Airport). They will have moving “tails,” and the largest will have a “wingspan” of about seven feet, with variable-height poles. The “flyers” likely will be focused – “a flock of flyers,” Brands quipped – by the shelter and play area in the park expansion’s center, though attendees offered other suggestions – perhaps putting them in a lower spot where they could be visible from above (Boyer contended that if they’re up higher, as currently envisioned, “they can be seen from all over the park”). Boyer was asked if his art could potentially generate power – either wind energy, or maybe even with solar panels incorporated – and he said that’s not how he generally designs, though he thinks it’s a great idea. One other art element that was mentioned: Pavers or other squares above ground echoing the grid of columns in the now-filled reservoir below:
(Video from October 2009 media tour of the reservoir, before the lid was done and the water brought in)
LIGHTING: “Parks that aren’t (already) lit, we’re not lighting them,” said Brands. The only lighting in this one might be along the parking area, he insisted, though when the concern came around again later in the Q/A period, regarding security concerns, he said they’ll price the project and see if anything more is possible.
WHAT’S NEXT: According to project manager Friedman, the next step is to work on “design development – the details we can get into construction.” Then, she says, there will be an open house in “late fall,” at which time they should have more of an idea about the construction schedule – right now, according to Friedman, it looks like construction will start “about a year” from now. In the nearer future, they’ll start establishing grass on the site via hydroseeding within a few weeks. You can keep up with project details via the official project page on Seattle Parks’ website.