Highland Park ‘sprayground’ centerstage for HP Action Committee

(Rendering of the infrastructure it’ll take to run the recirculating spray park)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

While nature’s own spray graced the world outside the windows of the Highland Park Improvement Club, HP’s forthcoming spray park – or “sprayground” – was the main agenda item for the HP Action Committee‘s monthly meeting Wednesday night.

It was something of a meeting within a meeting, as the first official Seattle Parks community meeting on the spray-park project – to be built at the site of the Highland Park wading pool (above), closed for almost three years – started after a short period of HPAC updates.

Project manager Kelly Goold began with an overview of how it began as a simple project with $200,000 planned from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy – whose Oversight Committee had two members on hand, chair Pete Spalding (from Pigeon Point) and member Donna Hartmann-Miller (from Maple Leaf) – until Carolyn Stauffer, now co-chair of HPAC, led a plan to seek more money from the levy’s Opportunity Fund (as first chronicled here in early 2010). The proposal won approval, and the spray park now has a $635,000 budget, which means “we’re going to be able to build a more robust spray park,” Goold explained. He says the city has applied for an additional $100,000 grant from the state’s Recreation/Conservation fund, but won’t know till early next year whether they’ll get it.

After the basic facts – it was time to talk design.

Mark Brands and Clayton Beaudoin from Site Workshop took over at that point. Mark explained it originally was bundled with the Georgetown and Northacres “sprayground” projects, but now it’s big enough that they’re handling it separately.

One change: It may not be on the exact spot that currently holds the old Highland Park wading pool – it has to be that general area, but maybe not the exact same part of the site (originally, “the same footprint” had been discussed).

The recirculating water system was described by Mark – one graphic (atop this story) showed the mechanical system, which will be housed in the WPA-era restroom building already on the site (but don’t worry, the restroom facilities will remain, he assured an attendee who asked about that). Elsewhere at the site, there’ll be a recirculation tank that’ll hold about 3,000 gallons of water, as part of the infrastructure for the sprayground.

At the front of the room were easels with photographs of features from a multitude of other spray parks, to spark imagination for what might be added to Highland Park’s project.

One big question: What will this space be used for in the eight months of the year when “it isn’t turned on,” as Mark put it. “It shouldn’t just sit and do nothing.” For example, he showed the Northacres design, with a sidewalk around the spray-park zone and a “Zen kind of feeling” conveyed by a labyrinth with a stenciled template on the concrete. At Georgetown – a park that’s about to be built, with a freeway and railroad and airport nearby – they worked on a “planes, trains, and automobiles” inspiration – lots of stainless-steel equipment, a “runway,” and even a checkerboard design. So, what would Highland Park’s inspiration/theme be? he asked.

Clay explained that the sprayground can also improve the general feel of the park – beyond just adding the spray features. They have about 2,500 square feet to work with here, and about half a million dollars in construction money.

The spray equipment will be interactive – a button to press, perhaps someplace to step or stand on, that activates the flow. The season would be roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day – so short, that what happens the rest of the year gains importance. “The more you can consider how that site functions for the community year round …”

Carolyn Stauffer wondered about the history of the site, and if anyone had “unearthed” some of it; that spawned a discussion about some of the wartime history, and Boeing work in the area.

Eventually, the room split into three groups for discussion and brainstorming; The ideas involved “playing well” with natural aspects of the site, though the HPAC members who wrote the Opportunity Fund proposal expressed strong feelings that as much of the money as possible should go into the sprayground itself, not be spent “all over the site.” One group proposed an “all umbrellas” theme – you could stand under an “umbrella” as water rained down. Other suggestions included a tunnel, or perhaps spray features inspired by flowers – dandelions or cattails.

As for the offseason usage, a bike circuit or trail was suggested multiple times, among other possibilities. The site, neighbors pointed out, is well-used, even in winter – if there’s a snowstorm, you’ll find footprints, for example.

The designers will take the ideas back and come up with some alternatives, which they will review with the Parks Department and then bring back to another community meeting (no date set yet).

If you have comments as a followup to the meeting, or if you weren’t able to attend, you can e-mail project manager Goold at kelly.goold@seattle.gov (the sooner the better).

Timetable? The design phase will last at least “several months” with the project going out to bid later this year, aiming for it to be done by next spring/summer.

The project’s official city webpage is here.

14 Replies to "Highland Park 'sprayground' centerstage for HP Action Committee"

  • DP May 26, 2011 (7:43 am)

    1) How many lanes will it have?
    2) Will there be a toll?
    3) Who pays for cost overruns?

  • Cowpie May 26, 2011 (7:58 am)

    I agree with DP. This seems like a big waste of money. And who came up with 8 months of no use? It would be more like 10 months of no use.

  • CharleBravo May 26, 2011 (9:51 am)

    Seattle Parks “came up” with the 8 months, because all sprayparks around the city will be open from Memorial Day through Labor Day – every day. If you read the story, a primary goal will apparently be to design the space such that it has value throughout the year.

    I, for one, think this investment will be a part of the equation that pushes the drugs out of this park, better engages neighbors with each other, and provides a super-fun place for our kids. All without a toll!

  • AIDM May 26, 2011 (10:01 am)

    This is great news! These will be used by thousands of local residents who pay the property and sales taxes to fund these projects. Thanks for putting our money to use on the projects that enhance our community!

    • WSB May 26, 2011 (10:04 am)

      To be specific, this one is funded by the Parks and Green Spaces Levy (property tax), as noted in all the stories we’ve done on it. So no sales tax involved. And since it’ll be open daily, that’s an improvement from the current status – Highland Park wading pool was closed after 2008 because of federally required upgrades that hadn’t been done, and never were done since it was determined this was in its future. Of the other West Seattle wading pools, only one is scheduled to be open daily again this year; the rest have three-day-a-week operations. Spray parks/spraygrounds will not need attendants, which is part of the cost the city is trying to save with reduced wading-pool schedules. – TR

  • foy boy May 26, 2011 (10:07 am)

    This is money from the levy and god forbid that city save the leftover money. We must spend it like a drunkin sailor on leave. Not only is 700 thou. not enough they want more money from the stata. But wait I thought the state was broke. They just cut teachers pay but have and extra 100 grand for a spray park. Heck when we were kids we loved it when the city would turn on the sprinklers to water the grass. Everyone would run around and have a great time. And I bet this did not cst 700 grand. Heck for alot less alot less you could buy the local kids a membership at wild waves. And give the a ride once a week. Also is the extra hundred grand from the state also from the levy?

  • dawsonct May 26, 2011 (12:23 pm)

    So a better use of community dollars foy boy, would be to give it to a private corporation located in another city? I don’t see how that improves OUR community.

    Sometimes, it’s nice for communities to do things to enhance their own community. I know! Radical!

    Maybe if we asked the ONLY segment of our society that has seen their wealth increase to start paying their fair share once again, we wouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves over the few crumbs they drop from the table.
    Oh, but I keep forgetting; eventually, the “job creators” will start creating jobs (for Americans?), we just need to give them more incentive (OUR tax dollars, and the destruction of the Public Commons) to do so.

  • Kay K May 26, 2011 (2:12 pm)

    This park is accessed by many, many kids, often on their own, who need green space to play and explore. The re-design of the spraypark will be saving us scads of money due to the water conservation methods that will be used.

    Better civic space improves community safety and builds neighborhood ties.

  • Chadwick May 26, 2011 (3:12 pm)

    I’m up at this playground with my family 3 times a week in the spring, summer and fall. It’s a great place to run around and have fun. The spray park will kick ass and make Highland Park and even better place to live than it is now.

    All you cranky ass people on this comment feed are ridiculous. Stop it.

    Nice work people!

  • Teri Ensley May 26, 2011 (4:19 pm)

    dawsonct and Kay K: you are spot on, on all counts!

    I love the concept of Spray parks/spraygrounds. Fun! Makes our community inviting and more enticing. We need to give children and their families to connect. On a hot day…you just may see me pushing those spray buttons!

  • dawsonct May 26, 2011 (6:54 pm)

    No kidding Teri! Having fun ain’t just for the kids, y’know!

  • AJ May 27, 2011 (11:26 am)


    Couldn’t have said it better. I just think some people would rather fight for scraps…..

  • Paul Sorey May 27, 2011 (1:14 pm)

    It IS good to think about how the neighborhood would best benefit from such a project — thinking about ways the area might be used as a play area off-season is great.

    It’s also good to think of ways the utility work could do double-duty — I wonder if the underground 3,000 gallon water storage tank could be used as a source of drinking water in an emergency?

  • Glendafrench May 28, 2011 (4:42 pm)

    Also all these people who complain about how levy funds are used apparently have to sense of how a budget process actually works. You can’t just take things from fund “A” and decide to spend it on “B” willy-nilly if fund “A” was something people voted for. Nor should you try to stop construction projects once they start as that usually ends up costing taxpayers more. I think the park sounds marvelous for the community, and I don’t even have kids. BTW – the “umbrella” theme sounds cool, and would look really cool even on a rainy day in mid winter.

Sorry, comment time is over.