Highland Park spraypark: 3 design concepts unveiled

(UPDATED WEDNESDAY NIGHT with clearer images of the concepts, plus PDFs of graphics/info from the meeting)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Along the edge of the three-seasons-closed Highland Park wading pool, more than two dozen people gathered last night to get their first look at ideas for the spraypark that will replace it.

They also learned that the spraypark won’t be open next summer – because the scope of the project keeps expanding, so 2012 is now when it’ll be built, 2013 is when it’ll be open. (POST-MEETING UPDATE: The spraypark itself *will* be open for 2012; it’s the rest of the expanded project, such as building renovations, that wouldn’t be done till 2013.)

The big question the project team asked those who gathered in the park by the pool last night: Which of three proposed themes (see them full-size here) do you like, and what do you want to see around the spraypark – places to sit, places to hangout, art, etc.?

This will be West Seattle’s first and only spraypark, so it’s of potential interest to families all over the area, not just in Highland Park.

First: The reason why the project’s scope keeps expanding. If you’re just coming in on this, the spraypark idea began as a proposal by Carolyn Stauffer, now co-chair of the Highland Park Action Committee. The city is converting more of its wading pools to sprayparks because they are less expensive to staff and maintain – they don’t require an attendant to be on duty, for example. There also is a greater sustainability factor – less water use (and in this case, a recirculating system is planned). For the Highland Park project, the city originally had committed minimal funding through the Parks and Green Spaces Levy, but as has happened with so many other projects, more became available when other projects in turn came in with lower bids, so the current allocation is $635,000.

However, project manager Kelly Goold (above) said last night that he’s expecting to hear by early October whether the city will get a half-million-dollar federal grant that could almost double that budget. (They originally were pursuing something smaller, but Goold said at last night’s meeting that a “community review panel” taking an early look at the proposal urged the city to try for something larger.)

That money would be used primarily to dramatically enhance the accessibility of the area surrounding the future spraypark, including a renovation of the historic building to the east of the wading pool, now used only for its restrooms, but also containing a large interior space. Pathways through the park would be enhanced too.

While the city waits to hear about that, Site Workshop continues to work on the spraypark design. Landscape architect Mark Brands led last night’s discussion; also there from the firm, Clayton Beaudoin and Flora Yeh.

Here are the three concepts they showed (update: described in this handout, added along with clearer images, courtesy of Site Workshop):

CONCEPT A: Playing off some of the “natural/cultural history of the area,” as Beaudoin put it, with a “brick-bordered courtyard” and a pattern resembling the “Y” of the Duwamish River/Waterway. It would include three spray zones – a “battle zone,” a “forest zone” where water would “dump down on the kids,” and a “toddler zone” with water features at ground level. He explained that the spraypark itself would actually have less of a footprint than the current wading pool, which is about 3500 square feet, while the spraypark designs each are in the 2000-2500 square-foot vicinity. Concept A would “decrease the paving footprint” while pulling the water area closer to the historic building on site.

CONCEPT B: This also would have a “stronger relationship” with the building, and envisions a sort of “brick carpet” between the spray zone and the building, as well as a “big open space” between the playground and the spraypark. A significant amount of the funding might be focused on “one big feature in the corner, something iconic” – maybe even a “water tunnel.” Some interactive sprays were envisioned here, perhaps the type of feature where if you cover one of the spray jets, the others shoot up. This one has a theme closer to the “working waterfront.”

CONCEPT C: This one, the Site Workshop crew explained, “looks to other worlds – it’s skyward-focused.” It is envisioned with features that might showcase different celestial bodies, the Earth, the Sun, Jupiter, and would use spray features to set off those “special places,” maybe mosaics. The architects suggested that for example, the Earth feature “might have vertical jets coming up (at spots on the globe) where there are volcanoes … Jupiter might have a misty cold fog …”

After the three concepts were presented, the architects opened the floor to discussion. With small planes passing overhead on a path to nearby Boeing Field, and jets visible/audible on paths to that airport or Sea-Tac, some wondered about more of an aviation theme, also playing into the area’s history as “Boeing Hill.” Discussion turned to an observation that the “celestial bodies” theme might honor that aviation interest/history. Concept C seemed to attract the most interest from attendees.

Even more than the themes, the ideas for how to treat the areas around the spraypark itself got a lot of attention. Parents and child-care providers in the audience were concerned about being able to watch multiple children, maybe one at the spraypark and one at the neighboring playground. While the architects wanted to be sure to plan for seating – especially “seating walls” – there was a lot of talk about making sure there was plenty of open space to just set up a lawn chair or blanket and hang out, much more than needing formal seating such as picnic tables. Some people, Beaudoin observed, “tend to be more nomadic with their stuff” when observed at this kind of facility, picking up and moving around as the kids changed where they were playing or splashing. Picnic tables could be arranged in one area, it was agreed, in case people wanted to have more organized gatherings or parties.

It was acknowledged the spraypark would draw from a larger area than Highland Park – so how many kids could it accommodate? Brands guessed maybe 50 to 60. That didn’t sound like many to some, but he assured them that as kids move in and out of park areas, it doesn’t mean “only 50 or 60” playing in the park in general at any one time. Longer hours would likely take off some of the crowd pressure, he suggested, as would be the fact there will be other regional sprayparks, like one under development in not-so-distant Georgetown.

Then came the topic of, what about the offseason – how would this area retain usability and interest? Art was one thought. So was making sure that it had “skatable elements” so that skateboarders could use it – the seating walls, for example. (As if to underscore the point, some of the play that was taking place all around the meeting included kids riding their bikes in the empty wading pool.) The solar-system design could have an artistic mosaic that might be fun to learn from, or even to uncover when it snows, suggested one attendee; another pointed out parks that successfully use educational, cultural elements, such as Whale Tail Park, not only with the famous “whale tail” itself, but also with art elements highlighting other wildlife elements at a lower level that catches the attention of very small children.

Landscaping and tree placement might be a future issue, some said, given that there is plenty of vegetation on the west side of the site, which brings afternoon shade, neighbors said, but in the mornings and middays, the sun beats down relentlessly, without any trees to the west.

One more concern: Trash/recycling receptacles. The Parks officials in attendance noted that the current philosophy remains “pack it in, pack it out” rather than providing for many receptacles, so that would have to be kept in mind.

And Parks reminded attendees that ease of maintenance would be a factor. Right now, they noted, this wading pool has “had more vandalism than any other in the city – there’s broken glass here on a regular basis.”

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s not too late to offer comments on the spraypark design, even if you couldn’t make it to last night’s meeting. E-mail project manager Goold at kelly.goold@seattle.gov. And keep an eye out for the next community meeting, sometime this fall. The project’s webpage is here.

2 Replies to "Highland Park spraypark: 3 design concepts unveiled"

  • Julie S August 25, 2011 (7:18 am)

    What a great idea for a park! I can’t wait to see it when it’s completed. :) I really like concept C but am partial to A as well.

  • Greg W August 27, 2011 (9:13 pm)

    glad to hear that the spray park will be open next summer! the wading pool has not been open since our first year in the neighborhood.

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