Dragonfly Park volunteers fighting city plan they say will clip its garden’s wings

(2013 aerial of Dragonfly Garden/Pavilion, by Long Bach Nguyen)

As that aerial view shows, North Delridge’s Dragonfly Park doesn’t just get its name from the pavilion structure, but also from the garden beds.

The volunteers of Friends of Dragonfly Park were preparing for a new season of work when they got startling news from the Parks Department, as Laura Bruco explains it, “that Parks plans to turf the gardens over and put an outline of the wings in crocuses.” Those, as you probably know, are short-lived early-spring blooms, so most of the year, the garden’s distinctive shape would be lost.

“This park is just too unique and special to replace with an outline of crocus bulbs,” Bruco says. “Our group worked really hard to prepare those beds to take new plantings last year, but Parks kept delaying. They said back then that they were working on figuring out who needed to approve the plans for native plantings that are lower maintenance with the artist Lorna Jordan.”

(October 2017 photo courtesy Friends of Dragonfly Park)

And then suddenly came the news of the Parks plan to just put in grass.

Bruco asked Parks for a chance to discuss this before it’s done, and that meeting is set for next week, open to anyone who’s interested. We asked Parks why the change, and spokesperson Karen O’Connor replied:

We have been working with the community that has provided many hours of volunteer time to keep the garden maintained along with the support from our SPR landscaping crew. We have concluded the planting and gardening design is not sustainable with the current level of volunteer and staff support.

After much work and consulting with the Office of Arts and Culture, our Sr. Landscape Architect has put together a design that is respectful of the Dragonfly Pavilion original design intent. The plan calls for the large areas of bark mulch to be replaced with grass and consolidate the plants that are doing well into the garden beds along the wall. We plan on planting crocus bulbs throughout the lawn so that there would be a bloom time in the spring where different colors would pop under the dragonfly sculpture. Having grass within the butterfly wings will allow us to mow the returning horsetail along with the other invasive weeds.

The garden dates back to the early 2005, with Seattle Public Utilities originally involved. The garden sections now scheduled to be replaced with grass are an integral part of the original intent, as explained here:

… Dragonfly Pavilion is the entrance feature to SPU’s Longfellow Creek Drainage and Habitat Improvement Project and serves as a creek overlook and outdoor environmental education facility. The artist-designed Dragonfly Garden, which surrounds the pavilion, is a landscaped area demonstrating salmon friendly and water-wise gardening techniques and is crucial to SPU’s mission and educational message at the site. …

Bruco is taking the case to Parks higher-ups as well as Councilmember Lisa Herbold and the aforementioned city Office of Arts and Culture, “and whomever else I can find who may have the power and influence to do something.”

If you’re available at 12:30 pm next Thursday (August 22nd), that’s when Bruco and other Friends of Dragonfly Park volunteers will meet with Parks reps at the park to try to save the garden, and all are welcome to be there (28th SW & SW Dakota).

22 Replies to "Dragonfly Park volunteers fighting city plan they say will clip its garden's wings"

  • dragonfly August 16, 2019 (10:21 pm)

    There are natives and low maintenance plants other than grass.Save it!Save the fly!

  • raywest August 17, 2019 (6:32 am)

    If it’s not broke, don’t fix it! Back off and leave it alone, Parks Department. This is a unique jewel of a park that in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, serves a useful function showcasing environmentally gardening techniques. 

  • Na August 17, 2019 (7:35 am)

    Is the conclusion that grass needs no maintenance?

  • Joan August 17, 2019 (8:47 am)

    I agree. Who needs grass?? Not good for pollinators or wildlife, too much maintenance with mowing,  planting, feeding. Without regular maintenance, grass will look horrible. Why waste water and manpower taking care of grass? Kudos to the volunteers who have worked to make it lovely. Plant natives!!! No grass!! I will write a letter of support. Really bad idea, Parks Dept.! Do something intelligent for once.

  • ballardite August 17, 2019 (9:56 am)

    You better lawyer up – It seems like the city will only do what the neighborhood wants if they collect enough money to battle the city in court.  Taxpayers have no voice.

  • old timer August 17, 2019 (10:02 am)

    Why can’t the Parks people leave well enough alone? With Morgan Junction, and the park space in the Alaska Junction  sitting fenced and idle for years, they have to do this to a park that the citizens have obviously embraced?   Like so many bureaucratic edicts, it makes no sense to anyone outside the system.

  • John August 17, 2019 (10:13 am)

    Outraged by incredibly bad decision by Parks Department.  Planting grass and crocus, both of which are non-natives, violates the original piece of art and insults the the Parks’ stated intent of “demonstrating salmon friendly and water-wise gardening techniques.”Did Parks consult about native plantings that are lower maintenance with the artist Lorna Jordan?

  • Olafur August 17, 2019 (10:36 am)

    Someone in the city parks department read a magazine article about planting crocuses in lawns – I’ll bet you a dollar that’s the sum total of their knowledge and experience.  As the volunteers at the garden will undoubtedly already know, however, crocuses grow long leaves after blooming.  Those leaves photosynthesize and feed the bulb, so it can form next year’s flower inside the bulb before it goes dormant for the rest of the year, waiting to bloom again early next spring.  Because grass begins growing very early in the late winter and early spring in our climate zone, those leaves won’t have a chance to do their job before parks crews mow them down and the bulbs will decline each year until they no longer bloom at all.  In fact, given what I’ve seen parks crews do, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just mow the crocus blooms down as soon as they come up, too.  This is what happens when bureaucratic pencil-pushers have more power than brains.  We need more volunteer-driven parks, not fewer.  Is the parks department feeling threatened by that idea?

    • WSB August 17, 2019 (10:46 am)

      Actually, there are many volunteer-powered parks. What’s needed is more volunteers (though I don’t think that’s the “problem” in this case). We frequently feature volunteering opportunities that are sent to us for the calendar (Friends of Lincoln Park, for example) and while every single person is valuable and appreciated, it always seems like even more would be great.

      • Olafur August 17, 2019 (11:22 am)

        Yes, there are many volunteer-supported parks where volunteers help with maintenance, but not as many volunteeer-driven parks where community volunteers are heavily involved in design and decisions, which seemed to have been the case here.  I hope the city’s actions here don’t discourage the spirit of volunteerism.

  • KJ August 17, 2019 (11:04 am)

    Because the SPS is very politically involved it is often; us against them. Parks people are afraid or even hostile to volunteer groups. They prefer to keep things as simple as possible and are not particularly open to new ideas or solutions.

  • MellyMel August 17, 2019 (2:32 pm)

    There are so many areas that are under parks jurisdiction that have zero attention and it would be a blessing to have just trash picked up/bushwhacked. But then they focus on something that is already getting attention. I assume that this is related to budget cuts where they are told they have to do less. But of course they are gong to spend money on a redesign/development to get to something more hands off. Why not just ask the community first of they want to shoulder more of the burden of maintenance first before going that route? It would be cheapest of all.

  • Grace August 17, 2019 (4:11 pm)

    Uh oh horsetail!  It will spread and take over.Only two ways to get rid of it: an extremely potent herbicide or thick plantings of turnips constantly for a few years. My hunch is that’s a major reason the city wants to go with grass that can just be mowed: they assume that is the only practical way of controlling that horsetail. 

    • john August 17, 2019 (5:34 pm)

      At least horsetail is not an alien invasive.   It is indigenous and has more place there than grass and crocus imports.  The horsetail can be dealt with removing by hand first, then adjusting soil for better drainage.  

    • flimflam August 17, 2019 (5:52 pm)

      that stuff really is a mess once it getting rolling. i yanked tons of it out in my yard a few years ago, then covered the area with cardboard and landscaping cloth for the winter, still came back with a vengeance.

  • Lorna Jordan August 17, 2019 (5:07 pm)

    \No, I Lorna Jordan the artist received a message this week. Parks was portrayed as valiantly trying to maintain the garden. This is surprising to me as they required me to redesign the garden of late so it was more maintainable. So they are against their approved revised design. I don’t support Parks’ plan.

  • dsa August 17, 2019 (7:12 pm)

    I agree with grace on the horsetail.  It seems impossible, have some closely related to it.  Didn’t know about the turnips. 

  • stories told by horses August 17, 2019 (7:52 pm)

    What’s wrong with horsetail?

    • shh August 19, 2019 (11:25 pm)

      In Horse, “turnip” is a four letter word.

  • anonyme August 19, 2019 (9:35 am)

    BTW, the position of Sr. Landscape Architect is currently posted as vacant.  The person holding this position as of a year ago was the one who decided that the Arbor Heights planting strips should all be filled with lawns – so he has a history of promoting unsustainable, one solution fits all ‘fixes’ (lawns).  Also, there is nothing special about turnips for horsetail control.  Any plant with a very dense, spreading rootball will have some effect.  I’ve used sword fern for that purpose with pretty good success – and for those set on using natives, sword fern is a tough and versatile choice.   The wings could also be filled with a selection of brightly colored sedums and/or heaths and heathers, which would provide year-round color with little maintenance.

  • A.R. August 20, 2019 (11:43 am)

    The Parks department had to work on figuring out who needed to approve the plan?  That’s the reason park maintenance is “too expensive.” They are employing so many bureaucrats they don’t understand how their own organization works.

  • Denise August 22, 2019 (3:30 pm)

    Ripping out this beautiful and vital garden and replacing it with grass is disappointing. These are inspiring plantings that provide habitat for wildlife and joy for people. Why is Parks always doing stuff like this—putting nature and passive recreation last? They spent at least a million dollars on those Fitness Zones (the adult workout machines such as are in Hiawatha Park) and NO ONE uses them except for the occasional child using them as a jungle gym. What a waste.

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