FOLLOWUP: Delridge’s Dragonfly Park volunteers make their case to save its garden beds

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

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Sometimes one face-to-face conversation is worth a thousand email chains.

On Thursday, Parks Department staffers met with community volunteers at the Dragonfly Park garden in North Delridge (28th/Dakota), to listen to concerns about a Parks plan to cover its distinctive but weed-plagued beds with grass (reported here last week).

A sizable portion of the meeting was spent straightening out one reason for the volunteers having been blindsided by news of the plan: Though they had been in communication with Parks for years – including the recently retired lead gardener – their group’s existence was not officially on record. They had done their part, filling out documentation of work parties, even working toward the type of official agreement Parks has with “Friends of” groups that donate a lot of time and effort to some parks … but it had never been finalized and entered into the system.

Parks is in a time of transition, explained the four staffers who were there – not just with new leadership (Jesús Aguirre‘s recent return as superintendent), but also with 100 jobs open and a lot of other changes, such as, they said, the department being down to 6 crew chiefs from the previous 9.

But all that aside … what about the Dragonfly Park garden’s future? About a dozen concerned community members turned out for the noontime meeting, with the Parks delegation led by regional supervisor Carol Baker.

They explained that while the wing-shaped garden beds were “a wonderful concept” when the park – originally a Seattle Public Utilities project as explained here – was created more than 15 years ago (intended as “a landscaped area demonstrating salmon friendly and water-wise gardening techniques”), the beds have repeatedly failed, and been repeatedly replanted.

The only things that really thrive are invasive horsetail and thistle. Trying to create a sustainable landscape true to the original vision hasn’t worked out, and has been taking “tons of resources,” Parks says.

The soil might be the problem, they agreed. And maybe if a solution is found, the garden could be tried again – the blocks that outline the beds aren’t being removed. But for now, they want to try this lower-maintenance plan for a few years.

Laura Bruco, who has been leading the Friends of Dragonfly Park group for the past 2+ years, with 100 committed volunteers on the list, explained that the park “is a real center of our community and people take a lot of pride in it. … These gardens are essential to the art of this park.” She and group members had been planning to replant the beds when their contact at Parks, the now-retired lead gardener, told them to hold off – and then they didn’t hear anything until the cover-with-grass plan suddenly emerged, via email that Bruco said left her “stunned.”

Another group member pointed out that the volunteers had devoted two seasons of work just to prepare the beds for new plantings. They had plans to apply for grants, work with local businesses on fundraisers, but were told to “hold off.”

Once the “how did we get here?” was hashed out, it was on to “what can we do?” Baker stressed that she wasn’t able to promise that the plan in motion could be put on hold – signage was supposed to go up in the park today explaining the plan (as of noontime, Bruco tells us she hasn’t seen a crew show up), and a different division would have to agree to put the plan on hold.

When talk turned to “how to fix the soil?” there was some discussion of seeding the beds with clover instead of putting down sod. Clover can “fix” the soil and potentially improve it for future plantings. (No one was sure if the soil had ever been tested to try to sleuth the problem.) Some even wondered if just letting the horsetail and thistle go for a while would be so bad – the former, at least, dies back in the winter. That, however, didn’t gain much traction.

Baker reiterated that pursuing the grass-for-now plan wouldn’t necessarily pre-empt trying something else in the future, but one attendee said it seemed like a “terrible idea” to spend money on that now if undoing it was already being pondered.

Ultimately, Baker promised to take the concerns back to her colleagues, while stressing she couldn’t make any other commitments. Bruco requested a followup meeting in a few weeks. Some other work at the park will proceed, such as removal of a problematic low hedge along the sidewalk.

P.S. Though this wasn’t mentioned at the meeting, it’s worth noting – if you have concerns about this park or any others in West Seattle – Superintendent Aguirre is scheduled to be at the Highland Park Action Committee meeting next Wednesday, 7 pm August 28th (1116 SW Holden).

10 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Delridge's Dragonfly Park volunteers make their case to save its garden beds"

  • Jethro Marx August 23, 2019 (3:57 pm)

    Sod is the worst possible idea, from a salmon’s view. This is an area ideal for gravel and succulents, or a variety of so-called Xeriscaping schemes. Creeping but not invasive succulents grow happily in poor soil with no supplemental watering, and the beds could inexpensively be converted to low-maintenance gravel systems. If I had my way, most sod would be replaced thusly and the salmon would be happier for it. Some of us have not given up on Longfellow Creek’s native salmon, and the watering/weed killer/fertilizer cocktail oft implemented to grow grass is NOT helping.

    • Joyce August 24, 2019 (8:34 am)

      Jethro,Have you had the soil tested?  King Conservation District will do a free soil test for you.  Think about mulching the area with wood chips to build the soil.  Horsetail thrives in wet soils.  How is the drainage? I am a P-Patch gardener who gardens at Bradner Gardens Park with a long history of working with the Park Department.  It seems as though the Park Department is neglecting to include volunteers and users when they are making decisions.  I agree, a lawn is a very bad idea and does not contribute to the health of the environment.Joyce

  • D August 23, 2019 (8:57 pm)

    Do they need more volunteers to maintain the park?  And who would we contact to help?

    • Laura Bruco August 25, 2019 (6:45 pm)

      Hi D,We’re waiting / hoping Parks will amend the plan when they meet next week.  Once we have a plan, we’ll announce volunteer events on our Facebook group and on the WSB.  If you’re on FB, join our group here: for the support!

  • Randy August 23, 2019 (11:11 pm)

    Mr. Aguirre keeps popping up like an mole in a lawn. He’s a terrible Parks and Rec supervisor – utterly clueless. Why is he still in power?

  • Elton August 24, 2019 (1:34 pm)

    Maybe I’m missing something obvious but if there’s a bunch of passionate volunteers wanting to keep the gardening beds going, why would they continue with a plan that the people don’t like when there are people willing to push forward with beautifying the park? I’m a bit perplexed here.    

    • Laura Bruco August 25, 2019 (6:48 pm)

      Elton,Apparently Parks had dropped the ball on the “Friends of” agreement and never put our group in their database. We’re getting it all worked out now and they did agree to reconsider their plan this week.  We’re hopeful! 

  • Mark Fisher August 26, 2019 (3:25 pm)

    Having recently moved from our beloved Seattle, it’s heartening to see that the heartbreaking homeless crisis must be a thing of the past. Surely no one would be focusing on park art when our brothers and sisters are dying in the streets and alleys. 

    • Mickymse August 26, 2019 (5:22 pm)

      Some of us can pat our heads and rub our bellies at the same time…

      • Mark Fisher August 27, 2019 (6:21 pm)

        When we met with the Parks administrator two years ago, he made it clear that the park had reached its state of neglect as a result of Parks personnel being diverted to cleaning homeless encampments. 

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