Hiawatha play area relocation/renovation: See the options

Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Neighbors gathered on Thursday at Hiawatha Community Center to share feedback on options for the upcoming redesign of Hiawatha Playfield (details here).

Want to share your input? Seattle Parks has posted a short online survey to gather feedback about the three proposed design options, which will be further refined in preparation for a final “open house” design presentation in late spring.

The project, which has an $800,000 budget funded by the 2013 King County Parks Levy, involves removing the play area at the north end of the park and building a new play area near the community center in the grassy area just south of the wading pool. After designs are finalized, bidding will occur in the summer and construction will begin later this year, to be completed in 2021.

On Thursday, the latest plans were shown by Ed Pottharst from Seattle Parks and landscape architects Karen Kiest and Clara Pang.

The team hosted two meetings at Hiawatha, including one session during “Tot Gym” earlier in the day (attended by more than 20 parents and their children, Kiest said) and one session in the evening that we attended.

Here is a PDF file containing the park’s current layout, as well as three proposed design schemes (A, B and C) and options for new play equipment:

Notes from the evening meeting:

  • Kiest noted that these meetings marked the second time that the public was invited to give feedback at Hiawatha (the first was the week of Halloween), and that the group was “overwhelmed with input.”
  • Because of Hiawatha’s unique historical status as an Olmsted Park (designed in 1911), project organizers say there are unique considerations that influence the design and approach of the project. Kiest said that Hiawatha has long been considered one of the most “true to form” Olmsted parks, but as the trees grew and limbs began to fall (including in the play area), the notion of a redesign that involved moving the play area began to take shape.
  • Pottharst (from the parks department) said that although the $800k budget sounds like a lot, it really isn’t for a park of this size, and the team will have to make some tradeoffs as the designs are finalized.
  • One attendee asked if the basketball court will stay (he hoped so), and Kiest said yes. All three design options involve keeping the basketball court in basically the same place, although the orientation of the court is slightly different in the three designs.
  • Another attendee asked if the fitness equipment area (which is a relatively recent addition to the park) would stay, the Kiest said yes, although it’s possible that it could be moved. She added that one mom in the earlier meeting had commented that the equipment doesn’t work very well (too stiff and hard to use), but that it would likely get used more if it was easier. Kiest said the team hasn’t seriously considered changing the equipment, largely because of the cost involved, but could consider it.
  • All three designs include two distinct play areas: one primarily for ages 2-5, and one primarily for ages 5-12. Kiest said that feedback from the October meeting made it clear that there was support behind having two distinct areas like this, but the question now is how close together they should be (in scheme A they’re completely adjacent, in B partially adjacent, and in C separated by a grassy area). She said that in the earlier meeting that day, there were a variety of opinions about the ideal layout, but general agreement that all three options are an improvement from the current layout in which the play area is on the opposite side of the park from the large swingset and exercise equipment.
  • A swingset will be part of the new design, with a few options for placement and orientation.
  • The wading pool will not change.
  • Previous feedback has been supportive of the idea of keeping a sizable lawn in the park, and the three designs have different approaches to that (C maintains a full grassy path between the wading pool and the larger field to the south)
  • With regard to play equipment, there are primarily two companies the team has been working with: PlayCreation and Highwire/COMPAN. The team said that they’ve heard prior feedback that some kids prefer equipment with elements of “height and danger” (ropes, climbing equipment), but obviously they needs to maintain a balance and be mindful of safety and accessibility.
  • In addition to the play equipment, the team is looking at surfacing of the play area. The current play area has wood chips, but for the new area they may look at rubber or synthetic turf. Kiest said that if they decide to redo the fitness equipment area, then more fake turf will be required (which adds cost).
  • The existing play area in the northwest area of the park will be removed, Kiest said, but the curved tiled wall around part of the play area will stay, but will be less tall after the former play area is filled in and smoothed out. She said the wall provides seating and is in good shape, but doesn’t need to be so high off the ground.
  • Kiest said the team “is lucky, because it’s a beautiful park” to work on, and because of the Olmsted affiliation they’re looking back at 108-year-old plans for ideas.  The team has met with the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks group, which provided helpful input including restoring the original intention of the walkways in the park (loops, rather than direct paths).
  • Kiest said the project scope may include some minor grading to improve ADA issues with the hills on the west edge of the park.
  • With regard to usage of the park during construction, Kiest said it is “important and very doable to keep the existing play area functional while the new area is under development.” She said the team would be planning the work in phases, although it’s likely that there will be a time period when park visitors will need to walk around fenced-off construction zone areas, which “might make for a longer walk from the wading pool to the community center.”

For questions about the project, visit the project website or contact Ed Pottharst at Ed.pottharst@seattle.gov or 206-386-4232.

3 Replies to "Hiawatha play area relocation/renovation: See the options"

  • Mj March 1, 2020 (5:27 pm)

    The existing play area is illuminated, I did not see illumination in the plan.  I believe illuminated the play area would be good.  Many parents drive to the existing play specifically due to the lighting!

  • Jeff March 1, 2020 (8:51 pm)

    Probably means another group of long chain swings replaced with shorter ones.   There aren’t many of the really good swings left!  Oh well, have to take the bad with the good.

  • Dewey Potter March 1, 2020 (11:56 pm)

    Thanks for your detailed account of the meeting.

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