The vision of replacing the somewhat disheveled East Madison Street road end by extending Madison Park into that prime space is being advanced, however glacially, by the Madison Park Community Council (MPCC) with the apparent support of the principal governmental bodies that must ultimately approve the plan. A committee of the MPCC, headed by Kathleen Stearns, is busily working on the practical implications of turning cement into greenbelt. But there are significant obstacles which stand in the way of quick realization of the vision. Planning is complicated not only by the high cost of the project but also by the fact that multiple agencies must be involved in the approvals.
According to Stearns, all of the principal players are in general agreement that putting a park at the road end will not only beautify the space and create a better recreational amenity for the community, but it will also improve safety for both drivers and walkers at the intersection of E. Madison Street and 43rd Avenue E. The MPCC’s Waterfront Park Expansion Committee is engaged in discussions with the City and with the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on how to move from vision to reality.
The dock at the road end is owned by the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, but the water underneath, plus the shoreline and a triangular land parcel are owned by DNR. From the edge of the shoreline, part of the Madison Street extension is controlled by the Parks Department, while the roadway in front (43rd Avenue E.) is owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation. According to Stearns, “It’s my impression that the City and DNR are supportive.” In the end, she noted, even the Army Corps of Engineers may need to weigh in on any reconfigurations that might affect the shoreline.
So making the necessary changes will not be easy. Among the issues the committee will have to grapple with, according to Stearns, are how to properly deal with any wildlife habitat located in the vicinity, how to remove blackberry bushes at the road end in an environmentally correct way, and how to ensure that water shading at the site is not changed adversely for Lake wildlife.
Because of the scope of the project and the lack of immediate funds to implement it, the Committee realizes that the project will have to be broken into smaller segments. She says that under existing City programs, application can made for individual grants of $15,000 in support of the ultimate proposal. At that rate it will take a very long time to fully implement a comprehensive park plan for the road end. But there may also be private funding raising in support of the project, says Stearns.
Stearns cautions that this is really just the initial phase of the process, and there will be “extensive” opportunities for the community to be involved in the planning process as the committee moves toward the goal of an implementable plan. The first stage of such a plan might involve “adjustments” to the traffic pattern at the intersection of Madison and 43rd, she noted. A future stage, well short of the final vision, might be to grass over the area from 43rd to the Lake edge. In the end, the committee would love to see the area restored to parkland, easily accessible to the community. Since the road end is currently used for parking, the committee will recommend that any new design includes some parking spaces in the immediate area of the intersection of Madison and 43rd.
Stearns says she hopes for the support of neighboring property owners and businesses at that end of Madison. She notes that Madison is the only Seattle thoroughfare that extends from water to water (Elliott Bay to Lake Washington), and it would be an asset to the community to have Madison end in a park area opening onto the Lake. “We have a vision and plan to move ahead,” she said, “but it’s going to take us a very long time to get there.”
I, for one, hope I live to see that day.
[Graphic by Jim Quigg, Madison Park Community Council.]