Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why a park?

KING-TV last week used the proposed park for the E. Madison Street road end (the LOLA project) as a jumping off point for a story asking why the City is going ahead with plans for new parks when it can’t even afford the upkeep on some of the ones it currently operates. It’s pretty well known that plans are afoot to reduce staffing this year in Seattle’s Parks & Recreation Department due to budget constraints. This means fewer people working maintenance and operations in the parks. Noting, in addition, that the Department is considering closing certain swimming pools, community centers, and wading pools, correspondent Linda Brill interviewed three Madison Park residents (Reg Newbeck, Jane Carter, and Ginny Thomas) who each sounded* as if they agreed that it doesn’t make sense to build a new park if the City can’t pay for proper maintenance of the existing ones.

Brill, however, may have been a bit off base in using the Madison Street park project as a cause célèbre for her story about the City’s dilemma in having a $15 million from a 2008 parks bond issue that it must spend on new parks but can’t legally use for park operations. First of all, the Madison Street park project is not moving forward, as Brill implied, simply because there is a bunch of money that’s sitting in a kitty awaiting park projects to fund. The LOLA project has been developed organically within the neighborhood and is being spearheaded by the Madison Park Community Council. The Council does plan to apply for grants from the City, including money from the bond issue, but efforts to create a park at the road end predate this potential funding source.

Secondly, it’s certainly not true that “the plan would be to cover over the concrete with grass” at our road end, as Brill reported. Far from it.

Three possible road end plans, in fact, were presented to a community meeting held last month at Park Shore. And none of them involved much, if any, grass. Murase Associates, at the behest of the LOLA (Love Our Lake Access) Committee, developed the multiple options after getting the input of several focus groups during the past few months. Here is an overview of the concepts, as presented:

Option One: Focus on the View

This proposed plan (click to enlarge) features active lookouts with terraces, small garden patches, concrete or stone pavers, a trellis, and decking. There is also a prominent water feature: a stormwater runnal down the middle of the space, which will empty into the Lake.

These are illustrations of some similar design elements as used in other installations, not necessarily ones designed by Murase:

Option Two: The Step-Down

This proposed plan features a sloped transition into the existing lawn at the right of the road end, so there would be some additional grass added to the site. A major element of this plan is a curving stone wall, with a stormwater runnel alongside. There is also a profusion of cherry trees, some wood benches, and stone steps leading down to an overlook area.

Here are some illustrations of design elements from this plan:

Option Three: Intimacy and Privacy

This proposed plan features a shallow stormwater reflecting pool and a cascading stormwater feature enclosed in stone blocks. There would be some additional lawn in this plan, as well as cherry trees, stone boulders, and some stepped terrace seating.

Here are some illustrations of design elements from this plan:

As presented by Murase Associates, these plans each reflect what the LOLA Committee felt were the “big ideas” arising from the various forums held to solicit input: 1) green space, 2) public access, 3) passive recreation, and 4) an opportunity to interpret history.

Because the site was for 80 or more years a ferry dock, the Committee felt that any design should incorporate a nod to the past with some kind of historic element. Additionally, the Committee concluded that any final plan should emphasize these three design concepts: gardens, views, and seating. And according to LOLA Committee member Kathleen Stearns, the road end park is also intended to be low maintenance.

The audience of 40 or 50 Madison Parkers who heard the presentation seemed enthusiastic about the designs, and plenty of input was provided about what seemed to work and not work in each of the plans. It is now up to Murase to create a final proposed site design which incorporates the best elements of the three options. This final schematic design will be unveiled at another community meeting to be held at Park Shore (1630 43rd Avenue E.) on May 26 (7:00 pm). If you have input you would like to make concerning these conceptual plans you may direct your comments to lolawatersidepark@gmail.com.

We will be following up with another blog posting next week on one of the most controversial aspects of the LOLA project: the impact on parking in the vicinity. Let’s just say that not everyone is too happy with the idea of taking out all of that concrete. More to follow…
[*At least one of those interviewed, Reg Newbeck, reports that his quote was taken out of context and that he actually supports the idea of a road end park.]
Graphics courtesy of Murase Associates


  1. Great post. You can probably find a version of this story behind almost every new park being planned.


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