National Park(ing) Day was Friday, and it was quite an effective spectacle. A parking space at First and Spring became a lawn, one of hundreds set up and staffed by volunteers around Seattle and the US.
The park was the first open lawn anywhere near First and Spring in decades.
Perimeter districts around Downtown Seattle are improving quickly park-wise due to a lot of hard work, generally northward, with the Olympic Sculpture Park, South Lake Union Park (phase II coming!), Cal Anderson Park, the new pocket park at Queen Anne & Roy, and the refurbished Cascade Playground – all great additions. Also exciting are the proposed pocket park at 8th & Westlake and the proposed skybridge that will “add” Myrtle Edwards Park for Lower Queen Anne residents. But what about Downtown Proper…the area with the most people?
A little would go a long way. A quarter block is enough room for a big fountain, some trees, and a couple patches of grass, fertilizer-free of course. It’s easy to imagine a spectacular design, whether traditional or avant garde. The park would stay active all day by encouraging pedestrians to pass through and by being both interesting and pleasant. The City’s promising new Park Ranger program would help keep it friendly.
Two parks of this size would be even better. Or three, since I’m dreaming, including one in Belltown.
The elephant in the room is our fear of drunks, panhandlers and noisy teenagers. Forget that much of our fear is unfounded; perception might as well be reality if it keeps you from using a park. But parks don’t create drunks. If a few of our parks seem overrun, it’s because we don’t have much public space, so the drunks seem concentrated. To continue this non-pc thought, adding more public space would reduce the concentration.
With that, plus more parks nearby, perhaps a lot of us would use parks more. Maybe we’d regain a lost aspect of our culture.
Downtown’s growing mixture of uses would be a boost. A growing residential population, lots of shoppers, rising tourism, a huge office population, and scattered event crowds are combining to keep parts of Downtown active all day and, in some areas, all evening. The best park locations would be places that serve several of these groups.
Wow, another topic that’s far too complex for a blog post. More later.