Monica Wooton
Monica Wooton

— Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts to this editorial about Discovery Park. The views presented are those of the author.

 

“In the past three decades there have been more than a hundred proposals for ‘just a piece’ of Discovery Park for ‘a worthwhile use.’ If even half had been successful, there would be no park left. Citizens who fought so hard to create our 534-acre Seattle park remain diligent to see that the Park’s Master Plan is carefully followed.”

Those words were penned and published by Bob Kildall in the year 2000 in his history of Discovery Park, in Magnolia: Memories & Milestones.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s largest and most unique park, it is most important to revisit and honor the history and history makers who made and make Discovery Park unique. We must re-educate and educate every state, county and city of Seattle resident and all elected officials about the history of the “why” and “how” of this park’s uniqueness as “…an open space of quiet and tranquility ...” and, the importance of the master plan and city ordinances that protect it.

In 1968, 25 civic and environmental groups, led by Judge Donald Voorhees, organized the “Citizens for Fort Lawton Park” in June 1968.

They sought Washington State’s congressional delegation’s help to not only move the proposed anti-ballistic missile site from Fort Lawton and, to obtain excess Fort Lawton property for a city park.

In 1970, there was a peaceful occupation of the fort led by Bernie Whitebear. At that point, Mayor Wes Uhlman decided to lease land to The United Indians of All Tribes and include them in the creation of the park.

Voorhees, as a main leader in the creation of the park in 1972, first wrote those words regarding “quiet and tranquility” that became a critical part of the primary function-central purpose of the master plan formally written by the landscape architect who designed Discovery Park, Daniel Law Kiley.

Thus, began the movement that is now in its fifth decade.

Hopefully, for the next 50 years and beyond, the park will withstand forces from outside who do not understand the sanctity, brilliance and foresight of those words that created this park.

Discovery Park is unique. Discovery Park is not Central Park, Stanley Park or Golden Gate Park. And, that is on purpose! In fact, it has always been planned as something quite opposite, quite different and quiet special.

We must instill the necessity for the same kind of grit, constant vigilance and political activism that has preserved this park’s uniqueness as first imagined.

We must remind folks of the thousands who have followed, who keep that vision in focus and that history alive and, thus, the park protected as it was envisioned.

We must remind an older generation and teach a new generation about the kind of stewardship and commitment that has been ongoing these past 50 years to keep Discovery Park: “…an open space of quiet and tranquility for the citizens of this City — a sanctuary where they might escape the turmoil of the City and enjoy the rejuvenation which quiet and solitude and an intimate contact with nature can bring.”

Those words of the master plan have been revisited since originally written in 1972, in the year 1974 and again in 1986. The primary purpose has never changed, nor should it ever.

For more information on the 50th anniversary activities and celebration of Discovery Park, go to www.disco50.org.

* Wooton acknowledges that Discovery Park resides on the land that belongs to the ancestral Duwamish who were forcibly removed to create the City of Seattle. Read more about this history at: www.disco50.org/indigenous-people/.

— Monica Wooton is a Magnolia resident