Opening up a park: Neighbors play out potential design elements for Madison Park playground; safety, accessibility and open space

The Friends of Madison Park group had its first community meeting on Jan. 12 to discuss early design concepts for the Madison Park play facilities, which is targeted to break ground in early February 2007.

Amid the small chairs, children's books and climbing toys at the Madison Park Bathhouse (which doubles as the Madison Park Co-Op Preschool), parents and children were given a first look into the future of their favorite summer locale.

Addressing the needs, wants

Robert Shrosbree and Jim Keller, of SiteWorkshop L.L.C. Landscape Architecture, presented the early layout and design concepts. The pair created each of the three designs to enhance the park's natural open space, as well as address pedestrian accessibility for patrons of all ages, the visibility and safety of children and enhancing community involvement.

"I can usually tell at the beginning of a project if it is going to be a success, and this will be," said Seattle Parks and Recreation's Pamela Kli-ment, the liaison between the Friends of Madison Park and the city. "They are really organized, they work hard and are a good team."

However, the community meeting was a only a small step toward a renovated park that all community members would enjoy.

"We don't want to build something and hear from the community afterward that they wanted something else. We want it to be a good deal all around," said Janet Frink, a Friends of Madison Park organizer.

As such, many parents had concerns about the general safety of the park, which is surrounded by busy neighborhood thoroughfares on three sides and the even busier East Madison Street on the fourth.

The park also slopes down from the play areas toward the roads below.

Additionally, community members wanted to open the park up to new generations of patrons including senior citizens, parents and caregivers, by providing more restroom amenities, as well as seating and community gathering points, such as a small plaza and an amphitheater area for music in the park.

"My goal," said Kerry Steward, chairperson for Friends of Madison Park, "is to leverage the space we already have and make it more usable for activities like the [annual] Shore Run, which ends at our park, and Jazz Nights, while leaving open green space for the children to play."

The main focus of the play park, of course, still centers on the children. Many at the meeting wanted to invest in designs that would give the park an ability to grow with their children, by keeping an area for toddlers, adding toy areas for children age 6 to 12 and having open spaces for pickup soccer and softball games.

Neighborhood children, including McGilvra Elementary School's fourth-grade classes, also presented their schoolwide park survey results at the meeting.

Several young boys excitedly suggested the park have a climbing wall, while others requested the large swings stay and that a working drinking fountain be installed.

Open comment

Community members who weren't able to attend the Jan. 12 meeting can still participate in the design process, by completing a mail-in survey, which is available at the bathhouse or on-line at www.friendsof, by Wednesday, Feb. 1.

The Friends of Madison Park group will compile the survey results for the architects and the organizers before they present three new, detailed design options at the next community meeting, which will take place Feb. 13 at the Madison Park Bathhouse, starting at 7 p.m.

A good start

To date, Friends of Madison Park has raised $22,500 to help begin the early design and construction process, $15,000 of which came from the city's Small and Simple matching grant.

The Madison Park Co-Op Preschool donated the remaining $7,500 from its biannual auction, according to Friends of Madison Park member Jana Sleight.

However, organizers know they have a long road ahead to complete the large-scale overhaul they have planned for the play area.

This spring, the organization will vie for the city's large Neighborhood Matching Grant, which matches total funds raised by the community with city funds up to $100,000.

Additionally, the Friends of Madison Park intends to apply for a local Starbuck's Coffee community grant, which would help supplement the project.

Also, the Friends of Madison Park group has set up an account at the Bank of America, 4112 E. Madison St., for those wishing to make a monetary contribution to this project.

For more information, e-mail

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