Frederick Law Olmstead, eat your heart out.
When Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds last week announced his decision to name a new park in Ballard the Ballard Commons Park, a collective sigh of relief spread the length of Crown Hill - at least, among the handful of Ballard activists and die-hard skateboarders who have lobbied for years to preserve the open space as a neighborhood and city treasure.
The new, 1.4-acre park at 5701 22nd Ave. N.W. was formerly known as Ballard Commons or Ballard Civic Center during its development into a neighborhood park. Improvements to the site, which will be completed later this year, include a skateboard area, a lawn, a central promenade, large "landmark" trees and public art.
Funding for the development of the park came from the Pro Parks Levy, to the tune of $2,474,400 for planning, design and construction.
"The community got their consensus," said Stephan Lundgren, one of the Ballard activists involved in the process to develop and name the park. "It took a decade from drawing a plan up on a napkin to completion. We had to buy it, wait out the city, go through innumerable meetings, project advisory teams; then design it - with the Design Commission redesigning it - name it and finally get it.
"We knocked around a lot of ideas," said Lundgren, a longtime activist who also fought 20 years to develop Warren Magnuson Park and currently is planning a memorial to Seattle icon Ivar Haglund. ("Keep clam," Lundgren says.)
"It's a continuing war," he said of fighting to maintain and develop city open space. "We're going to be really starting to climb."
Ballard resident Scott Shinn, director of Parents for Skateparks, appears pleased with recent developments. "I'm supportive of whatever the community supports on this," he said. "I think that the community has done a really good job about putting aside their disagreements about the park."
It wasn't always a cakewalk. With the future of the skatebowl in particular, plans became bogged down in the question of whether to keep the existing bowl or replace it. "I think everybody compromised in the end," Shinn said of the decision to spend $250,000 to replace the skatebowl. "I do feel a lot of respect for everybody who participated on that committee with me. I think it'll be a cool park.
"I'm looking forward to riding my skateboard in the new bowl," Shinn said, adding that he, too, supports the new name.
Kate Martin, also a member of Parents for Skateparks, apparently got a chuckle out of Bounds' April 20 announcement of a new name.
"There's a little humor to it among the skate community," Martin said. "A couple of weeks ago, the skate community asked what's wrong with 'Ballard Skate Park'? That's what we'll continue to call it, I'm sure."
Nonetheless, Martin said she's a bit leery of the "Ballard Commons Park" moniker, with qualifications. "I know, personally, other than the fact that it has a slight élitist air to it, and seems the antithesis of what might make a good name there ... but if I try to get my head past that, it's a good name for it. The fact that it'll have a skate bowl puts a star by it, in my mind," she added.
In the end, there appeared to be significant community support for the "Ballard Commons" name, including from the Ballard District Council and Groundswell N.W. The District Council is composed of reps from 21 community and business organizations in Ballard. Groundswell N.W. advocates for parks and open space in the Ballard area and has been very active in the development of the park.
Lundgren speaks of "10 years later" when he thinks of Bounds' Wednesday announcement. "It took other things to make it happen," he said of the Commons. "Families-ed levy, com-center levy, all those levies that we voted on were our votes to fund our money," Lundgren added. "I'm happy to see Mayor Nickels supports the implementation of all those. Everyone knew up front that it was going to take operating money."
At this point, Lundgren appears extremely pleased with the efforts of everyone involved in creating the Commons. "The new park will be great," he said. "The design's going to be great. It'll be a real restful place, a real amenity."
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