Speak your piece about Jefferson Park's rebirth

A break in the rain and a few hours of sun drew me out for a walk in Jefferson Park. Pausing at the high point near the lawn bowling clubhouse, I watched a couple kids throwing rocks into pond-sized puddles next to the dirt road below as a muddy dog splashed after them. Directly beyond rose the fences surrounding the long-unused water reservoir.

The broken concrete basin is filled with weeds and rainwater, making it a temporary wetland for city birds. Crows and a few gulls take full advantage of the opportunity. In the distance, the Olympic Mountains crown the neglected landscape of Jefferson Park.

How will a sunny break from the rain look like from this view point a decade from now?

In June 2006, bulldozers and trucks will start to change this landscape. The empty south reservoir will be rebuilt with a hard lid and sports field over it. The north reservoir will be emptied and the land re-graded to a gentle slope. Jefferson Park will have grassy fields, paths and benches like the other great Olmsted parks in Seattle. There will be places to take walks, places to read a book in the sun, and places to run and play ball. And there will still be ponds to skip a rock into, but they will not disappear once the rain stops falling.

On Dec. 15 at a community meeting, the Seattle Parks Department and a design team from the Berger Partnership presented the schematic design for the first phase of redevelopment. The parks department hired the Seattle landscape architecture firm and formed a project advisory team (PAT) of representatives from community groups in 2005. But the planning process for Jefferson Park is the result of a decade of hard work by the community, the parks department and all the citizens of Seattle.

The Pro Parks Levy and Parks Cumulative Reserve Fund provided $7.31 million for planning, design and construction in Jefferson Park. The schematic design incorporates many elements of Jefferson Park's Olmsted legacy developed almost 100 years ago and stays true to the ProParks Levy motto: "Parks for All." It builds on the site plan adopted by the parks board in 2002 that had strong support from the community and the parks department.

There is not enough money to implement everything envisioned in the site plan in this first phase. It will cost approximately $30 million to implement everything. The goal of the first phase is to create a usable, if incomplete, park space after Seattle Public Utilities completes the reservoir project. While the park and reservoir design and construction efforts will be conducted separately, they will be closely coordinated. Construction of the park improvements will begin in June 2007 and be completed in approximately 18 months.

Choices need to be made to decide what should be built in this first phase of development. The schematic design provides the framework for making these choices and addresses the needs of a wide variety of people.

The area around the community center is planned as structured park space suitable for a variety of gatherings and community events. There is a large, 6,000-plus square foot playground and spillover play area nearby, in addition to tennis courts, basketball courts and a skateboarding structure.

The center and south part of the park is dedicated to organized recreational sports for youths and adults. The plan shows two soccer fields over the south reservoir with a baseball field overlaying one and a running track around the other. The Jefferson Playfield near Asa Mercer Middle School is shown as a lit, artificial turf field that can be used year round for a variety of sports.

The western edge and north end of the park will have a naturalistic design for less structured park activities, walking and relaxation. There are open grass fields, trees, walking paths, water features and viewpoints.

The designers, the parks department and the PAT need your input to guide their decisions about how to prioritize this development, even if some elements may need to be delayed to later projects due to cost.

The Seattle Parks Department is planning a community open house on Saturday, Feb. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give the public an opportunity to view the plan and talk with the design team. The open house will be at the Jefferson Park Community Center at 3801 Beacon Ave. S. Call 684-7481 for more meeting information.

The plan is also available for viewing online at: http://www.cityofseattle.net/proparks/projects/JeffersonPark.htm., and it will also be on display at the Beacon Hill Library and the Jefferson Park Community Center throughout 2006.

The public is invited to comment either in writing or at the open house. You can send comments via email to the project manager, Randy Robinson, at: randy.robinson@seattle.gov. Written comments can also be sent to Randy Robinson, Seattle Parks and Recreation, 800 Maynard Ave. S., 3rd Floor, Seattle, WA, 98134-1336. The deadline for written comments is February 15-th, 2006.

Mira Latoszek is a member of the Jefferson Park Project Advisory Team and a member of the local park advocacy group, Jefferson Park Alliance. She may be contacted at editor@sdistrictjournal.com.

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