“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
By Brendan McGarry
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Even if you went through with a fine-toothed comb, you wouldn’t find a soul in Capitol Hill who hasn’t used a park at least once. Yes, some don’t gasp for sunshine, nor appreciate the languid pleasure of lazing about a grassy knoll, but that doesn’t suggest parks aren’t worthwhile.
If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed a new park in the works. Broadway Hill Park, on the northeast corner of Republican and Federal, is currently a mostly empty lot of brown grass, picnic tables, and a chalk adorned retention wall. A vaguely appealing, a frumpy wayside of open space that breaks up the monotony of buildings. However, after the citizens who pushed to purchase and develop this space are done, it’ll be an inviting nexus for outdoor pleasure.
Norah Kates is one of the hard working citizens who helped realize this park. Along with other neighbors and the parks department, Kates has been on board from the beginning. Meetings, grant writing, finding the landscape architecture firm, SiteWorkshop for the schematic – sounds like work. They did this because they wanted to see a public, multi-use park in their neighborhood, or as Kates put it “a yard for the neighborhood.” (Kates wanted to shout out to folks in the parks department and in the neighborhood essential to the project, if you’re one of these people, good job!)
In February of 2010 the park was just a glimmer in the eye of some attendees of a public meeting. Today the project is fully designed and well on its way to utilizing the lot. Though this may not seem like much of pace to some, let’s compare:
When the city of Seattle bought the land that would become Volunteer Park in 1876, it was purchased merely for “municipal use.” Receiving the name Volunteer Park in 1901, the final incantations envisioned by the Olmsted brothers were finished in 1912. Yes, that was a different time, but the progression of this project is certainly noteworthy in comparison.
Surely, a new park isn’t that big of a deal. The city should just realize the need without public comment and get it done, right? No. In the world of snail’s pace bureaucracy, lacking budgets that slice off projects and programs deemed non-essential, it’s easy to see how the 12,000 square feet could have just become residential lots. Density is necessary, staunching the tasteless flow of urban sprawl; but we need parks too.
Kates recognizes that things don’t happen magically without public input. “Most of us knew it would be a pretty long process. Dedication and consistency has been what’s made the park possible.”
When asked why she’d gotten involved Kates said, “I’d lived in the neighborhood for a couple of years and in my job; I work on the urban forestry, native habitat side of parks. It was fun to get to work on and dream up other things that make parks great.”
Parks mean a lot of things to many different people. For some, a grassy open space is simply a vessel for a game of soccer or ultimate Frisbee. The design features an open grassy area. For some it’s a place to grow vegetables, because not all of us have yards. The design features a A P-Patch. For others, it’s simply a place to get a dose of nature, to escape the cement world momentarily. As for native species: build it and they will come.
Green spaces, even small parks, shouldn’t be looked at as non-essential, either. If you’re like me, you’re an angst-ridden shadow of yourself when you don’t get outside. There are many discussions on human connections with nature, but one of the best is Richard Louv’s classic, “Last Child in the Woods.” Coining the phrase “nature deficit disorder,” Louv digs deep into why a connection with nature is vital. It turns out there’s a strong correlation (an increasing body of research) between time outdoors and mental health. Without green spaces for our children, let alone ourselves, we could drift into a scary existence.
As I said, these things don’t happen without support. Before this is published, you should have already voted yes on the King County Parks Levy continuing to fund county run parks (a separate but related topic). Continuance and growth of our city parks, Broadway Hill Park included, is possible because of similar ballot items, like the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. And yes, while these are taxes, they are very cheap insurance for health and happiness. The Parks and Green Spaces Levy has only cost $80.78 a year for owners of $450,000 homes (it’s also only a 6-year levy.) We are ultimately responsible for what happens in our city and if you enjoy parks, be like Kates and others. Go start one.