The planned expansion of designer Sarah Bergmann’s Pollinator Pathway project to Capitol Hill is finally under way. Now partnered with the Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict initiative, the Pollinator Pathway is getting its own long-term strategy to build a network of native plant garden plots here.
Established in 2008, the first instillation of the Pollinator Pathway along Columbia Street transformed the mile-long segment from Nora’s Wood to Seattle University into thriving, colorful habitats, effectively addressing some of the neighborhood’s sustainability challenges. Bergmann’s design is now set to have a second site connecting the Seattle University campus to Volunteer Park along 11th Avenue. The innovation is Bergmann’s plan to take “save the honeybees” one step further — it’s also now united with an effort to invigorate a Capitol Hill Arts District.
The current mile-long garden network along Columbia Street provides support to native pollinators like butterflies, beetles, and hummingbirds (and of course, bees), while also functioning as an art installation. Since its creation, Bergmann has received the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award and The Stranger’s Genius Award in Art, and is hoping her project will support native pollinators for 20 to 200 years. With 20 gardens established on Columbia Street thus far, the goal is to bring that number to 50 or 60 when the pathway connecting Capitol Hill is completed.
EcoDistrict Project Director Joel Sisolak believes that much like the story along Columbia Street, the pathway will increase the appeal of the neighborhood and improve the pedestrian experience.
“Real estate agents are starting to promote the fact that houses on Columbia Street are on the Pollinator Pathway,” Sisolak said. “Columbia Street is also being considered for Greenway development. If [it does], this could be a really great marriage of ecology with good streets that are safe passages for pollinators, pedestrians, and bikers.”
The Capitol Hill pathway is set to stretch a total of 1.5 miles, and will be a central piece to the new Arts District being planned. The residential, single-family home landscape of Columbia Street largely differs from the densely populated apartment homes and commercial buildings on 11th, but Sisolak believes that the Pathway is still very much suited for Capitol Hill. It may be crucial, as the neighborhood relatively has much less green space and pollinator habitats.
“The second pathway we’re talking about would cut through the Pike/Pine part of the Hill, where the Arts District is being considered,” Sisolak said. “It would be a very physical and visible way to connect the arts and ecology, a tangible way to bring those two efforts together.”
A large part of EcoDistrict’s commitment to Bergmann’s vision is to finish the pathway, as well as develop a long range stewardship plan and collaborative partnerships. According to Sisolak, homeowners on the Columbia Street pathway have been playing an active role in maintaining the gardens, and he hopes that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will join in that maintenance effort and help develop a long-term plan, as well as connect the project to the Urban Forestry section of SDOT.
“People move, things happen, and we don’t want to see that pathway or the new one get established and then neglected,” Sisolak said. “This is infrastructure, not just nice little gardens. Infrastructure needs to taken care of for the long term.”
Development of the north-south pollinator pathway is in its early stages, and its funding is largely dependent on grant funding and donations. Sisolak hopes to begin hearing from funding sources by the end of the summer.
“We are just beginning to talk with stakeholders about the north-south route,” Sisolak said. “We hope they’ll embrace the concept like the folks on Columbia Street have.”
Development, planning, and the search for funding is scheduled to span for the remainder of 2014.
“We are pretty hopeful,” Sisolak said. “This is really Sarah Bergmann’s brainchild, and we are really excited to partner with her and expand her vision to this new route.”