Thursday, April 14, 2011

New "Laurelhurst View" Pocket Park In The Works, Volunteers Needed For Upcoming Work Party

Laurelhurst resident, Richard Ettinger, is working hard on establishing a new pocket park in the neighbhorhood, called "Laurelhurst Lookout." The land is located at the end of NE 36th Street and connects to open land at the end of 49th Avenue NE.

Richard, who lives near the park, told us that some preliminary work has begun on designs for the new park, which has sweeping views of the lake and Mount Rainier.

Richard envisions the park, now an unimproved street end, becoming a peaceful place for reflection and watching the lake.

He told us "Hopefully with some hard work and imagination, the proposed improvements will develop as an asset to the neighborhood, much appreciated by families, pedestrians and pet owners while building a sense of cooperation and public spirit."

Richard hopes to organize a work party with neighbors in the coming weeks as part of this year’s Spring Clean citywide project. He said perhaps a brief forest ecology workshop might be a good introduction. 

Richard is also working on a preliminary habitat and invasive species mapping and when it is complete, this survey may be useful as a guide for work party participants.

Art Tuftee, a trails consulant, recently walked the park,which is quite a large area of land, and put together a document with his findings and recommendations on moving forward that Richard shared with us.

In the document, Art commented that "In many parts of Seattle abandoned streets and street ends have been transformed into pocket parks by neighborhood advocates. Neglected land has been turned into community assets. Ivy has been removed from trees and other invasive species controlled. Waterfront access has been enhanced and stunning viewpoints opened up."

He added "Just such an opportunity exists in the Laurelhurst community where a street was not connected due to the slope, and a cul-de-sac, though leveled and prepared, was not paved. Through the intervening years a forest of sizeable trees has grown instead."

Some points covered in the document that suggest that the land is a suitable place for a pocket park are:

  • Besides the street right of way, there is an adjoining sliver of land owned by the Seattle Parks Department. These combined properties area ample area for a pocket park and could provide a neighborhood connection and a place for quiet contemplation.
  • The street end and cul-de-sac of NE 36th St. has been graded past the pavement end and curb. This provides a flat and somewhat open terrace on the hillside.
  • The cul-de-sac is defined on the south by chain link fences and on the north by the toe of the hillside.  Past the cul-de-sac the terrain along the street right of way rises to cross a small ridge, then contours along the slope to the north to join the end of 49th Avenue NE.
  • The entire area is forested with many large evergreens in the vicinity of the cul-de-sac including a 32” diameter Red Cedar. Other species include Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Spruce, Pines, Sequoia, Big Leaf Maple, Bitter Cherry, Hawthorn, Holly, Laurel, and Madrone, which can be seen from the 520 floating bridge.  
  • The underbrush is dominated by English Ivy and there is little or no native species growing. 
  • The site is well suited for a pocket park. With some basic pruning expansive views would be opened up looking north, east, and south along Lake Washington. Mt. Rainier would be prominently visible to the south. However the area remains quite secluded from the surrounding homes. The previously graded cul-de-sac is level and once weeded will be ready for a variety of possible uses.
  • Further into the site there is an ideal spot for a small viewpoint terrace. Paths could connect the pavement end to the cul-de-sac and on to the viewpoint.
  • A trail could continue on joining the street end at 49th Avenue NE increasing connectivity in the neighborhood.
  • An easy first step would be to organize a community work party tasked with ivy removal, light pruning, and general cleanup of organic debris. Only a few volunteers would be needed to make a significant improvement in the health of the trees and usability of the space. The first effort could be focused on the cul-de-sac and viewpoint area leaving the steeper terrain for another time.
  • Having a landscape plan in place will be helpful for work done after the initial clearing.
  • A good plan would define the basic layout for the park space while leaving open the possibility of incorporating future ideas.
  • A simple plan suggested by the existing conditions may be a circular gravel or wood chip surfaced patio in the cul-de-sac, benches near the chain link fence looking out towards the lake, a low rock wall bordering the uphill edge of the cul-de-sac, and a path with stone steps leading up to a view point terrace with a bench facing up the lake.
  • Planting may initially be limited to native species, which can be obtained at no cost from King County plant salvages. Sword fern and salal would be appropriate for the shaded environment.
  • Serious investigation should be done to determine the feasibility of a connecting trail between street ends. The trail itself would be an interesting and attractive feature besides adding a valuable walking route to the neighborhood.
  • Recruiting volunteers and forming a “Friends of” group should be relatively easy.
  • Potential funding for this project is available through the Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund, which has three levels. Small Sparks, the first level of the Matching Fund, supports projects with up to $1000. This may be an appropriate starting place for a basic plan, surfacing material, landscape cloth, and some simple benches. At the next level, the Small and Simple Projects Fund has a $20,000 limit and could pay for further development of the space. Funding a trail connection across the side slope may require use of the Large Projects Fund for up to $100,000. Beyond that a different program, the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund is for projects above $200K.
Art concluded "This site could be turned into enjoyable park space with minimal effort and expense. Further development taking advantage of the unique location of the site would provide Laurelhurst with a truly beautiful little park."

For more information and to volunteer with neighbors in the upcoming Spring Clean work party, contact Richard at

(photos courtesy of Richard) 

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