FSOP Comments to Parks Legacy Plan Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting

The Parks Legacy Plan Citizens Advisory Committee was convened this fall to consider what programs, resources, and projects need supplemental funding in addition to the regular city budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation. The committee is creating a list of investment initiatives and considering whether to pursue a levy measure or to recommend the city create a metropolitan park district.

On November 7th, the committee members listened to more than three hours of public testimony about programs, projects, and the advisability of creating a park district. For more information about the initiatives that the committee has listed and prioritized, click here. For more information about the metropolitan park district, click here.

FSOP President Jennifer Ott focused on the maintenance initiatives in her comments to the committee:

I am here to ask that the park system's historic parks and boulevards be specifically identified in the major maintenance and regular maintenance initiatives. The Olmsted park and boulevard system dates to 1903 and it provides the framework for the amazing park system we enjoy today.

The system's historic structures and landscapes have suffered due to maintenance cuts during the recession and the emphasis on new park acquisition and development in the last levy.

While we certainly support the improvements made possible by that levy, we are concerned that if the maintenance and rehabilitation of historic structures and landscapes are not specifically included in the new initiatives, they will further deteriorate.

Just one example of this can be seen along Magnolia Boulevard. John Charles Olmsted located the boulevard along Magnolia Bluff to take advantage of the water views. Over time the vegetation, much of it volunteer plants and trees, has grown up and obscured that view entirely along parts of the boulevard. At one point a memorial bench looked at a wall of plants and trees. The Magnolia Community Club has done a heroic job at renovating that landscape in cooperation with Parks, but we can not rely on volunteer groups to maintain our Olmsted legacy.

The Olmsted park and boulevard system forms the core of our park system. We need to acknowledge the important role it plays in the success of our park system and invest in protecting it for future generations.

FSOP also sent a letter outlining our concerns and suggestions for the initiatives (see below).

If you would like to submit comments to the committee, email them to ParksLegacy@seattle.gov. The next meeting is scheduled for November 21st, when the committee will develop a proposal to consider. See the committee website for the dates of future public meetings: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/legacy/committee.htm.

FSOP Letter:

November 8, 2013

Parks Legacy Plan Citizens Advisory Committee
Seattle Parks and Recreation
100 Dexter Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Attn: Susanne Rockwell

Dear Parks Legacy Citizens Advisory Committee:

Thank you very much for the opportunity yesterday to voice our comments about the Preliminary Prioritization of Investment Opportunities that was released last week. As I mentioned last night, we strongly support the goals that are outlined in the document, but we are very concerned that protection and rehabilitation of the historic elements of the park system are not explicitly identified and emphasized.

When we addressed the Board of Park Commissioners meeting in May, we asked that the Parks Legacy Plan attend to elements of the park system that are part of the Olmsted Brothers’ 1903 and 1908 plans for the city's parks and boulevards system. Not only do these parks and boulevards have historical significance that require stewardship for future generations, but they also provide the framework for our entire system and play a significant role in the effectiveness of that system.

Further, with this committee’s renewed focus on valuing, supporting, and promoting greater significance to our parks system, we see a wonderful opportunity for educating the public about the legacy of our Olmsted parks. The Olmsted Brothers’ early plans helped create the framework of our parks and boulevards system. Sharing information on this legacy can profoundly deepen the public’s experience and appreciation of these parks.

In order to protect the integrity of Seattle's Olmsted parks and boulevards system, and to encourage greater appreciation of this legacy and of our parks system as a whole, we would like to see specific efforts described in these investment initiatives:

1) Existing Programs: Address Major Maintenance. Looking at the 2013-2018 Proposed Capital Improvement Program, we would like to see projects that specifically support our historical parks and boulevards. For example, the irrigation system in Volunteer Park has very limited functionality, and it is essential for current projects undertaken to rehabilitate the Olmsted-designed landscape in that park. Likewise, the Urban Forestry – Tree Replacement proposal should address aging trees along boulevards and in historical parks.

2) Existing Programs: Regular Park Maintenance. We would like to see specific mention of large-scale historic landscape assessment and rehabilitation under this heading. Large swaths of Seattle's historic landscapes in parks and along boulevards have suffered tremendously due to maintenance cuts and the emphasis placed on new park acquisition and development in the last park levy. Areas like the western side of Volunteer Park, the non-programmed space in Hiawatha Park, and the medians and shoulders of Lake Washington Boulevard are rapidly losing the elements that are essential to the integrity of their designs.

3) Existing Programs: Customer Service Technology. We propose that historical information be made available as part of this effort to enhance information sharing about park features and programs.

4) Existing Programs: Environmental Education. The historical significance and features of our parks should be a part of this goal to “educate in place.”

There are a number of groups that are working to protect and improve Olmsted parks and boulevards in Seattle. In order to ensure that their efforts are effective and permanent, we encourage Parks to implement projects that protect and rehabilitate the system as a whole. We realize that there are many, very worthy priorities that the Parks Legacy Citizens Advisory Committee is weighing, but we urge you to consider that we need to protect and preserve what we already have in order to continue enjoying the benefits it provides.

The Olmsted parks and boulevards system is a gift that was given to us by earlier generations and we need to ensure that we do our part to preserve it for future generations.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Ott
President