Take the plunge! Start 2013 off right with a bracing swim in Lake Washington at the Polar Bear Plunge!

Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Meadowbrook Community Center Advisory Council are co-sponsoring the 11th Annual Polar Bear Swim at high noon on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at Matthews Beach, 9300 51st Ave. NE. Registration starts at 11 a.m. and the Plunge starts at noon sharp.

There will be refreshments and a 2013 Official Patch of Courage for all heroic polar bears who immerse themselves neck-deep in the lake, to prove to friends and loved ones they actually braved the frigid waters, which today were a bracing 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the plunge even more special by dressing up in a costume! Sign our memory book at www.theofficialunofficialpolarbearplunge.blogspot.com, and share your experience at the event on your Facebook page, blog, YouTube or Twitter accounts.

Once again, we’ll feature the new Polar Cub Club, a special time just before the big polar bears plunge, for younger folks or people who need a little bit more room. Some people actually choose to double dip.

Parks offers a few tips for enjoying a fun, safe swim:
• Come early, and carpool or take the bus.
• You can plan your trip at http://tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/
• If you have heart problems or other serious medical concerns, we recommend you consult your health care professional before taking the Polar Bear Plunge. If you don’t go in the water, come and watch!
• Don’t drink alcohol – it doesn’t warm you up, and it accelerates hypothermia.
• Don’t stay in the water for longer than 15 minutes – you lose body heat 25 times faster in water than in air.
• Don’t take off your outer clothing until you’re ready to get in the water, and remove wet clothing before getting into dry clothes.

The Polar Bear Plunge was the first official event of its kind in the Seattle area. Janet Wilson, the Aquatic Center Coordinator at Meadowbrook Pool, started the event on January 1, 2003. About 300 people participated in that first Polar Bear Plunge, and since then the attendance has soared to more than 1,500 brave bears of every age. The plunge has inspired other, similar events in the Seattle area.

Witnesses to history will, at each participant’s request, record the names of the bold souls who complete the mission by signing our online blog. www.theofficialunofficialpolarbearplunge.blogspot.com

Playground in a Box brings creative play to urban kids

Playground in a Box is sort of Legos meets Lincoln Logs in giant blue foam. Now, put those pieces inside a brand new urban community center where it’s always warm and dry – no matter what the weather. And, voila! You have the concept for imaginative, physical, indoor play.

Playground in a Box is comprised of large foam blocks that are oddly formed with unique, abstract shapes that make kids curious and want to start building immediately. With their uniform blue color, abstract shapes, and infinite configurations, these blocks from Imagination Playground get kids’ minds working fast and keep them active. Instead of prescribing activities (climb this, sit on that), the blocks prompt kids to “fill in the blank” with their own ideas.

The blocks can be used to make anything kids can think of, and encourages socializing and cooperation. Younger, smaller kids may need help balancing and moving them, so they work in pairs or small teams. Older, larger kids quickly realize that if they want to build structures that are bigger than life, they need to plan and work together with other children.

Seattle Parks and Recreation, The Downtown Seattle Association and the Seattle Parks Foundation have partnered to bring this indoor playground to Belltown Community Center, 415 Bell St.

Children and their caregivers are invited to play on Wednesdays from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. and Fridays from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Entrance to the playground is free. Playground in a Box is appropriate for children at least 2 years old and older. For the very little ones, Belltown Community Center also has an indoor play room that is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 – 7:30 p.m. The drop-in fee is $2.

Playground in a Box can be used indoors and outdoors, and is waterproof. It will be housed at Belltown Community Center, but will be loaned out for special events at Westlake Park, Waterfront Park, and Bell Street Park when it is finished.

For more information, contact Belltown Community Center at 206-684-7245.  

City budget keeps Volunteer Park Conservatory open; Friends of the Conservatory, generous donors, modest entrance fee all help

Despite fears reported this past March, the City is committed to keeping the 100-year old Volunteer Park Conservatory, the crown jewel of Seattle’s Olmsted park system, open.

The operating budget Mayor Mike McGinn and Parks and Recreation proposed, and the City Council recently approved, includes a $4 per person entrance fee to support maintenance and education programs, and the capital budget includes $2.3 million of the $3.1 million needed for critical structural repairs. To ensure the Conservatory’s success into the future, both the restoration project and day-to-day operations need help from community members.

To date, individual donors have contributed just over half of the $750,000 still needed for the restoration fund. Generous donations to the Friends of the Conservatory and ongoing volunteer labor will help keep the entry fee affordable for all visitors. As of early November, more than 100,000 people had visited the Conservatory this year, about two-thirds of them from outside Seattle.

The Conservatory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it is also a City landmark and one of the few remaining original Victorian public glass houses in the country. It houses an outstanding tropical plant collection that is 100 years in the making, it hosts classes and day camps for school-age children, and it provides space for art classes, events and public gatherings. The Conservatory shelters more than a tropical plant collection. As a warm, quiet, beautiful refuge, it shelters our souls.

To learn about upcoming holiday events and to make a tax-deductible donation, please go to www.VolunteerParkConservatory.org . Members of the public can make contributions to the restoration fund by contacting the Seattle Parks Foundation: http://seattleparksfoundation.org.

Children’s book sale at Queen Anne Community Center; get the perfect gift for kids, from toddler to young adult

Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 1st Ave. W, will hold a children’s book sale this weekend in conjunction with the 4th Annual Queen Anne Community Center Holiday Antique and Collectible Show.

The sale will feature more than 3,000 top quality children’s books offered at 75% off the list price. Ninety-five percent of the books are in brand new condition – not seconds.

Offerings include everything from infant board books to young adult fiction with just about every popular children’s book author and illustrator represented. Also for sale are Folkmanis puppets and a vintage, fully furnished Playmobil Mansion. These items are ideal for school classrooms, libraries and holiday gift giving.

Dates and times:
Friday, December 14, 5 to 7 p.m. ($10 early bird admission)
Saturday, December 15 from 8 to 10 a.m. ($5 admission)
Saturday, December 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ($1 admission)
Sunday, December 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (free admission)

The sale is a fund raiser for the Queen Anne Community Center Scholarship fund, which provides funds for children and individuals seeking to participate in preschool and after school programs, sports teams, art classes and more.

Join the holiday cheer at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

There’s plenty of holiday cheer happening in Volunteer Park and at the Volunteer Park Conservatory between now and the end of 2012, brought to you by Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Friends of the Conservatory and the Volunteer Park Trust.

Today from 6 – 8 p.m., there will be a special Holiday in Volunteer Park event where guests can enjoy carols and music performed by nine choral groups, complimentary holiday treats and drinks, and a stunning display of more than 300 holiday lights and luminaria.

The event takes place at Volunteer Park, 1247 15th Ave. E, on the concourse between the water tower and the Conservatory.

Guests should also visit the Conservatory where the main attraction is a 75-foot, elevated model railway that winds its way through mountains of poinsettias and holiday trees decorated in splendid Victorian décor. Docent “engineers” are scheduled throughout the month to assist children of all ages to run the train.

This special event is sponsored by MTH, one of the largest manufacturers of toy trains in the world, and features standard gauge replicas of Lionel’s tinplate trains from the 1920s and 30s. The trains on display at the Conservatory are the largest tinplate toy trains ever produced.

Enter to win an authentic Lionel vintage replica train set with a retail value of $500. The No. 269E O Gauge Freight Train was cataloged in 1935. Reintroduced for 2006, this classic tinplate train set features a locomotive and tender, an oil tank car with the popular Sunoco logo, a dump car with tilting bin, and a caboose. You can see the train on display and purchase tickets at the Gift Shop.

Tickets are one for $10 or six for $50. The drawing is Friday, December 21 at 3 p.m. at the Conservatory. Entrants need not be present to win. For more information about the train, please click here.

Harpist Bill McJohn entertains again this year with his harp. He will be at Seasonal House 3 in the Conservatory from 1 to 2 p.m. on Sundays through Christmas, December 16 and December 23.

The Conservatory display was produced entirely with donated time and materials. Hundreds of volunteer hours went into creating this fabulous display, complete with a miniature village and representation of the Alki Lighthouse. Please see our website for details: www.volunteerparkconservatory.org

The display will remain open through January. The Conservatory will be open to the public two special Mondays, December 24 and December 31. The Conservatory’s Holiday Display and lights will remain until January 1.

For more information, please call the Conservatory at 206-684-4745 Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Please call to confirm holiday closures.

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Seattle Parks still has spaces in Miller Community Center for Teen and Adult Wheelchair Basketball League

There is still time to sign up for the Teen and Adult Wheelchair Basketball League at Miller Community Center on Tuesday evenings. Anyone who uses a wheelchair and enjoys playing hoops is welcome to the league.

3 on 3 Wheelchair Basketball League for Teens and Adults (combined) NEW!
This awesome league is for our wheelchair population, combining teens 15 and older with adult players. Beginner and novice players have the opportunity to play in a competitive but friendly environment. All participants must be able to follow a sequence of instruction and have adequate upper body control to maneuver a manual wheelchair.

There are 8 games (three matches to 15 per game) guaranteed plus play-offs. Game start times vary from 6 – 8:45 p.m., and take place at Miller Community Center, 330 19th Ave E., Seattle. League play begins December 4.

Cost: $108 per team, $27.00 per player
Location: Miller Community Center, 330 195h Ave. E
Days: Tuesdays
Start times: 6 – 8:45 p.m.
Dates: December 4, 2012 – February 12, 2013 (no
games Dec 25 or Jan 1)

Seattle Parks offers many attractive, affordable wedding sites: gardens, viewpoints, community centers, specialty buildings are memorable venues

Seattle Parks and Recreation stands ready to respond to an anticipated wave of weddings in Seattle now that same-sex marriages are legal in our state.

Parks offers affordable and attractive sites all over the city that meet every wedding need at almost 70 sites accommodating 12 to 250 people. Many provide commercial kitchens and convenient parking, and most are accessible for people with disabilities.

If it’s an outdoor ceremony, from the lush Kubota Garden and Parsons Garden to the breathtaking views from Kerry Park and Viewpoint and Discovery Park, there’s a location right for every couple.

If it’s winter and the nuptials are inside, consider the cozy lodge at Camp Long, a bathhouse at Alki Beach Park, Madison Park or Golden Gardens Park, or a roomy community center venue.

For a complete list of available Seattle Parks wedding venues, both indoor and outdoor, please go to http://www.seattle.gov/parks/ceremonies.asp.

Parks recommends potential users visit sites they’re interested in, read the online scheduling information, then call our scheduling office at 206-684-4081 to make a reservation.

Seattle Park Board to hold regular meeting December 13; Mayor McGinn to join Board for discussion.

The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners will hold its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, December 13, in the Kenneth R. Bounds Park Board Room at 100 Dexter Ave. N, in Denny Park at the corner of Dexter and Denny.

The meeting agenda includes:

Park Board 2013 Work Plan. Parks staff will join the Board in a discussion of the 2013 Work Plan.

Guest Speaker. Mayor Mike McGinn. Mayor McGinn will have a conversation with the Board.

Park Board Business.
• Coal terminals. The Board will review and finalize a letter expressing concerns about any expansion of coal terminals that would result in more trains traveling through Seattle parks.

• Access to NOAA at Magnuson Park. Parks staff will provide an update on discussions with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding creation of an access point into the park from the road leading into NOAA from Sand Point Way NE.

• New viewpoint designation. In advance of a January 24, 2013 public hearing, the Board will discuss a proposal to designate MacLean Park as an official viewpoint.

• Committee reports.

Associated Recreation Council – Commissioners Angulo
and Keith
Central Waterfront – Commissioner Kincaid
Discovery Park Mitigation Fund – Commissioner Barber
Seattle Parks Foundation – Commissioner Maryman

A briefing paper on the Board’s 2013 work plan is available here.

The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners is a nine-member citizen board created by the City Charter. Four members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council;

four members are appointed by the City Council; and one member is a young adult appointed by the YMCA Get Engaged Program (http://www.leadershiptomorrowseattle.org/YMCA.asp). Current members are Antoinette Angulo, John Barber, Megan Heahlke, Jourdan Keith, Acting Chair Diana Kincaid, Brice Maryman, Caitlin McKee, Yazmin Mehdi and Barbara Wright.

The Board meets once a month, normally on the second Thursday, to advise the Parks and Recreation Superintendent, the Mayor, and the City Council on parks and recreation matters. For more information, please call Sandy Brooks at 206-684-5066 or email her at sandy.brooks@seattle.gov.

Seattle’s Japanese Garden is seeking new tour guides

The Japanese Garden at Seattle’s Parks and Recreation’s Washington Park Arboretum has opened applications for training to become a volunteer tour guide.

Tour guides will give free guided tours to garden visitors and must learn the techniques of effective guides, elements of the Japanese Garden, Japanese history and culture, and the history and unique features of the Seattle Japanese Garden.

Training will be held on five consecutive Wednesdays, March 13 through April 10, 2013, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fee for the training program is $100. A limited number of scholarships are available. The deadline for application is January 18, 2013.

Located within the Washington Park Arboretum, the Japanese Garden is a 3.5-acre formal garden designed and constructed under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida in 1960.

The Japanese Garden offers public tours free with admission on weekend days at 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m., April through October. All tours start from the main gate, and are led by Arboretum Foundation Unit 86 Docents. These tours provide an educational introduction to the culture and history of the Seattle Japanese Garden.

For details, and to download an application, please visit                                                         http://www.seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/japanesegarden.htm 

For questions, contact:  gardenguidetraining@gmail.com

Seattle Parks invites community to the final meeting for Montlake play area renovation project

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the public to participate in the final public meeting for the Montlake Play Area on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Montlake Community Center, 1618 E Calhoun St.

The meeting is an opportunity for the community to see the final design and learn about the next steps in the project. Meeting notes and play area design are available on the website, http://seattle.gov/parks/projects/montlake

The Parks and Green Spaces Levy provides the funding for this project. Seattle The $146 million voter-approved levy provides acquisition funding for new neighborhood parks and green spaces and development funding for projects such as improved playfields, reservoir lid parks, renovated playgrounds, community gardens, and safety upgrades at city owned cultural facilities. Parks encourages the community to come and learn about the next steps for this project.

For more information please visit the website or contact Pamela Kliment, Parks Planner, at 206-684-7556 or Pamela.Kliment@seattle.gov.