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Improving neighborhood-to-park connections for better quality of life

The concept of greenways has been around in the U.S. since Olmsted and Vaux designed their first park boulevards for Buffalo, New York, in the late 1800s.  For our purposes here at Seattle Parks and Recreation, a greenway is a connection from a city park to an SDOT Neighborhood Greenway, making going from one to the other safer, more comfortable, and more appealing to walkers and bicyclists of all abilities. Greenway development around Seattle is on the increase, thanks to funds from two SDOT voter-approved levies and the leveraging of funds from other City of Seattle projects – among them the Safe Routes to School program, the Pedestrian Master Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan, and SPR’s aforementioned Greenways Initiative.

SPR’s objective for the Greenways Initiative is to improve connection points between neighborhoods and City parks, which not only makes Seattle safer for pedestrians and cyclists, but creates stronger communities, incentivizes exercise, and reduces noise and pollution. The Initiative focuses especially on improvements to the historically underserved communities of South Seattle, and engages stakeholders from diverse cultural backgrounds in the planning process. Here’s a short history of our Greenways work to date:

(photo courtesy of Seattle Bike Blog)

2015 – Kickoff
Jefferson Park was the first Greenways Initiative project, using combined funds from SDOT’s Safe Routes to School program to complete sidewalk, drainage and parking improvements. The project turned a walkway often swamped with mud and water into a safe and walkable path for Asa Mercer International Middle School students, as well as the community. This upgraded sidewalk joins with the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Greenway, improving the connection for residents to the school and to Jefferson Park.

2016 – A Link in the “Ribbon of Parks”
In fall of 2016, John C. Little, Sr. Park got a new soft-surface path and stairway, improving pedestrian access to and through the park, and connecting the Rainier Valley East/West Greenway along Willow Street with the Chief Sealth Multi-Use trail. The project also replaced 200 feet of asphalt path that had been destroyed by tree roots. John C. Little Park is included in the “Ribbon of Parks” plan, which ultimately will connect Othello Park, the Othello LINK Light Rail station, New Holly Library and Community Services Center, and Van Asselt Playground and Community Center.

2017 – Better Connections in the Rainier Neighborhood
SPR is partnering with SDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools Program to expand the scope of work at Rainier Beach Playfield. Upgrades currently underway include improvements to the walkway along Dunlap School and a new pathway between the baseball and soccer fields. The new paths will improve access to and from the park and enhance accessibility, better connecting Rainier Beach Playground, Dunlap Elementary School, South Shore K-8, Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool, and South Lake High School.

More in the Pipeline

  • Upgrades to the Interlaken Boulevard staircase are also in the works this year. SPR is collaborating with SDOT to improve a trail along the new Central Area Neighborhood Greenway built by SDOT in 2015. This trail and staircase connect E. Interlaken Boulevard to Boyer Ave East.
  • A joint SDOT/SPR capital improvement project upgrades entryway and ADA access at Gas Works Park later in 2017, along with better connection to the Burke Gilman Trail near the intersection of N. Northlake Way and Meridian Ave N. This is a priority connection for both departments, and is identified for improvement in the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan.

Smaller improvements have been completed under SPR’s Greenway Initiative banner as well, such as new bicycle parking and racks at a number of community centers and parks. The Greenways Initiative also includes programming to promote the improved greenways and park connections, like the popular Bicycle Sundays along Lake Washington Boulevard or the Neighborhood Walking Tours organized in partnership with Feet First. All of these efforts align with the Seattle Parks and Recreation mission: to support healthy people, a healthy environment and strong communities.