This 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we at Seattle Parks and Recreation wish to celebrate with you, and commit to the challenge ahead of us in the next 50 years. Our community is fortunate to have such a robust history of investing in parks and open spaces, starting with the Olmsted Plan in 1903, when Seattle was a small town with big dreams.
Over the decades, voters in Seattle have consistently valued expanding our park systems. We currently have over 485 parks covering 6,414 acres, almost 12% of Seattle. And 94% of Seattle’s households live within a 10-minute walk of a public park. We continue to acquire new land and improve our parks, particularly in those areas most in need of the benefits they provide.
As stewards of these public lands, Seattle Parks and Recreation manages these parks sustainably. We are restoring our urban forests with an eye to the next 100 years, conserving our water in the face of climate change, mulching leaves in our turf and garden beds to build healthy soil, and continuing our leadership with integrated pest management and minimizing the use of pesticides.
In Seattle our greatest sources of carbon emissions are vehicles and buildings. In SPR’s buildings, we are investing in energy conservation, transitioning from fossil fuel heat to carbon-neutral electricity, and designing new facilities to be adaptable to the impacts of climate change. We are switching to electric vehicles wherever possible – from city cars to forklifts – and are looking forward to electric trucks soon.
The future is here, and we know it is vital to connect children to nature to foster the next generation of environmental stewards. Our outdoor and environmental education programs connect to tens of thousands of people every year – in our Environmental Learning Centers, Community Centers, schools, and out in the community. Our partners also support summer camps, nature preschools, and other programs that connect to our parks, and this place we live in.
While we celebrate these sustainable practices, we know there is more to be done. Climate change is no longer a theory, it is a day-to-day reality that we must respond to in all we do. We are adjusting our plant selection with an eye toward longer summers and wetter winters. We continue to invest in green stormwater infrastructure to manage winter storms, and conversely to use our leaves to mulch our gardens so they’ll hold onto water and nutrients during drought. And we are mapping how sea-level rise will impact our parks, and are planning ahead.
We look forward to partnering with you over the coming decades to keep Seattle Parks and Recreation at the forefront of environmentally sound practices. For we know that public parks are critical to a future that includes healthy people, a healthy environment, and strong communities. This period of the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us again that by working together on these big challenges, #WeGotThisSeattle.
Happy Earth Day! Go visit your neighborhood park and celebrate the legacy you are a part of.