Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Park Home Circle Tonight

Dear Diary,

I'm not sure how much good news I'll have for you this week.  I got a surprise tonight.  But there is one piece of good news I can give you right away.

I'd noticed, last December, something funny going on, on the street where Park Home Circle, the 7th-smallest Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation park in North Seattle, is.  But I was still homeless and rather smelly then, and what was going on reminded me too much of my middle-class upbringing to investigate under those circumstances.

Tonight was a different story, so let me show you, dear Diary, how even the 7th-smallest park can bring some joy to some people.

Well, you know me, dear Diary, I do so love to photograph signage.  But I also took a landscape shot:

And even a video:

In other news, I found the water fountains still running tonight at Hing Hay Park - well, small surprise that, a street-style fountain not very far from a building - and, much more surprisingly, at Ravenna Park, the fountain next to the "lower" restrooms.  I even drank from the latter, and found it tasted better than I'd remembered, though both its bowls' drains were blocked by sand.

Happy holidays, dear Diary, and we'll see how much more good news I have for you soon.  Until then, good night and good days.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Parks of Seattle's Downtown, part IIIB: Southwest (more parks)

Dear Diary,

Last week through yesterday, I worked on the spreadsheet mentioned in your previous page, but yesterday I got a little more focused on this downtown project.  I'd found that it'll take weeks to get the spreadsheet to where I want it before I publish it at Google Drive, so in the meantime I wanted results I could use sooner.

Meanwhile, the simple fact is that I don't really like the parks of Belltown - the north-central part of downtown Seattle as I've defined those things for these pages, part VI - all that much, which makes it hard to motivate myself to hike to them on the few dry-ish days to photograph them.  I'll try to do that next weekend, weather allowing.  My current temporary job is apparently to continue the rest of this month, so I remain constrained by that.

Still, today, with actual dry weather, I wanted something more challenging and perhaps enjoyable.  My goals for today were to visit all the places the spreadsheet had told me about, which should've been covered in the existing parts of this series, and to trace the Elliott Bay Trail from its southern end to the part I told you about already.  I got to, for some definition of "got to", seven of the nine places, although I'll put off telling you, dear Diary, about one, because it fits into central downtown, and I have an errand at the Central Library soon which I might as well expand into taking some photos.  Today's parks and similar places turn out to be hard to like too.  Three were closed to the public when I visited today, and one probably never fully existed.  But at least they were mostly new to me, and I hope they'll interest you and anyone who reads you.

(Various agencies) The Elliott Bay Trail

Pages around the Web claim that this trail starts at Broad St, or at Lumen Field, which is more or less between S Royal Brougham Way and the line of S Lane St.  The Broad St claim sort of makes sense, as we'll see, but the Lumen Field one doesn't.  A current version of the Seattle Bike Map gets it right.

South of S Atlantic St, Alaskan Way S has bike lanes on each side of the road, physically separated from the traffic only by those flimsy-looking stick-like things.  North of Atlantic, where Alaskan rises and then descends, there's a relatively wide trail separate from the traffic, which doesn't rise and descend.  This trail, like much of the trail between W Garfield St and Smith Cove Park, is sandwiched between fences, although here there's Port of Seattle property on only one side, railroad tracks on the other.  The main reward for taking this part of the trail is the view ahead, of downtown:

The Port is the trail's lead agency, and I assume it owns this segment.  The main thing enlivening it, besides the view, is a series of markers attesting bits of nautical history.

At S King St, this part of the trail emerges on the west side of Alaskan Way S and ends, and another part starts, which is much more like the Burke-Gilman Trail:  no fence, cyclists and walkers separated, the cyclists getting smooth pavement, the walkers regular sidewalk.  There's also some landscaping.  I suspect the part the Seattle Department of Transportation reports owning in the 2020 Real Property Report actually starts here.

At S Main St, the sidewalk, which had been to the trail's east, switches to the west, towards the buildings, and gets much wider, essentially becoming the sidewalk of the popular parts of Seattle's downtown waterfront.

And then two blocks later, at Yesler Way, the sidewalk continues, but the bike trail is just cut off.

It's cut off by construction.  From here all the way to Broad St, the prior existence of the Elliott Bay Trail is not proven by facts now on the ground.  I'm pretty sure, in fact, that from Bell St to Broad St it never did exist, or at best merged with the sidewalk on the west side of Alaskan Way.  But I'll take this segment by segment.

The construction barricades block mostly the west side of Alaskan Way from Yesler to Marion St.  They curve between Marion and Madison St, and then from Madison St to Pine St they block mostly the east side of Alaskan Way.  My hypothesis is that the Elliott Bay Trail did exist before the construction began, and that it crossed the street somewhere between Marion and Madison.  My evidence is pretty scanty.

For the first part, Yesler to Marion, it's mostly the way the trail suddenly stops.  I don't believe it was originally built that way.

Counter-evidence:  Much of the road on the west side of Alaskan between Marion and Madison looks pre-construction in age to me, and shows no trail markings.  So unless the crossing was at or near Marion, there may not have been a trail on that block.

For the second part, Madison to Pine, I have two bits of evidence.  First, the SDOT listing in the Real Property Report gives 1100 Alaskan Way as the address of the part of the trail it owns.  This is Alaskan and Spring St, a block north of Madison.

Second, something that looks a great deal like parts of the Burke-Gilman Trail exists, a few yards from the east side of Alaskan Way, right up against the buildings there, from Pine St to a few yards south of Bell St.  Where it actually does just stop:

I saw no cyclists on this segment tonight, but did see a whole lot of people riding scooters, or whatever those things are called.  There are a couple of directional signs similar to those on the BGT on this segment of whatever-it-is, too.

From Bell to Broad:  I found nothing.  The pavement of the wide sidewalk on the west side of Alaskan there is continuous, much more amenable to cycling than the pavement further south, and I suspect cyclists are meant to cross again, although there were still a lot of pedestrians that far north.  But there are no trail markings and no directional signs on this segment.

What I actually saw half a dozen cyclists leaving the Elliott Bay Trail at Broad St do, though, was take to the streets - most to Alaskan, one to Broad.  I also saw a group of at least half a dozen cyclists heading north on Alaskan in the street.

So although the bike map is right about the trail beginning at Atlantic, it's wrong that it exists continuously from there to Broad.  I seriously doubt it really ever has.

(SDOT) Habitat Bench on Seattle Waterfront

The Port of Seattle has a fence along the trail all the way from Atlantic to S Jackson St; it calls that entire area "Pier 46".  When I showed up too close to the fence at Atlantic, a guy came out to warn me away.  Most addresses south of Jackson are in the 400s S (the Port claims that everything behind that fence, all the way down to Atlantic, is at 401, but OpenStreetMap makes the falsehood of that plain), and most addresses north of Atlantic are in the 1200s S.  So SDOT's property at 601 Alaskan Way S, almost an acre in size, is somewhere behind that fence.  It's meant as "Wildlife/Fish Habitat", and my guess is that curious visitors might conflict with that.

(SDOT) Washington St Boat Landing

This is one of SDOT's few parks to have been blest with its own Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation web page.  That page's text is an exemplar of the decay happening to many public things along the waterfront, not least, but also not limited to, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the old Waterfront Park:

"No boats land here any more. At this site just south of the Washington State Ferry Terminal, you'll find only a historic pergola built for the long-defunct Seattle Harbor Department in 1920, and views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Note particularly the truncated ships' prows decorating the pergola high in front. Out in the water, you can still see the upright posts delineating the pier that was originally attached to the site. Immediately adjacent, the Port of Seattle's small Alaska Square has been closed to public access because its concrete has collapsed in places."

Well, actually, though, it's worse than that:

The whole park is closed by very sturdy fences, obviously for the long haul.

Someone is paying for a "sanican", not one of the two brands the city uses, in a parking lot adjacent to the south:

(The Anne E. Casey Foundation) Waterfall Garden Park

The Anne E. Casey Foundation was funded by the family of UPS's founder, and although I'm not sure what this park has to do with the foundation's mission, it was built on the site of UPS's first headquarters for the company's seventieth anniversary, in 1977.  And at the company's centenary, some of its employees participated in a United Way Day of Giving, or some such, by working on the park.  They hired some temps to help, of whom I was one (it's one of my few weird temp jobs), and I still have a T-shirt commemorating the event:

I rarely wear that shirt, not liking to advertise big corporations on my clothing, and so it survived my years of homelessness much more intact than shirts I'd preferred, and I wore it today.

Unfortunately, the park didn't co-operate with this bit of sentimentality.  Its signage indicates its short hours, maintained, so it's said, in order to keep homeless people from camping there.

But at 3:18 P.M., on a Sunday, this is what I found:

Speaking of sturdy fences.  Also, the waterfall about which the Alliance for Pioneer Square, another outfit that doesn't much like homeless people, brags - well, I didn't catch as much of it as I'd hoped (i.e., any of it) in that photo, but those rocks sure looked dry to me.

So I have no idea whether the park was closed because it's Sunday and that kind of thing happens, or because of COVID-19, or because it's winter, or because UPS, no longer headquartered here, maybe thinks Seattle is overrun with homeless people, or maybe because AECF is having hard times, or what.  I only know that it was closed, and I wasn't the only person who knew the time and noticed, while I was there.

The amenities I saw through the fence included benches and trash cans, which latter put them one up on Sound Transit, anyway.

Previously mentioned

I found a street fountain running, as it should be, in Pioneer Square.

The affordable housing project being built near or in part of Fortson Square is being built for the main agency in town that helps American Indian homeless people.  Their fences are covered with quotations from old anti-Indian laws. 

City Hall Park, though as far as I know no longer city-owned, still has the city's "Temporarily Closed" signs up.  Nope, now it's "Permanently Closed", as far as the parks department is concerned, anyhow.

Terrace St starts at City Hall Park, and I took it to my next destination.

(?) Goat Hill

This is a name I like for three more or less linked bits of land that all have grass (two also have trees) and are all on steep parts of First Hill.  Two are separated by 6th Ave; the western of those is separated from one to its northwest by a private office building.  I don't know who owns the land.  The easternmost part has signs barring camping from the City of Seattle, but the Goat Hill Parking Garage east of the northernmost is entirely for King County employees.  Anyway, I'm pretty sure none of these three is privately owned.

The northernmost, northeast (actually north) from 5th Ave & Terrace St, was on my list as a separate destination, because OpenStreetMap puts a "Goat Hill P-Patch" there.  It certainly isn't an official Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch (and King County runs none, any more than any parks, within Seattle city limits), but it certainly is some sort of P-Patch.  Look:

They've got raised beds, and a lockbox, and a hose, and a shelter (that blue thing).

The other two are ones I remember walking past many times to get to various downtown destinations.  This one, west (southwest) of 6th Ave between Yesler and that garage, is largely trees:

I found evidence that someone had recently been swept from there (a pile of trash that included packaging for a mattress), which means that for whatever reason - because it's not an official park, because they've become too busy, or because they've gotten lazy - the current sweepers didn't leave this place as clean as I've seen them leave parks earlier this year.

The easternmost parcel, east (northeast) of 6th Ave, is grassier:

That's where I found the no-camping signs.

There are gravelled trails through each parcel, and connecting the two that are west of 6th Ave.  So I have at least that much justification for treating them as parks here - someone has put at least some money into their parkishness - besides the obvious fact that they offer trees and grass just a couple of blocks from City Hall Park as was.

I considered putting them into southeast - that easternmost one is across the street from the trail to Kobe Terrace - but they were the only thing I'd have had to add to that set, so it made more sense to group them with this one, about as close.

Well, all for now, dear Diary.  Good night, and good days until we meet again, which should be soon after I get to Central Library.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Meridian Playground Today

Dear Diary,

Yeah, I know, I told you I was done with these, but today I felt very lazy, finally convinced myself in late afternoon to go to my far-away bank for laundry quarters, and on the way back, even though I'd left my newspaper at home, I finally gave in to my curiosity:  if Gas Works Park had been swept, had Meridian Playground?

Also, I forgot to tell you, dear Diary, but I found Gas Works's water fountain running Wednesday night, the first time I've found that one running since your first page.  (Photos at Google Drive:  Meridian, Gas Works.)  So I was curious whether repair work on Meridian Playground's much more obviously damaged fountain had begun.

It has:


By the standards of Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation, or at least its northeast maintenance team, winter has come.  So, predictably:

However, Meridian Playground has not been effectively swept.  And, well.  Meridian Playground is the former grounds of a residential school for girls (i.e., a place to throw them away).  The school building is now home to a bunch of non-profits, like other buildings such as University Heights.  However, unlike U-Heights, Good Shepherd Center is actually city-owned.  And see, dear Diary if you can figure out what's missing from this photo of their front door:

Yes, that's right, they've forgotten to put their "No Public Restrooms" sign back up!  So I'm not sure how badly off the homeless of Meridian Playground actually are tonight.

Anyway, I've been spending my lazy hours doing something I should've done months ago, building a spreadsheet of parks.  We'll see whether I finish hiking the set of downtown parks now known to me this rainy weekend, or punt and finish the spreadsheet instead, so as to go on longer hikes, to more parks, next weekend when (anything's possible) it might rain a little less.

Until whenever, then, dear Diary, good night and good days.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

All Night Long, Holiday Edition

Dear Diary,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night I was itching to go hiking, and the weather forecasters were claiming that there wouldn't be that much rain.  Also, Boeing Field has started to record temperatures of 32° F, but only just barely.  So I thought of parks whose restrooms seemed likely to be open 24 hours and which I hadn't yet visited in that capacity, and got started.

And there's something to be thankful for!  The restrooms were indeed open at all three parks I visited - Bitter Lake Playfield (where they'll probably be closed soon, though not because of the temperature), Gas Works Park (where they should stay open all winter), and one to be named soon (that link to the Google Drive folder with the photos won't work until then; those restrooms not only close each winter, but have to).

On a less delightful note, I found the shelter at Gas Works Park empty for only the second time since I first found it, probably not too long after 2014.  Maybe it was swept in mid-September.  Unfortunately, that huge, dry shelter is right next to the playground, which makes its semi-permanent occupation more problematic.  I was surprised, of course, to find the shelter empty, whether or not it had been swept, and wondered whether the campers - who all had tents, even though they didn't really need them there - had moved to other parts of the park; but I hiked around for a while without finding a single tent.  Anyway, I was too disheartened by that, and by the realisation that I actually lacked the strength to end the night by walking Woodland and Green Lake Parks, to take any photos of the newly revealed shelter.

Still, this is not a story of the parks working normally.  It is commonly claimed that Seattle has only six 24-hour public restrooms.  I've encountered this meme being attributed to at least two sources; one isn't online, but the other, Review of Navigation Team:  2018 Quarter 2 Report (PDF), by David G. Jones, City Auditor, has all the bits of the meme familiar to me on the report's pages 21 and 22, and on page 23 lists the alleged six.  I can't help thinking Jones must not have looked very hard.  His list turns out to be four "sanican"s, and the "wading pool" and "65th St" restrooms at Green Lake Park.  But "sanican"s were far more numerous in the parks than that already in 2018.  Perhaps he was misled by the parks' official hours; it's true that Green Lake is one of the few parks officially open 24 hours, but I don't think the average person experiencing late-night need is going to care, and at least I have never been challenged for late-night visits to parks.  Perhaps he never encountered the park workers' gossip through which I first heard that View Ridge Playfield's restrooms have been 24 hours for "many years".  And maybe park workers used to be much more on the ball, and got the restrooms locked diligently at out-of-the-way places like Bitter Lake Playfield and Carkeek Park.  But in any event, last night, there were probably four pairs of restrooms open at Woodland and Green Lake Parks, and four more open north (Bitter Lake), south (Gas Works), east (View Ridge) and west (Carkeek) of those.  Not even counting the "Portland Loo" at Ballard Commons, which also existed in 2018.  That's eight, or maybe nine, sites just in about a third of the city.  Some - Woodland, perhaps Bitter Lake - are likely to start closing once the famous homeless encampments there are swept, and Gas Works was opened specifically in response to the pandemic.  And Bitter Lake is needlessly seasonal (which, from its geographical position, it oughtn't be).  But nothing requires the city to go back to its old ways of doing things, and even those included more 24-hour real restrooms, to say nothing of the thousands of "sanican"s, than Jones found.

So, being as generous to Jones as I can manage, let's give thanks that in this regard, at least, things have changed for the better, and let's resolve to try hard to keep them changed.  Park restrooms are too inconvenient to be a real solution, but if we can't even keep what we've got now, we'll never get the restrooms we really need.  Thanks!

Speaking of the restrooms we really need, I expect to finish surveying the downtown parks this long weekend.  Until then, dear Diary, a happy holiday, and happy days.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Parks of Seattle's Downtown, part VB: Northwest (northern group)

Dear Diary,

Well, I've had to stay up too late to do it, but here's this page, right on schedule.  So let's get started.  I said that the parks of northwestern downtown in Seattle fell into two groups, because they're different kinds of parks in different environments, because tonight's group are much larger and more photogenic, and because they have different common elements.

Well, tonight's parks' common element is actually the first thing listed, which is arguably not exactly a park at all:  the Elliott Bay Trail.

The parks of downtown Seattle's north waterfront have something else in common, to varying extents.  They're hemmed in by an actual, operating railroad line.  (I was stopped by an 81-car train today, in fact.)  So they're seriously deficient in exits.

The Elliott Bay Trail

The Elliott Bay Trail is a sort of virtual trail kind of like the Cheshiahud Loop, as opposed to a purpose-built trail like the Burke-Gilman Trail (both those comparanda, of course, existing in North Seattle, unlike the Elliott Bay Trail).  The bay it's named after, Elliott Bay, is defined as stretching between Magnolia and West Seattle; which means Seattle's downtown waterfront is entirely on Elliott Bay, not on Puget Sound proper.  The trail is reputed to run from the stadium which is called Lumen Field for however many weeks it is until the next re-branding, north along the downtown waterfront, and then through a series of parks described in this page and in a future page, to the Magnolia Bridge, then further north, away from the shore, to Halladay St, where it crosses from 20th Ave W, which is about as far as the eastern coast of the bay gets, to 21st Ave W, which is about as far as the northwestern coast gets.  It then goes south, with few glimpses of the water, to Smith Cove Park.

It's definitely an actual trail, reasonably well marked, from Alaskan Way and Broad St north and then south to Smith Cove Park, and I've walked all of that.  However, I haven't noticed what becomes of the trail south of Broad St.  If it's basically a lane of Alaskan Way, well, I've walked Alaskan Way from Spring St to Broad St; but if it's somewhere else, I don't know where.

In these pages about the downtown parks from Dearborn to Mercer, and the waterfront to I-5, the Seattle Department of Transportation park that is at least some of that southern part of the Elliott Bay Trail should appear.  I'm already planning a clean-up page for parks I've ignored, and that should go there.  But here I'm just noting that from Broad St to the Magnolia Bridge the trail goes through four substantially more parklike parks.  Two are entirely south of Mercer, one partly; those I'll tell you about, dear Diary, in this page.  The one that's partly south of Mercer is definitely appearing in a future page, and there I'll tell you about the fourth park too, Smith Cove Park, and the rest of the trail in that direction.

The Elliott Bay Trail from Broad St to the Magnolia Bridge is usually physically divided, with a trail to the west (toward the shore) for pedestrians, and one to the east (toward the land) for cyclists.  The pedestrians' trail is considerably longer, because it more or less follows the shore.  On the other hand, it's actually higher up, despite being closer to the shore, so it's better drained, and of course it has much better views, by most standards.

Alaskan Way Boulevard

I've only seen this name for the part of the trail from Broad St to Bay St used in two places:  the Seattle Art Museum's website and Seattle's 2020 Real Property Report.  The name "Boulevard" is kind of a property report joke:  a boulevard is normally a street with islands in it, those islands planted, usually in grass and/or trees.  In this case, the two sides of the "street" are the pedestrian trail and the bike trail.  But the islands in between are certainly planted islands:

The part of the Elliott Bay Trail called, by few people, Alaskan Way Boulevard, is controlled by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, not by SDOT.  It has as amenities benches and stairways between the trails:

Perhaps, dear Diary, you've noticed a sculpture in the fountain in the top photo.  That's there because, for the past fourteen years, Alaskan Way Boulevard has been leased by the Seattle Art Museum as part of a sculpture park which I'll introduce to you further down this page.  I'm not at all clear on whether the benches were SAM's work (though their style in the park is usually quite different), but they definitely do take credit for the plantings.

Alaskan Way Boulevard can be exited to the north and south, and also to the east, through the rest of the sculpture park, which includes a bridge over the railroad tracks.

Myrtle Edwards Park

Myrtle Edwards Park, which goes from Bay St to about halfway between W Thomas St and W John St, is by far the most relaxed of these parks.  Instead of SAM's studiously planned plantings, it's got grass, man:

(Speaking of grass, Wikipedia says it hosts Hempfest, too.)

It hasn't allowed its neighbour to the south to intimidate it from hosting art:

(That's the most accessible-from-pavement part of a much larger installation.  It's become clear to me, dear Diary, that in order to meet my usual standards, I'll have to do another kind of catch-up page at the end of this series, to credit all the artists.  It's just that the downtown parks caught me by surprise with so much art - in many cases a park can't be photographed at all without including some of the art.  Ah well.  Anyway, although in this case I actually did look for the artist's name, because I chose this from at least three works in this park just as I've chosen other art I like to show you in North Seattle parks, I'd rather credit them all at once in that catch-up page.)

Unlike the parks to its north and south, Myrtle Edwards Park has several shoreline accesses, with the kind of gritty sand one doesn't want to walk on in sandals.  I regret to inform you, dear Diary, that the most picturesque of these is in fact the one the Seattle Art Museum pretentiously takes credit for, in a sign I didn't photograph:

Myrtle Edwards Park can be exited to the north, to the south, or via a bridge that is entirely without stairs, and whose other end is on 3rd Ave W between W Thomas St and W Harrison St.  A bit of that very long bridge is visible in the top photo above.  Wikipedia confirms what a cornerstone told me, that this bridge opened in 2012.  Hempfest must have been something of a drag to get to before that.  Myrtle Edwards Park wasn't city land before 1968, and was definitely open by 1976, but I don't know when in that span it did open.

(Seattle Art Museum) Olympic Sculpture Park

OK, dear Diary, how shall I describe museums to you?

They're earnestly pretentious:

They're academic, informed and informative:

(And to be fair, there are three more of the first type of sign in the park, and several dozen more of the second.  Museums can get away with their pretensions because they're earnest about them, but mainly because they provide great value of information per minor bit of puffery.)

They're bossy:

There are so many "don't touch" signs scattered around the park, most people I saw were scared to walk on the grass, too.  Oh yes - for all their pomposity about their plantings, SAM used grass as well:

Anyway, as to bossiness.  For some reason SAM thought people in a park would want the kind of seating they might get in a lecture hall:

And then they put into this park, out of 20 sculptures listed in their Map and Guide (PDF), no fewer than four that are more or less furniture suitable for sitting on.  (Mary's Invitation by Ginny Ruffner, Untitled by Roy McMakin, Eye Benches by Louise Bourgeois, and Love & Loss by McMakin.)  Unsurprisingly, I found each of these being touched, more precisely being used as a seat, by people I didn't know, during my visit to this park today.  Basically, this cluelessness about park furniture is why I don't think SAM put up the benches along Alaskan Way Boulevard.

The park does offer several neat and unusual things, of very different kinds.  Triple trash:

On a loftier plane, a small amphitheatre:

And a grove which, like the amphitheatre, appears to be devoid of sculpture.  (In fairness, this grove has the best-preserved of the four signs about areas, the one I showed you above as an example of pretension, dear Diary.)

I went there today with the goal of not photographing any of the works of art.  Turned out I didn't much like most of them (Beverly Pepper's Persephone Unbound was the only one to win immediate assent from me, of the 17 I actually saw), but even before I knew that, I wanted to focus on this park as a park, not as a site for artworks.  And as a park, it has pluses and minuses:  silly furniture, mostly gravel paths, but triple trash, a lot of interesting plants, and a few places which were obviously created for the joy of parks rather than for the joy of art.

Olympic Sculpture Park, which runs from Broad St to Bay St and from, ahem, Western Ave to the waterfront, and opened in 2007, is only partly a waterfront park, although most of those chairs are so placed that people can watch the western sky over the water.  It also has bridges over both the railroad and Elliott Ave, the former bridge incorporating Teresita Fern├índez's Seattle Cloud Cover.  So it has quite a few exits, perhaps its biggest advantage, as a park, over Myrtle Edwards Park and this next one.

(Port of Seattle) Centennial Park

Seattle Center, to come in the next page of this series, at 74 acres, is much larger than Centennial Park, but Seattle Center is by no stretch of the imagination really a park.  So Centennial Park is secure as the largest park (partly) in downtown Seattle, at eleven acres, at least until the plans for Waterfront Park move a great deal further along.  However, all of Olympic Sculpture Park, nine acres, is in downtown Seattle, and not all of Centennial Park is, in the sense that much of it, probably more than half, is actually north of the line of W Mercer St.

Don Sherwood's history file (PDF) says the Port was unenthusiastic about a park getting in the way of its planned and then built grain terminal at pier 86, but the then-Port Commissioners - that group two members of which lost re-election not long ago - liked the idea a lot better.  At any rate, in 1976 the city's Elliott Bay Park was renamed Myrtle Edwards Park (evidence that it existed earlier), and probably not coincidentally, the port's Elliott Bay Park opened.  In 2011 it was renamed Centennial Park in honour of the port's centennial.  Google Maps is simply wrong these days when it claims that Elliott Bay Park still exists somewhere along this waterfront.

Centennial Park is a much less relaxing park than Myrtle Edwards.  It's as if, stuck with the job of building a park, the port's people decided to pull out all the stops. Every twenty feet or so along the Elliott Bay Trail - ok, maybe every hundred feet - there's something new, and the two paths converge enough that both pedestrians and cyclists can approach it.  Also, all sorts of things are named after upper managers of the port in the third quarter or so of the 20th century.  (The park itself is dedicated to the memory of, but never named after, Howard M. Burke, port head 1953-1964.)

As I said, I think more than half the park's area, so more than half of its stuff, is north of the line of W Mercer St.  (Also, that's where the grain terminal, which became the park's focal point, is.)  Its exit to the east is north of there too.  But I think two things worth showing you, dear Diary, are further south.  First, a harbour light.  I first visited these parks at night, twice, but don't remember whether it was lit.

Second, a rose garden.  I liked the topiary-like tree at its north end even in the dark; it took me longer to notice that a few of the plants were still blooming in late November (these photos are from my first daytime visit, yesterday), and I don't know whether my phone's camera actually noticed the flowers itself.

Still, roses in November!  On which hopeful note, dear Diary, I must take your leave for a while.  I hope to write my review of Lezlie Lowe's No Place to Go this week, and then hope to finish this particular series of pages - park appreciations of the downtown parks - over the long weekend.  But we'll see.  Happy days and nights, then, until we meet again.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Parks of Seattle's Downtown, part VA: Northwest (southern group)

Dear Diary,

I decided to split the northwest group of parks in two.  First of all because the parks in each half are linked by different things, and second because these parks are significantly smaller and less appreciable, in this series devoted to park appreciation, than the parks in the second page, so I wanted that second page not to have to include this page's photos along with its own, and thus run up against a Blogspot limit.

This page's parks are linked by being associated with the part of Seattle's waterfront that is seen as a recreational destination by tourists, local people who want to spend money, and so on:  they're near Pike Place Market, the Great Wheel, and many other businesses.  Several are also linked by being located on nearly consecutive piers - wooden constructions out over the water, which, dear Diary, along Seattle's broadly downtownish waterfront, are numbered.  (HistoryLink has a much more detailed account, though not maps like the first site linked.)

There are several barriers between this part of downtown and the rest.  It is, being the waterfront, physically lower than most of downtown, so it's downhill to get there and uphill to leave, just like the street ends throughout Seattle and Seaview Ave, Golden Gardens Park, and so on in North Seattle.  Also, Alaskan Way is a very wide street, along which lots of people drive, and one has to cross it to get from downtown in general to most of these parks.  I think the railroads no longer traverse the parts of their tracks that also lie between most of downtown and the shore, but, well, I've been wrong about railroads before.

But since there's a lot of money involved in offering Seattle's people and tourists a taste of this part of the waterfront, there are also lots of efforts to solve these problems, minimise these barriers.  Starting with the smallest and, therefore, first of the parks in this page.

Pike Street Hillclimb

The Pike Street Hillclimb is, like the Wallingford Steps, a series of stairways designated as a park by the Seattle Department of Transportation.  I'm inclined to agree with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation that SDOT is smoking something with regard to this one; the Pike Street Hillclimb has none of the greenery and none of the art that make the Wallingford Steps (also owned by SDOT) an exceptionally nice way to go up and down, a minor destination in its own right, and worthy of a page in its honour at the parks department website.  (In other words, dear Diary, the Pike Street Hillclimb does not have, nor deserve, such a page.)

It does, on the other hand, bridge all the barriers between upper Pike St and the one block of lower Pike St that ends with an actual traffic light enabling crossing Alaskan Way.  (If one crosses that light, one finds oneself at Pier 59.)  It is, therefore, very popular, in the limited sense that lots of people use it; and since those people are pedestrians, I guess I'm not surprised that SDOT, whose usual concern is with drivers, thinks of it as parkish.  I traversed all of it on the Saturday night of October 30, when Halloween was being celebrated a day early, but since it didn't have any plumbing, had no interest in taking photos.  When I came back on Saturday, November 6 to photograph these parks by day, I'd approached from the south instead, and I had so much trouble photographing the lowest staircase without highlighting a bunch of people that I didn't bother to visit any higher part of it.

Victor Steinbrueck Park

This is the least waterfronty park in this page; it runs for about half a block along the west side of Western Ave, north and south of Virginia St.  I included it here, while excluding some Belltown parks equally near the waterfront further north, partly because Victor Steinbrueck Park has, and is indeed dominated by, views of the water, which those don't and aren't, and partly because it's right next to Pike Place Market, just north of it.  It's nearly as far north as piers 64 and 65 used to be.  It opened in 1970, but wasn't named after Victor Steinbrueck (a leader of the fight to preserve Pike Place Market) until he died in 1985.

This is the only park in this page with which I have a history, and that history is that this park taught me to fear the homeless of Seattle's downtown.  The temporary agency branch from which I got most of my work from 2006 to 2010 was located across the street from it, so when I went there to pick up my paychecks, I often wandered nearby.  There was often someone having what is nowadays delicately called "a mental health crisis" while I was there - not always, but, say, half the time?  There were usually the kinds of crusty old homeless men I've usually avoided ever since, even as recently as a year ago when I was halfway to becoming an old homeless man myself.  There were sometimes disturbingly forward, and visibly mentally ill, homeless women.  It was very much not my scene, even though I'd previously been homeless for a few months of 2003 in Madison, Wisconsin, and was from 2006 to 2012 living in an SRO, as I had previously 1997-1998 and 2004-2006.  (Many people who consider themselves allies of the homeless are horrified by SROs, seeing them as a form of homelessness.  This kind of squeamishness is something I, as a homeless man, could've done without in allies.  Just as the homeless of Victor Steinbrueck Park could probably do without my advocacy.)  I mentioned in my description of Freeway Park that I feared its homeless less than most downtown homeless, and mentioned then that another park was coming where I had the opposite reaction.  This is that park.

So I'm pretty surprised I could put away my fears enough to take three photos to show appreciation of this park that I don't really feel.  (It may help that it was, after all, a decade later, and some of the stuff that attracted the homeless in those years is now gone, so some of the scary people are too.)  Victor Steinbrueck Park is basically a big grassy mound surrounded by stone berms that serve as the benches on which many of the people just described might sit, as also might, of course, people I felt I had more in common with fifteen years ago.  Grass is in short supply in the parks of downtown Seattle - Kobe Terrace, Freeway Park, City Hall Park as was, and we'll get to a few more - so it has that going for it.  And, of course, being a downtown park, it has some art:

Piers 62 and 63

This is basically a big not quite empty wooden plaza right now, having opened fairly recently; it's opposite the end of Pine St.  The parks department web page, referring only to Pier 62 (I think Pier 63 is not yet built, maybe cancelled), calls it a "preview" of "the full Waterfront Park".  I just spent a few minutes clicking through pieces of planned or hoped for waterfront construction, all of which struck me as more than a little parkish, and I have no idea which exact parts will be in the planned Waterfront Park and which won't.  Unfortunately for the planners, Pier 62, which one of those plans says historically used to host concerts and such, and which the parks department page says should do so again, hasn't been able to reach its full swing yet because of the epidemic.

I took several photos at Pier 62, but only one pier-scape, if you will, dear Diary:

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park as was, was one of the largest parks in downtown Seattle.  It was essentially Pier 58, which was apparently huge, and which was at the end of Union St.  For a sense of its full glory, here's the Internet Archive with a 2018 version of its parks department web page.  Apparently, though, it wasn't built in 1974 to last as well as it needed; as a result, it fell apart during 2020, as described in a very helpful Seattle Met story by Annette Maxon.

Now, it's nothing but views, of which I took three, but, well, they weren't ideal view-photography circumstances and you know, dear Diary, that I'm an indifferent photographer at best.  So I'll only subject you to one:

Waterfront Park as it's planned to be should be 20 acres, making it enormously the biggest park in downtown Seattle, but should extend from Pioneer Square all the way to Pier 62, which stretches that size down so much, I don't know what they'll be able to fit into it.  In particular, though, Pier 58 is supposed to come back.

Seattle Aquarium

I was quite surprised to learn that the Seattle Aquarium, which is on Piers 59 and 60, is a parks department property; but so it is.  It's also very expensive, considerably more so than the Woodland Park Zoo.  So while I realise the whole point of this page, as of others in this particular series, is park appreciation, before I even get to the question of restrooms, I had no interest in appreciating this particular park, after I saw one of the signs in this photo:

Yep, "No Public Restrooms", just as if this institution were some two-bit restaurant.

I promise, dear Diary, to be much more appreciative of the parks in the next half of this page, which I should be able to tell you about tomorrow.  Until then, good night and good day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Expected and Unexpected News from the University District

Dear Diary,

Today I got off work early, and although the weather tempted me to go hiking for you, I resisted, because I don't know when I'll next get a chance to go to the University of Washington's libraries.  I had three purposes there - one for you, which I accomplished (I'm now fairly confident that Roanoke Park really hasn't ever had restrooms); one for my writing about Korean dramas, which I accomplished (reading two standard references on Taoism in Korea); and one for my interest in science fiction, which I didn't accomplish (copying a book, my inability to read which is holding up yet another writing project).  C'est la vie.

Anyway, on the way there, I went to see the current status of the land where the beautiful old University Temple, formerly home to many good causes, including the Roots young adult shelter, which has moved, and the Urban Rest Stop's U-District location, piggybacking off of Roots's showers - anyway, the current status of the land where all that had stood.


On my way out of the libraries, it occurred to me that that photo might not be clear enough, so I decided to see if I could figure out where the water fountain used to be, and take a photo from there.  Actually, not only the structure that housed the water fountain, but some of its pipes, are still there (look in the bottom foreground).  I choose to take that as a physical sign that the new building will make room for good causes as well.  Anyway, the photo:

And, of course, dear Diary, you know me well enough to know what I did when I went home.

The Urban Rest Stop now admits that it no longer has a location there.  This change came sometime between May and September of this year:

Unfortunately, the map offered by the City of Seattle's Department of Human Services Homelessness Strategy and Investments Division, ostensibly of restrooms available to homeless and other people during the epidemic, the map I spent much of last winter hiking to check, has somehow not yet figured out that demolished restrooms aren't open:

Today, I seriously have no idea whether my current job will end tomorrow (one very possible consequence of the reason I left early today) or will become permanent.  Any people still working in that division are in somewhat similar situations, and I don't envy them, but I wish they had the grace to leave their current jobs without lying the way they did while those jobs were stable.

After taking the second photo up top, I looked at the University Bookstore for the novel I hadn't been able to copy at Suzzallo.  Being nearly ten years old, it wasn't there, of course, but as I browsed the remainders tables something flew out at me.  It's a translation of a novel from Swedish, and its title is what caught my attention:  How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush.  (It's available, obviously, among the University Bookstore's remainders, but also in three formats from the Seattle Public Library.)  No, dear Diary, there isn't some strange twisted meaning to that title, it's actually a romance whose male lead is homeless:

Wikipedia on the author makes this even stranger:  Turns out she wrote what she knew, because she, an actress of all people, actually did marry a man who was homeless when they met.

I have no idea how long I'll be writing you, dear Diary, nor with how much intensity, but this gives me at least a little hope that someday I might not be hiking alone for you.  But that's how I intend to spend much of this weekend (if not, um, sooner), hiking alone, trying to finish visiting the downtown parks by day and then telling you about it.  Until then, good night and good days.