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Off-leash area, development options dominate Lower Kinnear Park town hall discussion

February 26th, 2010 by Nick Feldman

(Editor’s Note: Nick Feldman is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

On Thursday night, nearly 60 landscape architects, parks department officials and Queen Anne residents convened at the Bayview Retirement Community to give feedback on the potential options for the rejuvenation of Lower Kinnear Park. The second of three meetings followed a gathering of 40 people on Jan. 19 in which neighbors voiced their concerns to community planning group FOLKpark and architecture firm Hough Beck and Baird.

Using large maps with overlays of the proposed changes, Dean Koonts and his team of architects took turns explaining the three “preliminary drafts” they created based on input from community members at the previous meeting and from the online survey, to which there were 88 responses.

Of the 59 attendees, 27 chose to discuss the development of an off-leash area (OLA) for dogs as the meeting split into discussion groups. After an hour of dialogue, the group relayed their suggested area size (5,300 sq. feet) and their desire to integrate it into the park’s landscape.

“It would be a great asset to the neighborhood to have an off leash park considering how far away every other off leash area is,” Brad Weinberg wrote on FOLKpark’s Facebook page. “To have a designated area for off leash play would open up the rest of the park for those people who aren’t dog owners [and] would limit people from using the rest of the park as an off leash area.”

While there are 11 OLAs in Seattle, none exist in the Queen Anne neighborhood, and in 2006 the Park Department Superintendent designated Lower Kinnear Park as the best site for that purpose. However, according to Parks and Green Spaces Levy manager Rick Nishi, the allocated funding source doesn’t allow for off-leash projects until later years.

The three large draft plans were fundamentally different, but the two major components that each concept shared were increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a reestablished linkage to the waterfront via the “North Trail Link,” (.pdf) one of the ideas from the previous meeting that Koonts said “came through loud and clear.”

Plan A” (.pdf) primarily focused on the northeast slope, re-engineering the hillside and easing the grade to make it more easy to navigate. While the cost of that effort was a concern for many of the community members in attendance, there was a general consensus in support of the plan’s expanded plaza on Mercer Street. Koonts also mentioned that this option best fits a designated OLA.

The most notable feature of “Plan B” (.pdf) was its elevated trail and boardwalk, as well as refurbished and redesigned tennis courts—ideas that drew mixed responses from community members based more on cost effectiveness than the design itself.

Focusing more directly on safety and sustainability, “Plan C” (.pdf) featured popular ideas such as rain gardens and other stormwater solutions as well as less popular ones such as a connecting set of hill-climb stairs near West Mercer Place.

HBB now plans to adjust their drafts in order to create an action plan and cost estimate, taking into account the feedback from the most recent discussion. With that plan, FOLKpark plans to apply to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund in early April seeking an amount likely near $700,000. They then plan to hold the third and final community meeting on April 8 at 7 p.m., also at the Bayview, to establish a community consensus on the preferred plan.

FOLKpark initiated a rejuvenation of the five-acre urban forest after winning a $15,000 grant from the city’s Department of Neighborhoods last year. They chose HBB based on the firm’s history with sustainable green design and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED).

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