WELCOME TO BERGEN PLACE. Visitors to Bergen Place will be greeted by this new sign. A new flagpole with the five Nordic flags will be installed in April.Photo by Dean Wong

Stone honors King at Bergen Place

Ballard's Bergen Place has a new rune stone that honors His Majesty King Olav V of Norway and gives the park signage to identify it to new visitors.

A plaque that was once mounted in the park's kiosk has been added to the rune stone along with designs by artist Jay Haavik.

The park has a history of attracting Norwegian royalty. King Olav V dedicated the park in 1975 and his son, King Harald came to Ballard in 1985 to dedicate the mural on the park's south wall.

Haavik worked with Marenakos Rock Center and created Viking era designs on the rune stone to complement the original plaque. Symbols representing the Bergen and Seattle sister city relationship and the bow of a Viking ship are included in the design.

Haavik had previously designed the Leif Erikson plaza at Shilshole Marina and that work inspired him on this project.

"It was fun to do. I used some of the ideas and creative energy from that," said Haavik.

The rune stone was funded by a $5,000 grant from the city of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The budget includes new 25-foot flagpoles representing each Nordic country that will in installed in April.

Before the park was redesigned in 2004 at a cost of $27,600, the name of the park was on a blue awning over the stage. The awning and a distinctive flag pole were removed.

The project adds a more authentic Scandinavian look to the park said Haavik. He said the park had lost its Scandinavian appeal and everyone likes the new rune stone.

Artist Jennifer Dixon was commissioned to create a series of five sculptures she called the "Witness Trees," in the park. Dixon chose abstract sculptures to honor the history of Ballard.

Some in the Scandinavian community felt the artwork did not represent their culture or history.

"There had been concern it had lost some of its Scandinavian flavor. A lot of people did not know the name of the park," said Beth Miller, executive director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.

In 2005, another Department of Neighborhood grant paid for five granite stones etched with the names of each Nordic country in the park. Artist James Cole designed the granite stones.

The projects were initiated by "Friends of Bergen Place." The group was started to clean up the park, add new features and other improvements.

Dean Wong may be contacted at deanw@robinsonnews.com

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