Michael Harthorne
Residents inspect plans for the east Ballard planter project and the 14th Avenue Visioning Project Dec. 16 at Nervous Nellie's. CLICK IMAGE TO SEE SAMPLE PLANS.

East Ballard using planters to build community

Almost two dozen neighbors stopped by the East Ballard Community Association's planter project kickoff event Dec. 16 at Nervous Nellie's to learn about the project, eat the free food and share their optimism about the future of 14th Avenue Northwest.

The community association received a $14,000 matching fund grant and 30 planters from the city earlier this year. The planters will be installed at the median ends along 14th Avenue from Northwest 59th Street to Northwest 63rd Street.

Dawn Hemminger, president of the community association, said the planters will increase visibility and safety for pedestrians and vehicles on the street as well as beautify it with instant green.

But, those are only the most superficial goals of the project, Hemminger said.

"This project is more than just planters," she said. "It's about building community."

More than 44 individuals and businesses have pledged time, money, goods and services to the project.

Well-known Ballard staples, such as Swanson's Nursery, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel and Ballard Market, have gotten involved.

St. Alphonsus Elementary School students will contribute art projects to the planters, and the Ballard High School horticulture program will be involved as well.

The planters will be planted and maintained by community volunteers, Hemminger said.

Nancy Weinstein, an east Ballard resident, said it is great to see people come together as a community to better the neighborhood.

It doesn't happen much anymore, and it improves the quality of life for everyone, she said.

The majority of the work on the planter project will happen in early spring, said Shannon Dunn, a member of the East Ballard Community Association.

She said the community association is "unashamedly" recruiting more volunteers for the project.

Hemminger said they specifically need an artist to coordinate with St. Alphonsus, a volunteer coordinator and an online social networking guru.

The planters are only an intermediate step for the 14th Avenue Visioning Project, she said.

"This is part of a vision that is going forward," Dunn said. " These planters can be moved and integrated into the design that will eventually be a park boulevard."

The 14th Avenue Visioning Project is a long-term attempt to change the character of the street by removing parking from the middle of the road, adding bicycle lanes removed from traffic and creating green space as a type of linear park.

Stephanie Shelton, a neighbor who worked on the matching fund grant for the planter project, said the project is an important step in obtaining the goals of the 14th Avenue Visioning Project.

She said people will see the planters being installed and the street being improved, and they will want to get involved themselves. It will create momentum for the final goal, she said.

Hemminger said the community association is putting together a proposal to take advantage of city money available now through the Parks and Bridging the Gap levies to create a small-scale, probably two-block, demonstration of the 14th Avenue park boulevard.

The full vision for 14th Avenue will take much more time, effort and money from both the city and the residents of east Ballard. Dunn summed up why she is willing to see it through.

"I am in Ballard because this is where I want to create a hometown for myself, something I never had while growing up" she said. "I want to spend time sharing my home with people who want to do the same thing."

Contact Dawn Hemminger at eastballard@gmail.com to find out how to volunteer for the project.

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