Community Council considers expansion of Baker Park
Wednesday night, July 11, the Whittier Heights Community Council met to discuss a potential expansion for Baker Park.
The expansion would not take place for a while. First, to generate money, an application must be made for the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund through the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. Several parks are in the running for the grant and recipients will not be notified until September of 2013.
The park is located south of 85th St between Mary and 14th Ave. Baker Park is long and narrow, with a meandering path running through dense pockets of trees, shrubs and flowerbeds. The park is .4 acres and is crowned with a colorful Totem Pole made from a monkey-puzzle tree.
Baker Park was first created in 1997, when the Whittier Heights Community Council received a Neighborhood Matching Fund award that matched with money the 2,500 work hours volunteers put into construction. In the application process, the council received help from Groundswell NW, an advocacy and acquisition-planning agency committed to creating more green and open space.
Brad Wakeman, serving as council official for the last 6 years, oversaw Wednesday's meeting. He explained that the owners of the property south of the park notified the city of Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department about a potential plan for the sale.
If purchased, the property would widen the park by .5 acres, causing for a more open space that would provide more accessibility to the residential neighborhood.
According to Wakeman, Chip Nevins, an acquisition planner for the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, asked if Wakeman would gauge interest among community members for the expansion.
Indeed, the attendees at the meeting expressed unanimous enthusiasm for the park expansion. However, other community members were not so excited.
"I have discussed the expansion with other citizens," Wakeman said, "and there are some members of the community that oppose the expansion because of unwanted transients and other traffic the park attracts."
The council discussed remedies for such "traffic" through the park. One solution they came up with would be decreasing contiguous vegetation throughout the park and creating more open conspicuous spaces. Playground equipment and tennis courts were also mentioned as motivation for families and other citizens to use the park and deter loitering.
The cost of the expansion is still a contingency. Citizens of the council are responsible for composing an application for the Opportunity Fund that would facilitate the purchase of the property. They have until Sept. 17 to draft and submit a proposal.
The Opportunity Fund provides $15 million in funding for community initiated park development throughout Seattle.
Currently there are nine projects being proposed in the Ballard area. The Baker Park expansion is asking for the least amount of money, $170,000.
The Parks and Green Spaces Levy is collecting a total of $146 million from 2009 to 2014.
The Baker Park expansion is one project Groundswell NW is considering overseeing. But their support is dependent on whether community council members and citizens have enough interest to draft the grant application.
Wakeman said he is planning to hold another meeting next week to determine if there are members of the community willing to write the proposal. Citizens interested in volunteering their time and intellect for drafting the grant proposal should contact Wakeman at brad@LakeRE.com.