City seeks architect for park

January 19, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The vision for Cybil-Madeline, Tollë Anderson and Issaquah Creek parks started to take shape in early January as city officials sent out a request for landscape architects to tackle the project.

City officials spent years talking up the wooded, 15.5-acre area where Issaquah Creek meets the East Fork as the “crown jewel” of the municipal parks system. Issaquah voters approved $6.25 million for parks improvements and open space acquisition in November 2006, with money funneled to the confluence area parks. The parks maintenance facility is located near the site, and the city included the facility in the request to architects.

City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill and her team seek a landscape architect to turn the vision into reality. The architect will navigate a thicket filled with development and environmental limits on the land, and match the plan with residents’ wish lists, during the planning process.

Geography and preservation requirements will limit the park to passive recreation, such as picnic areas and walking trails. Officials also envision a play area for children, interpretive elements to explain the cultural and natural history of the area, and viewing platforms near Issaquah Creek, as well as essential items, like parking areas and restrooms. Picking a name for the park complex will be the final step.

McGill and city Parks Planner Margaret Macleod said the final lineup for the parks will be determined after a lengthy, public process. The city and architects will seek public input after officials pick a firm to spearhead the effort.

“The architect will be responsive to the public and we as a city will be responsive to the public,” Macleod said.

McGill said city officials plan to educate residents about the limits placed on the land before asking for public input, “so you’re not saying no, no, no” to residents’ requests.

Julia Pritt donated money to buy the Cybil-Madeline parcel to be used for passive recreation, like trails. The site is named for her granddaughters, Cybil and Madeline.

The city also provided dollars for the land, and officials received a grant to match the donation made by Pritt.

King County Conservation Futures, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, and bond dollars were tapped to buy the other creekside properties.

Salmon spawn up Issaquah Creek and the East Fork, while birds nest nearby. Workers and visitors have spotted bald eagles, osprey, herons, bobcats, deer, coyotes and raccoons in the confluence area.

McGill said people who have visited the parks site — home to wildlife and sensitive salmon habitat — understood the restrictions.

“A lot of people who have walked down there, they get it,” McGill said.

McGill and her team want the architect to analyze the historic Anderson and Ek farmhouses and farm buildings at the parks site, in order to determine how to best preserve the structures. The city maintains the buildings at the parks site.

“I don’t see us taking down those houses,” McGill said. “How can we incorporate these ideas into our park?”

McGill said the Parks & Recreation Department wants the houses preserved and repurposed as community spaces, perhaps for open-air painting or other classes.

Although community leaders suggested the houses as a possible site for the Issaquah History Museums, Museums Director Erica Maniez said the organization lacked the resources to take on additional properties.

Maniez said the organization needs at least 5,000 square feet for collection, storage and exhibition space. The houses, however, did not seem like the best fit. But she said she supports the proposal to fashion the houses for new houses.

“I’m a big fan of adaptive reuse,” Maniez said.

Officials hope to narrow the list of possible architects to two or three by March. Then, city officials will ask the top contenders to produce conceptual master site plans for the parks area. McGill hopes to pick a landscape architect by April, and send the contract to the City Council for approval the next month.

The proposed timeline included in the request to architects aims for construction to begin by March 2011, though the dates could shift.

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