Architect offers bold plan for creekside parks
November 30, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Initial proposal emphasizes ecology and history at downtown site
Ideas abound for the downtown parks along Issaquah Creek: boulders for climbing, meandering paths, community gardens, historic farmhouses repurposed as meeting spaces and — the centerpiece — a horseshoe-shaped pedestrian bridge across the creek at the main stem and the East Fork.
The ambitious plan aims to transform the oft-overlooked, 15.5-acre site near Darigold into a destination. Seattle landscape architect Guy Michaelsen said the intent is to create a park site “unique to Issaquah and a reflection of Issaquah.”
The site — often referred to as the “crown jewel” in the municipal parks system — encompasses Tollë Anderson, Cybil-Madeline and Issaquah Creek parks. The effort is the largest parks project since the city built Squak Valley Park South in 2008 and the most ambitious plan since the city laid the groundwork for Tibbetts Valley Park more than 20 years ago.
Construction at the downtown site could start in 2012 at the earliest. City parks leaders and landscape architects unveiled the draft at a Pickering Barn open house Nov. 18.
“My hope is certainly that you can see your fingerprints on it, because the public has had a great deal of input,” Michaelsen said.
The early plan includes to touches meant to evoke the agrarian history of the site. In addition to using the Anderson and Ek farmhouses as meeting spaces, a community garden could be added along Rainier Avenue North.
The dilapidated Anderson barn could be razed and replaced by a modern structure built to resemble the original farm building, à la Pickering Barn. The city reconstructed Pickering Barn and turned the building into a community center in the 1990s.
The early parks design also includes manmade knolls and serpentine stone structures throughout the site. The architects also eschewed stock playground equipment — at the request of residents — and instead suggested boulders, logs and other features for play.
The proposal emphasizes the connection between parkgoers and creekside ecology.
“What we’re trying to include in that is, protecting the best of what exists,” landscape architect Peter Hummel said. “There are a lot of areas along the creek that’s great fish and wildlife habitat, and our goal is to protect that.”
Back to nature
Wetlands on the site could be used to filter storm water. Crews could also alter the floodplain to allow the creek to meander.
“What we’re really trying to do here is kind of peel back the earth that’s been placed over that confluence — and essentially been a barrier — and make it wider, more visible and more useful,” Hummel said.
The final open house attracted about 30 city leaders and residents. The planning process started in August and included a session at Tibbetts Creek Manor. The initial meeting — a picnic at the parks site — hosted about 130 people.
City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said input from residents is key to the early construction.
The process is far from complete. Multiple city boards and the City Council must endorse the plan before ground can be broken. The preliminary plan heads to the Park Board for discussion in January.
City Senior Planner Christopher Wright said the permitting process and other planning details could take a year to complete. Then, a veritable alphabet soup of regulatory agencies must approve plans related to construction near Issaquah Creek.
The city plans to spend up to $1.6 million to complete the plan and build the initial phase, though the details remain undefined.
Issaquah voters approved dollars to transform the parks in a 2006 bond. City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod intends to seek grant dollars to stretch the $1.6 million.
The city started acquiring land for the parks almost 20 years ago. The park bond provided additional dollars to turn the former farms into public spaces.
The site also includes the city maintenance and facilities shop. Though the shop is included in the master site plan, redevelopment is years or decades distant, because the city must build another facility for the shop before the land can be redeveloped.
In May, the city selected The Berger Partnership to spearhead the design, or master site plan, for the parks. The firm also designed the Cal Anderson and Warren G. Magnuson parks in Seattle.
The architects earned praise from city planners for the monthslong outreach effort.
“The consultants have done a good job of taking big concepts and breaking them down to an understandable level,” Wright said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.