South Lake Union: More PARK less parKING

Over the past few years, I’ve take more than a few shots at the South Lake Union neighborhood. There’s the confusing infrastructure, the blade of death, and the dreaded old train tracks.

But there’s also one hell of an awesome park.

Anne and I have had many (many!) bike dates at the South Lake Union Park and found it, almost without exception, PERFECT! (there was the one time where our family was accosted by a crazy kid who said he was going beat us up or have us arrested if we didn’t feed him some of our water and baguette, but we won’t go into that here).

Typically, our dates would go like this: Anne would drop the kids at the neighbors for our weekly babysitting swap and hop on her bike (cute dress optional, but appreciated). I’d scram from work, hit Whole Foods for bread, cheese, and covert bottle of wine, and pedal my legs off in so I could grab a nice spot on the water for sunset. We’d eat our dinner, drink our wine, and watch the ducks.

The thing is, though, we didn’t have to hurry for those good spots. The park (in Phase 1, half-completed dress), was almost always empty. Nor did we have to be sneaky. No one cared about our Pinot Grigio. In fact, most Friday evenings it was us, Kennore Air, and a couple Argosy boats picking up some last minute partiers.


So part of me worries the news of the the park being DONE might change things.  I mean, it’s more than tripled (quadrupled?) in size fr9m phase 1 (up to 12 acres), complete with lawn, benches, and a to-die-for view. You Gallophiles can even sail model boats like you dreamed of in the Jardin du Luxenbourg.


I’m not one to generally take a lot of stock in the stories sold by PR firms, but because I’m rather familiar with how perfect the park was before, even with construction fences, giant piles of earth, and lots of orange cones, I’m thinking it’s probably even more awesomer (if that’s possible) than ever.

Normally I’m also a bit protective. It’s not that I don’t want to share a good thing with my fellow man. It’s that, well, I don’t really want to fight with a bunch of newbies so I can have my place to swill my mostly cool white wine on the dock.

Ah, but that’s the beauty of the South Lake Union Park — they super-sized the park, yet sliced in half (just an eyeball guess, don’t go counting spaces; it’s may be closer to 1/4) the parking! From an urban, density-is-good cyclist’s perspective, this is park management genius. More park, less parking! More lawn, less auto-centric riff-raff.

And that’s how it should be. Park land should be about people, not places to store cars. If you live in the neighborhood you can walk. Live outside the neighborhood? Hop on your bike. Live way outside? Lucky for you the park is a key stop on the SLUT line.

What this means is that anyone who wants to visit _my_ park and not circle the lot looking for parking still has pretty good odds that Metro, Pierce, Snohomish, and/or Sound Transit can get them there, and not ruin the actual park with a bunch of stinky cars.

Alrighty, enough blah-blah-blah. The big opening event is 7am-7pm Saturday Sept. 25th. Get yourself on down there. There’s gonna be marching bands, yoga, dancing, martial arts demonstrations, music, food (I heard free clam chowder!) opera, hula hoop, Zumba, bike tune ups, dragon boats, paddle boards, Center for Wooden Boats tours, and and on and and on…

We’ve got a handful of soccer games and Girl Scout campout in the mix for the weekend, but we still wouldn’t miss it. Heck, we may even throw the fishin’ poles on the bikes, just because we can.

Hope to see you there (well, everyone but the kid who wanted to beat us up). And if you can’t make it Saturday, don’t worry. The park will still be there Sunday, and forever after that.


PS – I will shed a small tear for what this park could have been, had (typically) short-sighted Seattle voters been wise enough to approve the original 61 acre Commons plan. But since I didn’t post that one in 1995, I’ll leave it at that and be glad we at least have this awesome park.

3 responses to “South Lake Union: More PARK less parKING

  1. A park was created out of a quarry and landfill near my house. The park is well designed and has a lot of different landscape features.

    Now, after a year of it being open, someone (I think the City) installed 50 diagonal parking spaces by eating into the parkway.

    Access to the park is not an issue. There are 1,000 homes within half a mile. There’re bike lanes and a bus stop. There is a signalized intersection that makes it safer for people to cross the street to the park. Lastly, several (40?) unused parallel parking spaces line three sides of the park (well, some was taken away to make the diagonal parking).

    So why was parking added?

    This will only serve to encourage more driving to the park. Oh, the park is Park 529 (Stearns Quarry) in Bridgeport, Chicago, Illinois.

  2. so how was it? did they get rid of the blade of death?

  3. Hi Marge – it was great! The girls were camping so it was just me and the boy. He rode part way down, and then I shuttled his bike along Eastlake. Big traffic back up (I’m actually not sure if it was for the park opening or something at Seattle Center), but that didn’t bother us.

    All in all, it was a good time.

    We missed out on the salmon bake, but did have some Fry Bread, pushed around some toy boats, and toured the big Foss tugboat. The space is really nice and it’s going to be even better when there aren’t so many people milling around all confused and sunstruck. I think we’ll come back next month in the rain and skip some rocks or do some fishing.

    oh, and I’m afraid I forgot to check on the Blade of Death (we turned in the park before the streetcar stop), but I’m going to assume it is until I see otherwise .

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