Parks in the Heart of Nature

Discovery Park’s South Beach

Seattle’s a great place to be a city dweller, where you have the resources of a thriving metropolis while surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Sometimes, though, you need a break from the urban crush. While many of our parks provide a place to clear your mind, get a little exercise, and breathe in the fresh air, some are more tranquil than others. Here are a few of the gems in Seattle’s Parks and Recreation system that help you get away from it all:

Discovery Park

The largest of all Seattle parks, Discovery Park is near-wilderness within City limits. Its secluded 534 acres of protected tidal beaches, dramatic sea cliffs, sweeping meadows, forests, and sand dunes can be explored via 9 miles of dirt trails and paved paths. There’s plenty of solitude even on the busiest days. Evidence of Fort Lawton, the Army post established in 1898, remains in the form of mothballed outbuildings and renovated officers’ homes, adding a ghostly quiet to this historic and spectacular setting.  Visit in the early morning to beat the crowds, or take a lesser used trail loop.

Frink Park

It’s hard to believe that a busy neighborhood is just outside the thickly forested Frink Park. An Olmstead legacy in the Leschi area, the 17-acre hillside ravine is a place to enjoy the special quiet of the woods, with benches, a stream, and a trail that meanders under and across the winding road of South Frink Place. Extend your walk at the bottom of the hill by visiting Leschi Park, right across Lake Washington Boulevard.

Schmitz Preserve Park

Even as far back as 1908, locals saw how fast our magnificent forests were disappearing. Thank immigrant and realtor Ferdinand Schmitz, who had the foresight to give his land to the City before more trees were lost to logging. Walk through Schmitz Park’s 53 acres of old growth forest knowing that it has remained fairly unchanged since the early 1900s. Recharge amid the silence of huge fir, cedar, hemlock and maple trees, along with a pretty stream and plentiful wildlife spotting opportunities.


Seward Park outer trail

Seward Park

Speaking of old forest, Seward Park is home to the largest stand of old growth in Seattle: a 120-acre section of the Bailey Peninsula, on which this nearly 300-acre park sits. These woods are one reason to criss-cross Seward’s interior trail system; others are abundant wildlife and enough elbow room to feel like you’re in the Cascades. And yet the watery sounds and scents of Lake Washington are never far, a lovely combination. Bonus: check out the old fish hatchery from the 1930s, and the bridge and rest room buildings designed by the Olmstead Brothers in the early 1900s.


Carkeek Park wetlands trail

Carkeek Park

Meadows and a playground/picnic area with stunning views draw the most visitors to Carkeek Park. But the majority of this 220-acre jewel is all forest. Miles of trails with varying challenge levels are kept in good shape thanks to hard working volunteers. The splashing of pretty Pipers Creek accompanies one trail that meanders through wetlands out to the beach; in autumn look for returning salmon as they swim upstream.  Be sure to see the fruit trees at the restored Pipers Orchard, a remnant of park history from the late 1800s.

No doubt one of your favorite faraway-feeling green spaces in Seattle is not on this list. Interlaken Park on Capitol Hill? The Washington Park Arboretum’s Foster Island trail? A hidden corner of Ravenna Park? When you need to recharge in the midst of our bustling, growing city, these Seattle parks echo the call of the wild.

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Walk Seattle’s Waterfront, Park to Park

Explore downtown Seattle’s waterfront the “parks way!” Get to know this part of the city by making your way from one park to another, with stops for rest, refreshments and fun. You’ll be rewarded with fabulous views, historical hot spots, and a maxed-out step counter to boot!

Starting at the northwest end:

Myrtle Edwards Park offers a fantastic panorama of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Elliott Bay. Lovely bike and pedestrian paths meander for 1.25 miles, connecting at the northwest end to the Port of Seattle’s Centennial Park (home of the grain elevator) and bike paths to Magnolia. Access is via the pedestrian bridge where 3rd Ave W. crosses Elliott Avenue W., or where Alaskan Way and Broad Street meet at Pier 70.

Emerge from Myrtle Edwards at Pier 70 and go a half-block up the hill to the Olympic Sculpture Park. A former nine-acre industrial site, it became a vibrant green space for art in 2007, and is owned and maintained by the Seattle Art Museum. Experience a variety of sculptures in an outdoor setting while enjoying those gorgeous views! (Admission is free.)

Next, grab a drink or snack while moseying along the waterfront, taking in cruise ships, hotels and condos until you see the hillside stairs to Pike Place Market. Ascend, and at the north end of the Market you’ll encounter Victor Steinbrueck Park, bustling with neighborhood residents, tourists, and local workers. The park is named after a Seattle architect who was instrumental in preserving the historic Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square districts. Improvements to the park are slated for 2018-19, thanks to funding from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy.

No doubt you’ll want to eat at one (or three) of the market stalls, or explore the vendors at Pike Place Market. To tackle the next link in the park chain, head back down the stairs you climbed, cross the street, and find:

Waterfront Park, accessible next to the Seattle Aquarium. Its primarily concrete features include a large bronze waterfall sculpture (fun to snap selfies with on a warm day), and seating areas that lead to viewing platforms of the surrounding sights. Parts of the park may be affected by nearby construction while the Seattle waterfront transforms into a new urban vision.

One more destination! Continue along the salty edge of Elliott Bay, and just after the ferry terminal, turn left on S. Washington Street. In one block, Occidental Square dominates the historic Pioneer Square district. It’s a shady spot to enjoy fare from nearby cafés and food trucks, play a game of bocce ball or ping pong, and browse small shops and galleries. Part of “Seattle’s first neighborhood,” the Park is bordered on one side by the Grand Central Building, a former office building converted to a popular hotel during the 1897 Gold Rush. The open space of Occidental Square was developed in 1971, during the general renovation of the Pioneer Square area.

Take in one park or spend a day exploring the length of Seattle’s waterfront. Either way, views abound and you will leave in awe of the beauty of our parks and our great city. Enjoy!

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National Water Safety Month: Employee Spotlight

For city recreation to be fun, a few elements are usually in place: an enjoyable activity, a pleasant facility, and adequate equipment. An often overlooked part of the picture, however, are the people who help things run smoothly.  Whether it’s the person who handles your class registration, the maintenance crew, or staff who help get your game on, many hands are responsible for making the Seattle Parks and Recreation experience a good one.

At Southwest Pool, Senior Lifeguard Anthony “BC” Ettel is an employee whose positive efforts make a strong impression on colleagues and members of the public. Whether mentoring younger staff or explaining programs to potential students, what makes Anthony stand out is his approach to his job. He not only gives his time and attention with patience and a sincere desire to be useful, but works hard to connect with everyone from the youngest swimmers in the parent and tot class to the regular senior water exercisers. Anthony is one of the most requested swim instructors and his strong relationships with pool patrons have increased the sense of community at Southwest Pool.  He also makes special efforts for teens by teaching lifeguard classes to help them become certified, and assists many of them in getting hired as City lifeguards.

At SPR, lifeguards wear multiple hats: ensuring that swimmers stay safe, teaching lessons and classes, and coordinating with other staff members. To colleagues Anthony is a terrific trainer and helper, keeping them upbeat and informed. During an out of class assignment as Assistant Aquatics Coordinator, he cheerfully took on duties outside of that job description, made sure staff took care of themselves, and kept a pot of coffee on for his crew at all times.

Soon, Anthony will step into a new out of class opportunity as Assistant Aquatics Coordinator at Medgar Evers Pool. There’s no doubt his new patrons and colleagues will notice his positive presence and professionalism. Best of luck, Anthony, in your new adventure!

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