Seattle Parks pool operator assists in Oso mudslide recovery effort

Rainier Beach pool operator Sue Bonney and her dog Luau at the site of the Oso mudslide.


The mud was up to her neck. It was caked into her paws. Even when she was teetering on logs, cold and wet, she was determined to signal to her owner that she’d found someone.

For 11 days, Luau, a 6-year-old, yellow Labrador and certified search dog, led owner Sue Bonney through debris at the site of the Oso mudslide.

Bonney is the pool operator at Rainier Beach Pool. From 1998 to 2007 she volunteered with King County Search and Rescue, and in 2007 she began volunteering with Northwest Disaster Search Dogs in Pierce County.

Luau was given to Bonney when she failed to become a guide dog due to a soft trachea (her neck couldn’t support a specialized guide-dog collar). Bonney and Luau spent two years completing rigorous trainings to become FEMA-certified to assist in disaster recovery efforts.

Just three days after the Oso slide, Bonney and Luau were deployed. Search and rescue dogs were an invaluable resource at the site because of their sense of smell. Without the dogs to lead the way it would have been difficult to determine where to start looking.

Bonney and Luau worked 10-hour days. Bonney said it was the most difficult work she’s ever done.

“I learned a lot about myself and about how to read my dog,” Bonney said.

Bonney ran after Luau through mud and wreckage. She saw twisted cars and houses carried miles from their neighborhoods. They had to avoid the busy excavation crews. When Luau would signal that she’d found something, Bonney would mark the spot for excavation crews and continue on. On her third day at the slide, Bonney was told that Luau had been 100 percent accurate in her findings.

Sue Bonney and Luau pose in front of the old Rainier Beach Pool building where they used to train.

“The families of the missing would just watch us,” Bonney said. “They had this look in their eyes. They were so hopeful that we were going to find their loved ones. When the dogs would signal that they’d found a body, we’d have to be very careful about what we said. We were walking through these families’ lives. We were walking through their toys, their records and their Christmas ornaments.”

Bonney tried to stay in a working mindset to avoid getting overly emotional, but said it was unavoidable. She was searching with three young men on the hazmat team when Luau signaled. When the excavation crew began digging, the men recognized siding from their missing father’s mobile home and his motorcycle.

“That was my moment on the mountain,” Bonney said. “I couldn’t handle it. I had to move on.”

Bonney returned from Oso on Saturday, April 5, but may be deployed for a second rotation.

Bonney joined Seattle Parks and Recreation in 1989. She has served as a lifeguard, wading pool supervisor and is currently a pool operator.


Seattle Parks and Recreation volunteered a tree crew and a heavy equipment crew to assist in the recovery effort along with tools and vehicles. As of April 16, they had not been called to deploy.

Summer buskers help safeguard downtown parks

Musicians Tristan Kline, left, and Zarni De Wet will be part of the 2014 Busker Program for Seattle Parks and Recreation.


When people think about superhero crime-fighting tools, they envision Superman’s cape, Batman’s gadgets or Spiderman’s web. Here at Seattle Parks and Recreation, we add a few more items to the list: accordions, pianos, tightropes and guitars.

Each spring Seattle Parks auditions and hires a variety of artists to perform in downtown parks in order to make the atmosphere livelier, more welcoming and, most importantly, safer. The artists are paid $50 a day to play two-hour sets in their assigned park and tipping is welcome.

The busker program began in 2007, dreamed up by Adrienne Caver-Hall, the current recreation program coordinator for Center City Parks.

Musician and current park concierge Philip Craft busked during the program’s first year in Hing Hay Park and saw its positive effects firsthand. Craft said when he started, Hing Hay was grim and uninviting, but that changed. He was playing his guitar in the park and women from the community center came over and put apples and oranges in his case, thanking him for being there. Craft said the women had felt trapped in their apartments because the park was frequently occupied by drug dealers and homeless people, but his presence seemed to invite a different crowd.

“Adrienne Caver-Hall deserves a major shoutout for creating and developing what has become a proactive, talent-filled, community-based, safety-building activation of the downtown parks,” Craft said.

In addition to making downtown parks more family friendly, the busker program also promotes individuals’ art. Busking provides instant feedback and a venue to try new things.

“For us to be able to celebrate their artistry and to help them make ends meet is really great,” Caver-Hall said.

This year, Seattle Parks has a roster of 27 buskers who will perform at Hing Hay Park, Westlake Park, Occidental Square, Freeway Park and other downtown parks. Nineteen buskers are returning from previous years, and eight were selected through open auditions at Belltown Community Center.

The buskers will start performing in mid-May, weather permitting. Beginning this year, park concierges will also conduct mid-afternoon counts to see if the number of park visitors is increasing.

“The performers remind people of our common humanity and create a soothing vibe in the park,” said James Whetzel, a former Seattle Parks busker who helped audition this year’s new performers. “It’s nice to have our parks back.”

For more information about the busker program, please click HERE.

Seattle Parks accepting applications for teen summer programs

Seattle Parks and Recreation is accepting applications for its 2014 youth summer programs such as Summer of Service, Student Teen Employment Preparation and Youth Engaged in Service.

Summer of Service (SOS) is a summer program for youth entering seventh, eighth or ninth grades. SOS helps youth identify needs and their community and make a difference while gaining leadership and work skills. Upon program completion, youth receive a $150 stipend.

Student Teen Employment Preparation (STEP) is open to teens ages 14-19.  STEP has teams of youth focusing on community-based projects addressing a need and incorporates job readiness and life skills activities.  Work takes place in various parks and facilities throughout Seattle.  The stipend is $599.

The Youth Engaged in Service (YES) Program is a year-round volunteer program for Seattle-based youth between the ages of 13 and 18. In the summer, participants will volunteer for six weeks from early July to mid-August for a total of 120 hours in a Seattle Parks and Recreation program or facility or community-based organization.  Sixty hours of the required 120 may be used towards the Seattle public high school service learning graduation requirement with proper pre-approval from the school. As recognition for their efforts, YES volunteers can receive a $150 stipend for the remaining 60 hours at the conclusion of the program. YES volunteers must complete all 120 hours to be eligible for the stipend.

All applications for the above programs are due Wednesday, May 14, 2014, but early submission is encouraged. For more information about the summer programs and to download applications, please click HERE.

Mentor application for YES program- The YES program is looking for mentors who are able to supervise, educate and support YES participants in a professional work environment from early July to mid-August.  Sites provide about 20 hours/week of work.  Applications are due Wednesday, May 28. To download the application, click the following link: 2014 YES mentor application

Celebrate the Kinnear Park renovation

Live music, games and a scavenger hunt will greet the public at a celebration Saturday, April 26, to mark the completion of the first part of a major park improvement project in Lower Kinnear Park in Queen Anne.

The ribbon cutting and community event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the park at 601 W. Roy St. on the southwest edge of Queen Anne. The celebration is sponsored by Seattle Parks and Recreation and Friends of Lower Kinnear Park (FOLKpark).

Activities reflecting the nature of the restored urban forest will include a talk on native birds and a hike on a restored trail. Guided walks will afford a look at native specimens like a copper beech tree, named a City of Seattle Tree of Significance because of its environmental contributions. (This tree, saved during the renovation, intercepts more than 3,000 gallons of stormwater runoff each year, officials say.)

“Tennis fun” will be offered on a newly refurbished tennis/pickle ball court. Dog owners and their pets will enjoy a tour of a renovated off-leash dog area at the west end of the park at 904 Elliott Ave. W.

One of five madrone forests in Seattle, the city-landmarked Kinnear Park is a 10-acre, sustainable forest retreat in a dense urban environment. FOLKpark helped raise nearly $1 million for improvements including widened pathways, removal of many invasive plants and expanded views into the interior of the park. HBB Landscape Architecture designed the park renewal. Funding came from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund, Department of Neighborhood Matching Fund, contributions from individual and business supporters and a variety of fundraising efforts.

George and Angie Kinnear, early land owners on Queen Anne hill, donated land for Kinnear Park to the City in 1887.Today, the restored Lower Kinnear Park connects the upper slopes of Queen Anne hill to Elliott Bay via the Amgen Helix Bridge.

FOLKpark encourages attendees at the April 26 event to bring non-perishable food items to benefit the Queen Anne Food Bank. FOLKpark and Seattle Parks and Recreation thank Metropolitan Market, HBB Landscape Architecture, and Queen Anne Historical Society for their support and sponsorship of the event.