by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 18 October 2016
On Monday, October 24th, at 6p, Fremonsters – and all park users – are invited (and encouraged) to come to the final meeting for input on design of an expanded park being built near the center of the Center of the Universe.
Seattle Parks & Recreation, with funds from the Seattle Park District, will finally expand A.B. Ernst Park – the largely concrete park west of (and adjacent to) the Fremont Branch Library – onto a third of an acre acquired to the west. Seattle Park’s Capital Projects Planner Karimeh Cooper Edwards has hosted three public input sessions this year, starting June 26th at the Fremont Sunday Market, and she now has a schematic design, by Site Workshop, to present for feedback.
The Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC) welcomes everyone to come to Doric Lodge #92, for an Open House review of the A.B. Ernst Park expansion plan and schematic, before a short presentation at 7p at the start of the monthly FNC meeting. The FNC works on behalf of residents, in this instance giving them a place to voice their opinions. In order to get a park that we will use, and one that will benefit our community, Seattle Parks needs to hear from all of us on this plan.
While Seattle Parks held public input meetings in June and July, it wasn’t until the August 16th meeting at the Fremont Library that attendees learned about the expectation, by the City, that the entire park would have A.D.A. compliant and accessible ramps, connecting N 35th St to the alley – replacing the original ramps and the staircase.
When originally built, a primary purpose of the park, for the neighborhood, was the creation of wheelchair access to the basement meeting room of the library. Efforts to install an elevator in the historic structure had been stymied by high costs and the overly intrusive structural changes it would require. The meeting room, in order to meet library policy and inclination, must be accessible to all. Most of the community agreed to a ramp through the park to the meeting room as a priority. The inclusion, in the park, of a staircase to the alley, only increased the park’s usefulness. The property had long been used (and called ‘Slippery Slope’) as an illegal cut-through by those willing to scale the too often-muddy hill.
According to Vinita Sidhu, of Site Workshop, the park property straddles between two grades. She reported, in July, that the alley stands at 47’ and N 35th at 72½’, with the meeting room at 65’. Seattle Parks wants to build a ramp through the entire property, connecting the three levels. The original ramp, according to Edwards, in August, would have to be replaced regardless since it no longer complies with A.D.A. standards. The ramp grade is steeper than current standards, and the permeable surface has been shown to impede some access.
One attendee in August observed, ‘So much pavement!’ about the drawings then presented. Already Ernst Park gets described as ‘the concrete park.’ The current ramp wraps around a small amphitheater, with cold concrete seating, ‘fenced’ by an industrial-looking artwork by Jenny Heishman, called ‘The Water Mover.’ The three draft designs presented in August included a large amount of impermeable switchback ramps, some with the amphitheater and some without, and two with an impermeable sports court in the southwest corner.
With construction behind the library of a five-story office building that includes a public (and A.D.A. compliant) mews that gives pedestrians access from N 34th to the alley, it is wise to expect more people to flow through Ernst Park into the future.
The expansion of Ernst Park provides a grand opportunity for the Fremont community. The park stands half-a-block from The Fremont Guidepost, the perceived center of the neighborhood. As Sidhu observed, “It’s right in the heart of the neighborhood.” What is more, it stands next door to our library, with its regular schedule of free, public events including kids’ story times, poetry readings, and the monthly ‘Unplug & Play.’
At all three meetings people voiced hopes for more amenities. Ernst has already hosted weddings and concerts, and served as a popular tour stop. Attendees asked for more art, in addition to ‘Water Mover’, along with a community garden, a skate board area, and comfortable seating.
In August, a mother thanked Parks staffers for “the opportunity to weigh-in,” and then gave the floor to her young son who pleaded for more playground area. That request came up a few times – places for play, including the possibility of swings and a slide (a ‘slippery slope’?) for use by children and adults.
However, neighbors along with a representative from Seattle Public Library, observed at the July stakeholders’ meeting that Ernst Park currently attracts some crime and a lot of trash – from passerby as well as those who camp in the space overnight. Much of the trash, as well as park users needing bathroom facilities, end up in the Fremont Library. Ernst Park needs trash and hygiene amenities, to take pressure off its neighbors, along with security measures to keep crime and vandalism in check.
On Oct 24th, we may have our last chance to give feedback on what could become a brilliant gem in our community’s crown, or a black void created by neglect and denial.
The entire budget, for outreach, design and construction, of the new, and hopefully improved, Ernst Park is only $750,000 – with $465,000 specific to construction. That is not much, and won’t go far if we dream too big. It could build a foundation, though, upon which our community could build, together, something very special.
Edwards has encouraged community members interested in seeing more done for Ernst to consider creating a ‘Friends Of’ group. Seattle Parks sets down guidelines, and opportunities, for these support groups. In addition, funds could be found for future park amenities through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Matching Fund. A ‘Friends Of’ Ernst group could lead and direct maintenance of the park, like at Fremont Peak Park, and Matching Funds could purchase art and other amenities. (To initiate organization of a Friends Of Ernst, contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
All depends upon community members giving thoughtful input and feedback to guide creation of a useful, and attractive, park. Please attend what Seattle Parks has described as ‘the final meeting for this park project’, and help influence a treasure instead of a travesty.
One thing absolutely unchangeable about Ernst is the name. The name came up at all three public meetings. Seattle Parks selected the name to honor Ambrose B. Ernst, described at his death in 1931 as ‘Father of City Playfields’, who served as a Parks Commissioner from 1906 – 1913. At dedication of Ernst Park, in 2004, surviving family members reported that he may have, once upon a time, lived in Fremont. However, most locals, unfamiliar with Mr. Ernst, assume the park honors a failed hardware store once located in Ballard.
For those who see the lesson in this, and the need for voicing our opinion before a name is chosen for a new park (and, according to Seattle Parks guidelines, cannot be changed,) please submit your vote now on a name for the newest park in Fremont park, west of The Fremont Troll. Long called ‘Troll’s Knoll’ by the people who originally conceived, worked for, and continue to clean it, one strong suggestion is for the name ‘Troll’s Knoll.’ Find more information in the Fremocentrist news item for October 6th.
Ultimately, to get a park that benefits our community, and one that will be used, we need involvement and attention by all of us. The Seattle Parks District has provided funding and Seattle Parks staff, along with Site Workshop designers, have offered to listen. On October 24th at 6p at Doric Lodge #92 we must speak, and share, our ideas and opinions.
- By Any Other Name (It Is Still ‘Slippery Slope’)
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 22, 2004 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- The Committee That Steers Peak Park
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 21, 2012
- Fremont Library: Open For Business ‘As Usual’
- by Kirby Lindsay Laney, April 20, 2005 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.