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The Committee That Steers Peak Park

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 21 September 2012

 

The entrance to Peak Park, at 4357 Palatine Ave N, and one of the park's Gabion walls (the rocks contained in wire) that has stayed intact - because visitors don't routinely stand on it. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

The last two 2012 volunteer work parties for Peak Park take place on Sunday, September 23rd and October 21st.  All Fremonsters are encouraged to show up and lend a hand, weeding and mulching, in our community park…a park nearly entirely designed, built and maintained by private citizens who live in our neighborhood.

Parks Land, Community Care

While speaking recently with Paul Bryant and Vinita Sidhu, two Peak Park Steering Committee members, they praised the support the Committee receives from the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation.  Before work parties, Parks employees will deliver gardening tools, and mulch, for volunteer use.  After work parties, Parks employees will pick-up the clippings and trash volunteers collected.  During the year, Parks also re-gravels the walkways.

At Peak Park, Vinita Sidhu and her daughter Devani Parker, with Paul Bryant - all fans of Fremont's community-built park. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

Ostensibly, Seattle Parks owns the Peak Park property – it is a public park.  However, the park belongs to the volunteers – including Steering Committee members – who generously give to it their sweat equity.

“We really need to exist, as a volunteer organization, to keep the park the way we want it,” Sidhu noted.  The Parks Department has helped, but the Steering Committee – and neighbors who give them feedback – make decisions about the short-term and long-term care of the park.  “For the most part we are trying to respect the original design,” Sidhu said.

From The Vision To The Reality

A central design element of Peak Park is this bit of wall - and a problem has developed in trying to maintain the lawn designed to wrap around it as visitors jump off. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

It isn’t possible to stick to that design 100%.  “Some plants that were in the design plan didn’t work, or died,” Bryant explained.  Some design elements – like the Gabion wall – would work, except for the introduction of the human element.  People have stood on the wall, and it isn’t a support structure, so now it sags.

Another wall, a supportive structure, Bryant pointed out, “used to be planted.”  However, children walking along its top – and parents or grandparents stepping through the plants to hold their hands – destroyed the plantings.  “We have that endless debate,” Bryant admitted, about the Peak Park Steering Committee discussions of the balance between what the public wants, and maintaining the green spaces.

“There are some changes that are going to be big and expensive,” Bryant acknowledged.  Replacement of part of the Gabion Wall, and addressing other chronic problems, are matters the Steering Committee discuss and decide.

If the Committee can’t reach a decision, “we duke it out,” Bryant joked.  Actually, both he and Sidhu agreed, Committee members tend to table contentious issues for another meeting.  “It’s a much more cooperative atmosphere than combative,” described Bryant.  According to Sidhu, “we don’t actually do anything until we get a majority agreement.”

The Gabion wall at Peak Park, and the part that has started to sag and spread due to visitors standing upon it to see more of the view. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

For now, any big, expensive projects are still being carefully considered.  “We still have some money from the original donations,” Sidhu admitted, from funds raised to build the park, but those won’t last long – and the Committee members want to be good stewards of the park and the funds.  One of the best ways they do this is by seeking plant donations, and nursery discounts, and using free, volunteer labor whenever possible – even if it is their own.

‘A Local Park, Maintained By The People’

“It’s a local park, maintained by the people that use it,” Bryant agreed, “we’ve had a great turn out some days…”  The Peak Park Committee schedules eight work parties a year – a month apart through spring and fall.  Unfortunately, “sometimes only Steering Committee members,” show up and work, Sidhu observed.

Another wall designed as part of Peak Park, but this one had plantings place up against it - and none have survived the repeated tramplings of those accompanying the wall walkers. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

While most Committee members have some expertise (Bryant is a master gardener, and Sidhu is a landscape architect,) all live within walking distance of the park, and have a demonstrated dedication to Peak Park.

“A lot of people consider it a pocket park,” Bryant explained, “but it is also the most popular wedding site within Fremont.  It is a well-kept secret,” although a secret, he and Sidhu agreed, that everyone knows.

The park took over six years to create, due entirely to the hard work and persistence of private citizens, most especially Jack Tomkinson.  Since 2007, the Steering Committee has taken that effort forward.

Both do have their own homes, and yards to tend.  “I like to garden at home,” Sidhu observed.  She described what she has as, ‘half a garden,’ but she and her family spend time with it, on top of the time they give to Peak Park.

As for Bryant, “I have ducks, chickens, bees, and a wife in my backyard.  ‘Gardening’ is a debatable term.  Earthmoving is more accurate.”  Yet, he still had energy and enthusiasm to offer more.  “I was a random volunteer,” Bryant recalled, “[his wife] Caroline [Sayre] and I helped plant bulbs,” at one of the early work parties at Peak Park – and Tomkinson asked him to step onto the Committee.

Like Vinita Sidhu, Peak Park Steering Committee Member said, "I love that view!" We all do too. Photo by K. Lindsay, Sep '12

The volunteers that show up for work parties have been apartment dwellers, looking to get their hands dirty.  They also can be local homeowners, who have their own garden – or half garden – and want to help the neighborhood.  Sometimes college students from local environmental/ecology programs volunteer.  Families also turn out to work, but Sidhu (a parent) admitted that the kids usually spend the time playing or distracting their parents.

Everyone is welcome – and needed – to help.  The Peak Park Steering Committee appreciate those volunteers planning to attend to R.S.V.P. – so enough tools and/or treats can be found.  Contact them at info@FremontPeakPark.org, for either the September 23rd or October 21st work parties, or to be added to the e-mail list for notification of work parties in 2013.

Peak Park exists as a park designed and maintained by our community and for our community.  It might be time to stop by and visit.


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©2012 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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