'Discovering Seattle Parks' author Linnea Westerlind
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"Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill is one of the best spots in Seattle for kids who want to test their limits." Photo credit: Linnea Westerlind
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Pritchard Beach is a best-kept secret beach park. Photo credit: Linnea Westerlind
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"Woodland Park in North Seattle sometimes gets forgotten because it’s right next door to popular Green Lake Park. It has a wooded off-leash dog area with a cool hill climb in the center, a lawn bowling green, a BMX bike course, a great skate park and peaceful shaded picnic areas." Photo credit: Linnea Westerlind
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"Lincoln Park is a fantastic urban park with a lot of amenities including the seasonal saltwater swimming pool, but it is also quiet and peaceful." Photo credit: Linnea Westerlind
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In 2009, new mom Linnea Westerlind started an impressive mission: to visit every Seattle park within a year. One year turned into four as she welcomed two more children and came toe to toe with the reality of visiting 400 parks.
She has documented her parks adventures on her blog, Year of Seattle Parks and now has just published a guidebook called Discovering Seattle Parks (June 2017, Mountaineers Books). ParentMap caught up with her during prime park season to get her best tips on local green spaces.
Win a copy of Discovering Seattle Parks!
Enter to win a copy of Linnea Westerlind's parks guidebook (and two other new books from the Mountaineers)! The giveaway ends June 28.
What inspired you to visit every Seattle park?
I'm a Seattle-area native, and I've always loved our parks. I thought of the project a few months after my oldest son was born in 2009 when I was craving an excuse to get outside and go exploring. I also liked the challenge of trying to visit all the parks in one year. It was such a fun way to visit different neighborhoods and see new parts of our city through its parks system. I also really enjoy taking pictures at the parks and then getting to write a little bit about each one on my blog, yearofseattleparks.com.
Why did it take four years?
It turns out that Seattle has more than 400 parks, so doing it all in one year was a little too ambitious! I managed to do more than 180 parks the first year. Then a year and a half after I started the project, I became pregnant with twins and ended up on bed rest for several weeks. I had to put the project on hold for a few months but as soon as I could, I got back out with a new double stroller and finished off the rest of the parks in late 2013.
How did this turn into a book project?
When I completed the project I realized that I wanted to turn it into something even more tangible to share with other people who love to explore parks. I hunted around in the bookstore and online and found out that Seattle hasn’t had a guidebook to its parks in nearly 40 years! I was excited when Mountaineers Books wanted to team up with me to publish a book.
What does the book do that the blog didn’t?
I decided to narrow my book down to the 120 or so best and most interesting parks. I went back again to each of them and took new pictures, did more research and tried to really dig into what makes them such amazing public spaces. The book has fun little icons to represent features that readers might be interested in like playgrounds, spray parks/wading pools, trails, dog parks and much more. The book also has color photos to illustrate the parks and maps to make it easy to navigate around.
What are a couple of new things you uncovered while writing the book?
I really enjoyed getting into the history of each of our parks. Did you know Gas Works Park [in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood) is the only place in the country to see the remnants of a coal gasification plant? I love that instead of tearing that down, we incorporated into our city’s landscape. I also saw revitalization happening in several neighborhoods thanks to parks, like in Occidental Square where new bistro tables and chairs are really turning that public space into an outdoor living room.
If you could be a Seattle park, which would it be?
I love Lincoln Park [in West Seattle], which I've been going to since I was a kid. It's a fantastic urban park with a lot of amenities including the seasonal saltwater swimming pool, but it is also quiet and peaceful.
What are a couple of other favorite parks and why?
Seattle has some amazing parks that seem to fly under the radar. Jack Block Park in West Seattle, Soundview Terrace on Queen Anne, Othello Playground in Rainier Valley [see photos below of Othello's well-known giant slide], Pritchard Island Beach in South Seattle and Llandover Woods Greenspace in northwest Seattle are all worth a visit.
What park surprised you the most?
Woodland Park in North Seattle sometimes gets forgotten because it’s right next door to popular Green Lake Park. But, I was surprised to see how many awesome amenities you’ll find if you explore this park. It has a wooded off-leash dog area with a cool hill climb in the center, a lawn bowling green, a BMX bike course, a great skate park and peaceful shaded picnic areas. You can also reach the playground, which is on the northwest end of the Woodland Park Zoo, through a secret trail that gives you a peek into the behind-the-scenes areas of the zoo.
What park offers the most adventure to kids?
Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill is one of the best spots in Seattle for kids who want to test their limits. This park has a fabulous playground with challenging climbing equipment, two fast zip lines, some steep slides and a skate park with a very deep bowl. You can read about more great parks for adventure-seeking kids in my article for ParentMap.
My oldest son Liam is 8 and he has played on probably close to 100 different playgrounds.
What are some of your favorite parks outside Seattle?
I included a chapter in my book for great regional parks outside of the city — and all are definitely worth the drive. Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore has fantastic hiking trails and a large wooden playground designed by kids. Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island also has a really fun playground, as well as a waterfront off-leash area, fishing pier and swimming beach that are all connected by a kid-friendly waterfront trail.
What's your favorite pocket park?
It is so hard to choose one favorite, but I love South Passage Point Park in Eastlake. It's tucked underneath I-5 along the waterfront. It's a great place for a picnic in the summer while you watch all the boat traffic coming in and out of Lake Union.
What's a particularly funny moment from this project?
I visited most of the parks with paper printouts from Google maps, where I had marked in pencil where each of the parks was located. One day when I was walking with the stroller it started to rain and my printouts got soaking wet and I couldn't read them anymore. Then the wind started blowing them out of the stroller. It took me until that moment to realize how much easier this project would be with a smartphone!
How did your kids do?
My oldest son Liam is 8 and he has played on probably close to 100 different playgrounds. And now that my twins Evan and Graham are almost 6, I'm really enjoying taking them out on little hikes at city parks. And my husband has even driven me from park to park while the kids were napping in the backseat. I'm lucky to have a great team with me.
What's next for you? Parks of King County?
Right now I'm visiting other cool public spaces in Seattle, like waterfront street ends that are managed by the city's transportation department and little “parklets.” I've been checking out a lot of other awesome regional parks, which I’m posting to my blog all the time.