| Family fun

St. Edward State Park

Community effort and natural shoreline
14500 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore [northeast shore of Lake WA]
425-823-2992 [Driving directions]

St. Edward State Park is a true gem, and well worth the drive from any direction. Comprised of 316 acres located on the grounds of a former Catholic seminary, it contains the last undeveloped shoreline of Lake Washington - a bonus for families for whom developed Lake Washington is a daily reality. Trails, an indoor swimming pool and a marvelous playscape make St. Edward State Park a great place to visit.

History: Like all of the Lake Washington shoreline, the park area was originally used by native peoples for fishing, berry gathering and encampment. In the late 1800s, the area was logged. Careful inspection still reveals massive stumps with notches cut into them for the springboards on which loggers stood while sawing. In 1926, the park land was purchased by Bishop Edward O'Dea with part of his personal inheritance and then donated to the Diocese of Seattle. In 1931, the Diocese constructed St. Edward Seminary for the Sulpician Order of Catholic Priests. St. Thomas Seminary (now Bastyr University) was added nearby in 1958. By the 1970s, declining enrollment led to the closure of St. Edward Seminary. The State of Washington bought the 316-acre St. Edward property from the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle in 1977; it was dedicated as St. Edward State Park and opened to the public in 1978.

Features: Hiking trails abound at St. Edward. All trails except the quarter-mile Orchard Loop eventually lead to the beach, but some are more easily managed with children. Try starting at the Orchard Loop trailhead, visible from the playscape. This trail intersects the South Canyon Trail, which winds its way through Douglas fir, red cedar and western hemlock to 3,000 feet of the lovely undeveloped shore of Lake Washington. Lined with large cottonwood trees, this remote spot is a great place to watch for bald eagles, herons, otters and spotted owls, and to imagine the lake in its original state. Off the southwest end of the beach trail hides a submerged forest of Douglas fir. Swept down the slope by a landslide about 1,170 years ago, the ancient trees are preserved upright deep in Lake Washington's cold water.

The playground at St. Edward is something no local child should miss. Built completely without state funds by a volunteer community group, the enormous wooden playscape opened in April 2003. Students from seven nearby elementary schools and neighborhood scout troops dreamed big and, with help from experts, designed a Northwest-themed adventure playground with something for everyone. Touchable murals, a suspension bridge, a climbing wall, wheelchair (or stroller) accessible paths, a totem pole, a volcano and even Sasquatch footprints entice children and encourage creative play. This is an enormous structure and one caregiver cannot see all corners, so set the ground rules before letting kids loose. A fenced tot play yard, considerably larger than most, helps parents keep a closer eye on the tiniest players.

Athletic fields, handball and tennis courts and 85 picnic tables offer further play options, as does the Carol Ann Wald Memorial Pool (425-823-6983). The playground, pool and trailheads are easily accessed on foot from the parking lots. Maps are posted on the brown kiosk outside the Ranger Station near the larger parking lot and also at the southern end of the lawn by the playground. As with all state parks, there is a $5 fee to use the parking spaces at St. Edward.

Nearby: St. Edward is large and has many features to explore. No food is available for purchase within the park, so packing a picnic is a good idea. QFC at Inglewood Village (14130 Juanita Drive, Kenmore, 425-821-4885) is the closest grocery store. Kidd Valley (6434 Bothell Way N.E., Kenmore, 425-485-5514) offers kid meals and a drive-through. The nearest Starbucks (7750 Bothell Way N.E., 425-415-6124) also has a convenient drive-through window. The Kenmore branch of the King County Library System is located at 18138 73rd N.E., 425-486-8747.

Paula Becker is a contributing editor to HistoryLink.org and mother of three.

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