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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thornton Creek Park Six Selected for Seattle Parks Opportunity Fund

Some big changes may be underway soon for Thornton Creek Park Six next to Northgate. 
Two Wood Ducks and a Beaver Swims By
photo credit-Don MacCall

Thornton Creek Alliance has applied for a major grant with the Seattle Parks Opportunity Fund and it appears they are poised to proceed with the proposed project. It will include some major improvements to the Creek Channel itself

A recent article from Seattle PI's Larry Lange has some details:

An oversight committee for Seattle's 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy has approved spending $500,000 to improve a seven-acre park along the creek east of the Northgate Mall. The work, which must still be approved by the mayor and City Council, will rechannel the creek and re-work the bank to create more fish-friendly habitat and reduce flooding and bank erosion.
"I'm really looking forward to this," said Ruth Williams, a Thornton Creek Alliance board member who spearheaded the effort to get the project. "It'll be a lovely thing for the neighborhood and the habitat."

The money will come from the six-year, $146 million Parks and Green Space Levy approved by voters two years ago. The Levy Citizens Oversight Committee approved the Thornton Creek project along with 14 others totaling nearly $7 million in costs. The work will probably begin next year, after City Council members consider approving the projects.
The creek has been the object of long-standing attempts to restore it after having been largely diverted into drainage pipes over the decades by Interstate 5 and other developments.
The area included in the new project lies east of Northgate Mall and Fifth Avenue Northeast and is known as Park Six. Unlike some parts of the creek it has remained "daylighted," flowing in its traditional streambed.
The new grant will complete new channel work between the Northeast 103rd Street/Fifth Avenue Northeast intersection and Northeast 107th Street at Roosevelt Way.
Williams said the channel will be altered in a couple of areas to eliminate sharp erosion-prone bends and pull back banks, adding woody debris to slow the current, create more fish-friendly space in the water and more readily retain flood water.
She said the project also will improve trails and public-access points into the park, and will remove "invasive" vegetation such as ivy and knotweed that crowd out native trees, and replace them with native plants.
She called the project "one more step, consistent with the city's goals, in restoring the natural functions of the creek."
In recent years beaver have begun moving upstream and are creating potentially fish-friendly ponds by building dams, though occasionally they have to be moved away from areas near homes that the ponds could flood, Williams said.
"Northgate really needs a natural area," said Williams, who lives nearby.. "It is so built up and so developed that it needs a counter-balance."

The oversight committee received 100 project applications, toured 33 of them and winnowed the final list to 14 receive money and be completed. The list can be viewed here.

Two-thirds of the proposals were for development projects like the one on Thornton Creek, the other third for land acquisitions, said Susanne Rockwell of city parks planning staff.
Rockwell said the new Thornton Creek project isn't the last to be done on the creek but "it's quite substantial." City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw, chairwoman of the City Council's Parks & Seattle Center Committee, said she expects the council to consider the proposals during the first quarter of next year.
Projects paid for by the park and space levy are considered separately from the city general-fund budget, which the council approved for 2011 in late November. Bagshaw, through an aide, said she doesn't foresee a problem approving the list

Park #6 Area Map
because the oversight committee did "an incredible job of vetting these projects."
Thornton Creek advocates have worked for years to rescue the stream, a 15-mile-long, waterway whose main forks rise in Shoreline and near North Seattle Community College and converge near Meadowbrook Pond before flowing into Lake Washington at Matthews Beach.
Another major victory came after the city spent $9.5 million to create a new creek waterway channel through the 6-acre Thornton Place development, south of Northgate M mall., that included nearly 400 apartments and condominiums, retail space and a retirement community.

The creek, along its entire course, cuts through several hundred residential properties and drains a watershed where some 76,000 people lived, according to a 1998 estimate included in the city's watershed action plan for the creek. 
Great Blue Heron Fishing at Park Six
this spring; Photo Credit- Janet Way

Thornton Creek Park Six has benefitted from grant funding and projects many times before. Also, Seattle has increased the size of the park recently to remove housing from the floodplain.  But the beavers seem to have the last word. They have changed the landscape quite significantly and created an incredible wildlife habitat over the last few years. Now the Great Blue Herons, wooducks, racoons and thousands of fish can be spotted, along with many songbirds.

The section at 105th and 8th NE is now a bonafide wetland, engulfed because of the beavers dams. You can see the beaver's lodge in the center of the pond, but you will have to be very patient to ever spot the little critters.

Seattle Parks and SPU have cooperated on helping fence some of the larger trees to prevent the beaver's amazing ability to fell huge trees.
Beaver's handiwork and Great Blue Heron
 at Thornton Creek Park Six
photo credit-Janet Way

1 comment:

  1. This news is great - and so is this presentation.
    Thank you Janet and thanks to Ruth for her effort.
    Sylvia Haven