by Jack Russillo
The Port of Seattle owns six public parks and shoreline access areas along the Duwamish River, but the current names of the green spaces don’t quite reflect the cultural and ecological history of the region.
To replace names based on former industrial sites, the Port of Seattle and the Seattle Parks Foundation are holding a nomination process to collect suggestions for new potential names for the parks and to decide on their new identities.
“Renaming parks is not sufficient in and of itself,” said Ryan Calkins, one of five elected Port of Seattle Commissioners. “This is the culmination of the effort to reconnect those communities to the water that runs right through them. These efforts will hopefully provide the means to really reconnect with the green spaces themselves, in terms of access, identity, and the actual content of the parks themselves.”
“The names should be tied to the land and river,” said Ned Logan, a lifelong Seattleite who has visited Terminal 108 Park numerous times over the past few years. “Someone is going to make a decision but I’m glad that the public is providing input. I think it could be awesome to give these parks more visibility and to name them something more relevant to the waterway.”
The “Incredible Parks Want Incredible Names” campaign opened its nomination period on July 24 and it will remain open until midnight, August 31. During that time, anybody can submit their name ideas on the campaign website, leave a phone recording of suggestions at (206) 385-9064, or print and fill out a nomination postcard, snap a photo of it, and text it to (206) 385-9064.
In September, a stakeholder review committee will choose their favorite name ideas, which will then be passed on to the Port Commissioners for the final decisions. The renaming process is meant to support equitable decision-making. Collecting ideas from the public, which will be voted on by selected stakeholders that represent the parks’ diverse users — from environmental stewards to tribal and cultural heritage experts to neighboring community leaders. Though these stakeholders will be consulted during the process, the new park names will be decided on by the Port’s five elected commissioners.
While Calkins noted that he is “reluctant to turn over that decision-making power to an unelected body,” he did say that getting tribal members on the review committee was an “important step to getting tribal representation” for the decision-making process. Compared to other Port-owned properties, such as Sea-Tac International Airport and other seaports along Elliot Bay, Calkins said that “nowhere in the Port of Seattle jurisdiction is there more interaction with tribal groups than the Duwamish River.”
“We’ve been talking about an area of longtime human settlement and now we’re talking about a hugely diverse area around South Park and Georgetown,” Calkins said. “We want to make sure that everyone has a chance to submit ideas and I think we’ll have a large diversity of submissions.”
“I think they’ve done a good job at putting out community outreach over the past year or so to get input on the naming process,” said Dennis Lewarch, tribal historic preservation officer for the Suquamish Tribe on the Kitsap Peninsula and a member of the stakeholder review committee. “They reached out to try to get representatives that represent the diversity of the people that have an interest in the area. I think the process should work just fine and hopefully people will feel like they have more ownership of the parks.”
One naming idea that has already surfaced and been submitted by the Duwamish Tribe, is to change the name of the Terminal 107 Park to Ha Ah Poos Duwamish Village Park.
Along with a rebranding of the parks along the Duwamish, the Port of Seattle recently completed the first step of the restoration of the Terminal 117 property, which was a multi-year effort to clean the area of industrial waste to prepare for construction of a new park. From now until the fall of 2021, when the project is estimated to be completed, the general contracting company Scarsella Brothers will manage the development of the area into its final form as one of the largest parks on the Duwamish River. Once completed, the 13.5-acre park will have a 185-foot-long pier, a hand-carry boat launch, a thousand feet of barrier-free shoreline pathways, and a trail to a restored habitat area for hands-on observation and environmental education.
Jack Russillo has been reporting in Western Washington since 2013. He covers the environment, social justice, and other topics that affect a sustainable and equitable future. He currently lives in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image: A couple watches the Duwamish River from a picnic table at Terminal 108 Park, also known as Diagonal Avenue South Public Shoreline Access.