Photo depicting a green park with a rounding pathway and a individual in a red hooded sweatshirt walking their dog.

King County Will Help Preserve and Activate 32 Green Space Projects in the South End

by Agueda Pacheco Flores

Several projects around the South End aimed at preserving and activating green spaces just got a major boost in funding. In January, King County awarded a combined $52 million to 32 projects across King County. It’s part of Executive Dow Constantine’s goal to save, preserve, and enhance the last 65,000 acres of urban canopy, forest, farmland, and green space around the county. 

The funding, which comes partially from the Conservation Futures program, will help five projects in particular that span not only South Seattle, but also Sea-Tac, Burien, Skyway, and Tukwila. In Burien, money will go toward preserving a park in a low-income neighborhood and in Tukwila, toward the preservation of an urban farm. All together, those projects alone were funded for $4.7 million. 

For now, most of the money will be used to acquire the properties, with further development planned later, once the purchases are approved.

In Sea-Tac, $630,000 was awarded to the City to purchase the wetlands behind the Emmanuel Reformed Baptist Church. Not only is the property surrounded by residential apartment complexes, but three blocks down the road is Bow Lake Elementary School, which William Appleton, Sea-Tac’s public works director, says could benefit from the outdoor space. “Provided we can work with the owner to buy a portion,” says Appleton, “that whole site is five acres.”

“[We could] integrate education and outreach with elements around conservation and water quality, birds, animals, flora, fauna,” says Appleton. Eventually, he said, he hopes the property will include walking paths, a boardwalk over the restored spring, and a proper path for neighborhood children to use to get to school from 180th to 182nd Street. 

Bow Lake Elementary School Principal Alicia Gaynor is already game for a future where this may be possible. She provided a letter of support for the project with hopes that someday students could visit the wetlands for field trips.

“For example, tree restoration during Earth Week, identification of trees in the Northwest, and Exploring the natural environment within walking distance of the school,” she wrote. 

In the unincorporated community of Skyway, where there are no forest trails and minimal parks, more than a million dollars was awarded to acquire the West Hill Urban Green Space. 

“I’ve been working on this for some years to try to add more parks and green space in the West Hill community,” says King County project manager David Kimmett. “In the end, this is trying to balance the need for parks and green space in the community as well as affordable housing.”

The three-acre parcel of land is owned by the King County Housing Authority (KCHA), which is willing to sell two parcels for use as a park.

“This is the initial investment and it will take some time to actually activate this, but right now the first step is to invest in the land, in securing this piece of property and down the road look to do some planning and outreach for the community to add maybe a walking path or a small play area,” Kimmet says.

Map depicting the parcels of land for purchase to create more green space in the Skyway-West Hill neighborhood of unincorporated King County.
(Photo courtesy of King County.)

The Skyway project is adjacent to Foster Commons Apartments and two mobile home parks — Vue and Empire Vue — which are owned by the Manufactured Housing Community Preservationist (MHCP), a nonprofit affordable housing provider. KCHA plans to add one acre of that land to the mobile home park.

“Empire View and Vue contain 98 households, many with children and/or older family members sharing their homes,” wrote MHCP Executive Director Greg Blount. “Improving these parcels into a public park is an ideal use of the property, not just for Empire View and Vue, but for the entire Skyway neighborhood.”

Beyond Seattle and the closest surrounding cities, projects as far south as the Hylebos Creek conservation project in Federal Way and several projects in Kent, like the Clark Lake Park project, also received funds.

This article is funded in part by an Environmental Justice Fund (EJ Fund) grant through the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE).

Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focusing on Latinx culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Querétaro, Mexico, Pacheco Flores is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.

📸 Featured Image: Lakeview Park in Burien was one of the sites granted funds through King County’s program to preserve green spaces in the South End. (Photo courtesy of King County.)

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