Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Making Seattle parks safer, fun for all

The squeals from Discovery Park’s new, improved zipline can be heard from the parking lot, a few hundred yards of ADA-accessible paths away. Nearby, a pair of play structures host kids of all ages, and swings stand apart. All are part of a remodel, completed in December, of the play area at the 534-acre park (3801 Discovery Park Blvd.)that also includes a beach, trails and a visitor’s center.

Seattle Parks and Recreation manages 485 parks, in which there are about 150 playgrounds. Each year, parks remodels a handful, not just to spruce things up, but to bring them up to code, improve access and make major repairs. In the past two years, 11 parks have new play areas and another six are in the works for the rest of 2018.

Karen O’Connor, parks spokeswoman, says accessibility is a major part of playground remodels. “It’s mainly for kids to be able to play with their peers,” she says, citing a wheelchair-friendly teeter-totter at Mt. Baker. Many of the wood structures will be replaced with more weather-repellent materials.

At Victory Heights (1737 NE 106th St.), which finished getting an overhaul this summer, a survey revealed that neighbors wanted updated, safer playground equipment. Bells ring out from the playground near Northgate, and dueling xylophones encourage musical interactivity. A car for toddlers sits next to a more complex climbing structure for older kids.

(Those surveys they offer? They really do change what your park might look like.) “We want [the community’s] voice to be heard,” says O’Connor.

Improvements at the iconic Gas Works Park (2101 N. Northlake Way) are still underway. Complications and a slow permit process for the former industrial site, now a park and city landmark, haveslowed renovations of the picnic and play areas. Park officials are shooting for a July reopening for both, particularly as the picnic barns are among Parks’ most heavily used spaces. In the play area, the climbable tanks will be repaired, cleaned and painted and set on a raised, rubberized play surface. A very small sand area will remain on the far side. Several monitoring wells have been dug to gauge and mitigate some of the chemicals buried beneath this former brownfield.

“Gas Works Park keeps giving,” says project coordinator Jay Rood, who says mitigation and monitoring are the key to reclaiming brownfields and transforming them into parks. “In an urban world, there isn’t much land left.”

The bathrooms, or comfort stations as they are known in park parlance, and east entry area will also be repaired in response to Justice Department accessibility citations.

When daily temperatures hit 70 degrees, sprayparks and wading pools are fun draws on warm days. Pratt and Yesler sprayparks are currently closed. For details, check our recent sprayparkupdate or Seattle Parks' webpage on those facilities.