Park renovation nears completion

Perhaps you've noticed the work going on beyond the fence. The heavy machinery digging down below street level. The traffic as a fleet of trucks carted dirt away. The grading work, the installation of lights. For nearly two years, work has been underway at Cal Anderson Park to put a lid over the reservoir and then create new park space over that lid.

That work is nearing completion. In relatively short order the fences will be removed and a new and vastly improved park will be open to the public. Included will be four additional acres of open space, a new and varied design that includes many paths, a variety of trees and a prominent water feature.

Cal Anderson Park - it was commonly referred to as the Lincoln Reservoir park prior to being officially named after the late state legislator two years ago - is bordered to the south by East Pine Street, to the east by 11th Avenue, to the west by Nagle Place and to the north by East Denny Way.

The work being done on Cal Anderson Park is part of a master plan created five years ago, work that was supported financially by the passage of the Pro Parks levy in 2000. Sitting on 11 acres just east of Broadway, the park includes the Bobby Morris Playfield and a three building shelterhouse complex, which opened nearly two years ago and was the first major park improvement to take shape. That project, which was assisted by a large neighborhood matching fund grant, includes a public restroom, a public plaza and a community space several community organizations use for regular meetings.

Completely covering the reservoir, a requirement mandated by the state's Department of Health, provided a rare if not unique opportunity to add a large amount of open space in a densely populated neighborhood. For Kay Rood, seeing this major project come to fruition is more than a little gratifying. As chair of Groundswell Off Broadway, the park advocacy group that formed 10 years ago and has been instrumental in bringing major improvements to the park, she's watched the park take shape with passionate interest.

"It's fun to look out and imagine it all being green," she said. "It took a long time to get to this stage but the park is actually close to being finished."

The major work left to be done includes hydro-seeding grass, which needs to go through several growth cycles before it is ready for use. Landscaping improvements are still being made and finishing touches are being put on the children's play area and removing a temporary play area to make way for a half-court basketball court. Rood said that work to clad the conical water feature will start "at any minute" and will entail covering the large structure with a tent so that the artist may cover the large cone in black granite.

The expectation is that the park will be ready for use during the summer.

"The community is hoping for a Fourth of July party, but we'll have to see," Rood said.

At the same time, at the southern end of the park, work will soon begin replacing the turf at the Bobby Morris Playfield with a synthetic surface. Delayed for several years due to budget issues, the work could begin in April and be complete during the summer. The move to a synthetic playing surface is expected to increase the hours the playfield can be used and, in the long run, reduce the costs of maintaining the field.

Also of relevance: the latest Sound Transit intentions regarding the Broadway light-rail station do not call for the northwest corner of Cal Anderson Park to be used as a construction staging area.

"Thankfully, Sound Transit will bypass the park," said Rood. "This means no impacts to the water feature or the trees. That was very encouraging news."

Rood gave voice to community concerns about safety at the park once it reopens. Given the well-documented problems in and around Cal Anderson Park in recent years, problems that generated a great deal of attention two summers ago, there are concerns that the new, larger park will become a magnet for such issues.

Rood is hoping that city and police will go the extra mile to ensure that negative park uses do not overwhelm positive ones.

"This is everyone's park and we all have to take care of it," she said. "I would like to see the East Precinct look at this as their park."

By August, the park should be ready and open to the public. Expect a significant celebration to mark the occasion.

"I think there will be a big event, but people are just getting started talking about it," said Rood.

For Kay Rood, that the end is within sight marks the culmination of years of tireless volunteerism on the park's behalf. She thinks people will be more than a little surprised at the beauty and scale of the final result.

"Seeing people come to a realization of what's happening here is wonderful," she said. "This will be an amazing park."

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at or 461-1308.

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