Planning begins on project to improve Queen Anne playground

Seattle Parks and Recreation has no plans to do anything there in the foreseeable future, but a group of Queen Anne residents has launched an ambitious plan to fix up the "Big Howe" playground near the corner of Third Ave. W. and W. Howe St.

Called the Big Howe Improvement Project (BHIP), the effort involves "a little group of motivated folks trying to make something good happen," said Brian Fleisher, who has taken on the role of lead fundraiser.

Fleisher added that he wants to raise at least $400,000, but more would be nice. "Personally, I've set a goal of $500,000," he said last week during a tour of the playground with representatives from Starbucks.

Starbucks was there because the BHIP is one of 16 finalists trying for 10 $10,000 grants the coffee company will award to citywide playground-improvement projects, said Eleni Ledesma, one of the BHIP members.

BHIP is a subcommittee of the Queen Anne Community Council's Parks Committee. Parks Committee chair Don Harper and Ledesma approached the council about the project last January, she said. "So it definitely has a lot of community interest."

Harper said the existing playground equipment has seen better days, and the playground surface of sand over concrete is not exactly kid-friendly. "One of our [committee] mem-bers was here when a young boy slid down on the slide and banged his head," he explained to the Starbucks group.

The goal is to replace all of the playground equipment and make it handicapped accessible, Ledesma said. "We'd like to include equipment for younger children," she said of a group she called "waddlers up to 12-year-olds."

The BHIP group, Ledesma added, would also like to extend the playground to the east on a slope that runs into a fence on one of the ballfields next to the community center.

BHIP member Ramona Wessel suggested landscaping could define the slope as a play area. She also said another, preliminary idea is to fence in the play area for the younger kids.

BHIP already has a $15,000 small-and-simple matching grant earmarked specifically for planning and design, Ledesma said. But it won't be just BHIP members making the calls, according to Harper.

"We have ideas here in this group, but we need to go through the community process," he said. "We might find a strong contingent of people who want to keep those swings," Harper said, pointing to an old, but still usable, set on the playground.

Fleisher said the idea is to put three or four ideas together that can be presented to community members for evaluation. "We also want to get a bunch of kids together and ask them what they want."

The Big Howe playground attracts both neighborhood and citywide users because of the nearby ballfields, the community center and the swimming pool, Harper said.

According to the BHIP Web site (, the project likely will take two years to complete, although the group would prefer to finish earlier than that if possible.

The goal of raising $400,000 to $500,000 for the project is realistic, according to Fleisher. "We've talked to other organizations that spent $900,000 [on playground projects]," he said.

And Fleisher hopes one source of funding will be Queen Anne's business community. "I reached out to the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce," he said.

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