What's in a Name? A Legacy - New park should honor Magnolia activist Ursula Judkins

Elliot Bay is graced with a slender necklace of parks, and soon another gem will be added to that necklace: 2.4 acres of land on West Galer Street at the top of the Magnolia Bridge - a stunning overlook with views of the city, the bay and Mount Rainier.

Seattle Parks and Recreation has initiated a public process for naming this site, and if you ask many people in our community, a clear consensus has emerged to name it after the late Ursula Judkins.

Who was Ursula Judkins? At the behest of her friend (and another community hero, Heidi Carpine), in 1987 Ursula began to devote her energies full-time to Magnolia and became a fixture at meetings on behalf of the community.

Ursula's contributions brought honorary proclamations from the mayor, the city council and the county executive. In 1999, then director of the Department of Neighborhoods Jim Diers - noting that Seattle has an international reputation as a city where neighborhood activists play a major role - stated that "Magnolia is known as a community in Seattle where much of the citizen activism is centered. But people in Magnolia know that activism begins with Ursula."

Three specific examples: Do you use our wonderful "Pop" Mounger pool? Ursula helped to see it realized. Are you thankful West Point did not expand again? Or, that Capehart housing will revert to Discovery Park?

In the case of West Point Ursula was a key negotiator on Magnolia's behalf, seeing that the plant would not later be expanded and that the county would pay $5 million in mitigation if certain conditions were not met. That money was paid and, true to Ursula's visionary nature, gave the community leverage in negotiating the Capehart agreement.

Why name this specific land at the bridge crest after Ursula? In the early '90s, Ursula's research determined the land originally was purchased in 1910 by the city for a park, but was instead given to the Navy in 1942. She then incited our congressional delegation to enact national legislation to revert the site back to the city at no cost; this happened in 2003 (three years after her death) because of what she had done 10 years earlier.

This park parcel is a direct consequence of Ursula's activism. The land overlooks the pier 90-91 area for which she was Magnolia's most ardent representative on the Neighborhood Advisory Committee to the Port of Seattle.

Ursula's contribution to parks is perhaps best summarized by this quote from a 1999 Magnolia News article written by reporter Russ Zabel: "Superintendent of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation Ken Bounds also spoke in praise of Judkins at the meeting. 'Some people who are parks advocates are not effective because they are not respectful and do not know how to support their positions in a positive way,' he said. 'Judkins, by contrast, takes the right approach. We couldn't do our job without that kind of advocacy,' he added, 'and I think Magnolia is very, very fortunate to have Ursula here be an advocate... for parks."

After Ursula's death in 2000, the Magnolia Community Club wanted her - our constructive, dedicated and highly-effective citizen activist - to be a forever-remembered exemplar of civic citizenship, to be honored and treasured. In that way, it is hoped, others among us will seek to emulate Ursula's example.

The organizations and individuals that worked the most with her have developed a firm consensus for naming the park after Ursula. Among the documentation already received by Parks are letters of support from the Magnolia Community Club, the Queen Anne Community Council, the Discovery Park Advisory Committee, King County Councilman Larry Phillips and Seattel City Councilman Richard McIver.

Naming the park "Ursula Judkins Overlook" would prove a tribute to how any one of us can make a difference for our community. It would also be an incredibly symbolic reminder of how Ursula always kept an eye on downtown in order to protect Magnolia's neighborhood interests.

Anyone with other suggestions, and particularly those fortunate enough to have known Ursula or to have benefited from her efforts, is encouraged to comment before the Feb. 28 deadline to: Seattle Parks and Recreation, Park Naming Committee, 100 Dexter Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109, or by e-mail to paula.hoff@seattle.gov.

Steve Erickson, who contributed to this column, is a trustee of the Magnolia Community Club. P. Scott Cummins is a freelance writer, community volunteer and contributor to the Magnolia News. Write to mageditor@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]