Celebrating the loop

New Washington Park Arboretum trail officially opens

Celebrating the loop

Celebrating the loop

Sunday’s intermittent drizzles demonstrated the utility of the new Arboretum Loop Trail during its grand opening celebration.

A crowd gathered for drumming, family activities and trail tours on April 8, pausing briefly as representatives from the City of Seattle, University of Washington and Arboretum Foundation made opening day remarks and then performed a “vine-cutting” ceremony.

The 1.2-mile paved trail from East Madison Street to the existing Arboretum Drive was planned for in the arboretum’s 2001 master plan. It was funded with $7.8 million from the Washington State Department of Transportation in connection with its State Route 520 Bridge replacement project.

Seattle Parks and Recreation managed the Arboretum Loop Trail’s construction, working with the University of Washington to preserve and enhance its botanical collection inside the arboretum. The Arboretum Foundation performed advocacy work that helped secure SR-520 mitigation funds, and continuously raises funds for arborists, educators, new gardens and family-friendly programming.

“This is a partnership that has thrived since the beginning of the arboretum 84 years ago,” said Sally Clark, director of regional and community relations, who also serves on the Arboretum Botanical Garden Committee.

Clark described the terrain that existed before the trail’s construction as a “muddy quagmire,” and thanked the many hands that contributed to the Arboretum Loop’s large undertaking.

“The arboretum and this project truly represent the power of partnership and the value of collaboration,” said Seattle Deputy Mayor Mike Fong.

UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences director Dan Brown said the trail is a milestone for the university’s public mission, the arboretum home to 20,000 types of plant life — more than any other botanical garden “west of the Mississippi.”

The Arboretum Loop Trail has been open since last November — two months earlier than expected — and winds around native collections, connecting to Arboretum Drive for a 2.5-mile path open year-round. Garrett Farrell, projects manager with Seattle Parks and Recreation, told the Madison Park Times in March he was very happy with how the 18 benches turned out, designed in the style of the 1939 World’s Fair Bench developed in New York.

SPR interim director Christopher Williams said the trail is a prime example of a project completed ahead of schedule and under budget. While it took more than a decade to get from idea to execution, Williams said the trail will last 50-100 years.

Arboretum Foundation Board of Directors president Sherrey Luetjen said the foundation is excited to welcome a more diverse group of visitors of all ages with the improved accessibility provided by the trail.