By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


July 4 is a great day to write about parks, considering many celebrants spend their holiday in one. June 8-14 was an exciting park week for me. As a part of their Neighborhood Parks Program, Starbucks Coffee Company donated $550,000 to King County Parks (the largest gift they’ve ever received) for an "ultimate makeover" of White Center Heights Park. I (along with a total of 1,500 other volunteers) worked one of the two four-hour shifts every day of the renovation except Sunday, laying sod, grubbing blackberries, hauling and spreading wood chips, and shoveling mulch. It was thrilling to watch the park take shape.

By Friday morning, June 15, the park was ready for the unveiling and dedication. In typical Seattle style, the event was accompanied by rain, but the drizzle didn’t douse the spirits of the hundreds of children from White Center Heights Elementary who had walked across the street for the party. When King County Executive Ron Sims took the stage, I heard a little girl solemnly tell her friend, "He’s a politician." Other dignitaries spoke, including Executive Director of the White Center Community Development Association Aileen Balahadia, King County Parks Director Kevin Brown,. Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington Daniel Winterbottom, Starbucks Coffee Company Regional Marketing Manager Heywood McGuffee, King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, and Washington State Representative (D-Seattle) Joe McDermott, who helped secure $500,000 in the Capital Budget for the next phase of renovation at the park, including wetlands restoration and water quality improvement. A Native American gave a particularly moving talk about respecting and loving the land, but I failed to note his name, as did King County in their news release. Shame on them and shame on me.

After the speechifying was over, the crowd swarmed into the park, exclaiming over the beauty of the plantings and art and lining up for the hotdogs for the children and ethnic food (Indian, Central American/Mexican, Vietnamese) donated by local restaurants for the adults. One of the unusual features of the new park is a traditional imu, or underground pit for roasting pig. Imu is the Hawaiian name for the pit; the park signage probably calls it something else, but since I once lived in Hawaii, imu is the word I know best. Community members, including me, attended several meetings last fall and winter to plan what we wanted for the renovated park. Since White Center has, among 80 other nationalities, a large contingent of Tongans and Samoans, an imu was strongly recommended, and the University of Washington students included it in their park design. Pacific Islanders started their preparations on Thursday for the roasted pork that was served at the unveiling on Friday. It was totally delicious.

Okay, how lame is this? A picture of a picture. But I was included on the Starbucks poster that is displayed on an events kiosk at the park entrance, and I wanted to flaunt my moment of celebrity.

Harrison, one of my Cub Scouts when I worked in the Scouting program, made this owl house, along with numerous songbird and bat houses, for his Eagle Scout project. I’m so proud of him. The birdhouses are a great addition to the park.

Art is a big part of the new park. The King County Parks site has an all-inclusive slide show documenting the park makeover from the initial park-planning meetings to the final dedication. You can see the decorative glass being poured, fitted into the columns, etc. It was a fascinating process. Check it out.

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At 11:03 AM, Blogger Hong Kong Willie said...

What a wonderful and generous donation by Starbucks in thier effort to "Go Green". Starbucks however is a cooperation that does not act the same in every State like Florida for instance. All of the Hong Kong Willie art was taken out of Starbucks by order of the Headquarters and Hong Kong Willie is the essence of "Going Green" as seen here:

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Linda Wallace said...

Thanks for bringing Hong Kong Willie to my attention. I'd never heard of the art movement, but watching the Fox News report on YouTube brought me up to speed.


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