Adult supervision: Enter Westlake Park play space only if accompanied by a kid



If you happened to be downtown Monday, July 30, you might have noticed something a little unusual going on at Westlake Park.

For example, a bouncy castle fully occupied by bouncing children, a temporary stage where a chicken, a space alien, and other The Bears Upstairs band members traded places at the piano, and a big chalk circle where kids filled in shapes of dancing children, clouds, and trees.

The park was dappled with sunshine, the blue trees (!) shone, and shrieks of laughter competed with live music and bird calls. Children ran in circles, stood with patiently upturned faces to be painted, visited the Seattle Children’s Science Adventure Lab – 45-foot mobile science lab, and more, while adults slowed and chatted with one another.

The event was an open house for a wonderful new pilot project from Seattle Parks, in partnership with Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) and a number of other participants. The project aims to create a children’s play space in the heart of the downtown retail core – complete with a Mini Geode climbing structure and a grouping of three rolling climber stones of stainless steel.

Design firm Mithun’s concept rendering of the play space.

Positioned to give the park’s existing trees, fountain, and artwork spaces plenty of room to breathe, the play space will be tucked into the northeast corner of the park.The goal is to have the pilot structures in place by the end of summer 2012. After two years, Parks will collect feedback from the community and weigh maintenance costs to determine whether the playground should be a permanent feature of the park.  If you’re a downtown resident with kids or grandchildren, believe me, this will receive a collective thumbs-up.

According to a 2011 DSA study, downtown Seattle’s residential population increased by 20 percent since 2000 and more than 70 percent since 1990. Today, more than 3,000 kids call the Downtown neighborhood home, but most don’t stay.

We know that families move out of Downtown as their children age, fleeing for the green spaces and schools of the other neighborhoods.  Adding  parks and play spaces downtown are important factors in getting families to stay with us.

Westlake Park has been transformed.  The addition of music, Dancing until Dusk events, the giant chess pieces, artists and more has made visitors and locals alike feel welcome and safe. People have told me that “just watching people play chess” makes them feel good about coming to our downtown park. Many thanks to our Parks Department, SDOT, Downtown Seattle Association, and others who creatively are making changes that bring us downtown to play!

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