Later this afternoon, I will be honored to stand with King County Executive Dow Constantine, Port of Seattle Commission President Tom Albro, and Mayor McGinn, among others, as we officially announce the deal for a new park at Smith Cove. Yes, this was actually announced last month, but this is exciting news so the details are worth repeating!
This project has been over ten years in the making. And though the idea of creating a new park might sound simple, this project has been anything but.
Almost a decade ago, Seattle Parks and Recreation, in cooperation with King County, purchased several acres of Smith Cove from the U.S. Navy. We improved the drainage, shoo’d away the Canada Geese, and created an area ripe for mod-soccer. This acquisition was really the beginning of a dream, a dream of a park along the waterfront.
Several years later, that neighborhood park acquisition became an important piece of a complicated puzzle. Both the Port of Seattle and Seattle Parks and Recreation owned property at Smith Cove and King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division had a need, mandated by the Federal Government, to control their combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into Elliott Bay. The County proposed to construct a million gallon underground holding tank to protect the water quality of Puget Sound during serious storm events. They needed to purchase property near Puget Sound to do this.
Envisioning an opportunity, the community advocated for the Port’s “West Yard” to become park land. Although our Parks Department did not have money budgeted to make the purchase, by partnering with the County, a plan was hatched where the CSO needs would be accommodated underground and a park built on top.
Community and political support prompted conversations to begin. The negotiations ebbed and flowed, sometimes they stalled but they never ended. With the help of King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, then-Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton, and our dedicated Parks team, an agreement was reached.
And that’s what today’s celebration is for. Today is a lesson about patience and perseverance. It is about cooperation and collaboration. Smith Cove perfectly illustrates how government can and should leverage our combined resources to serve the public interest. Our work together will create tremendous community and environmental benefits. It’s truly a win-win and I am honored to be part of it.