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New Sights for Colman Park and the Future of the Leschi Moorages

April 6, 2016 - Leschi Community Meeting

Gazing out over Lake Washington with Mt. Rainer in perfect, plain sight, Leschi community members convened on April 6 to discuss two hot topics regarding the magnificent view, Colman Park and the Leschi moorages. The monthly community council meeting was welcomed by representatives from the Mount Baker community council as well as the Seattle Parks Department to have an open discussion about these two respective topics.

The meeting began with a presentation from Mount Baker community members, Margy Bresslour and Evan Wright, regarding a project to restore Colman Park to the original Olmsted Brothers’ vision. What once was envisioned by the Olmsted brothers to be a beautiful park that “borrowed the landscape” from its pristine location has since become overgrown, littered and uncared for due to lack of park funding and involvement? The Mount Baker community council wishes to restore the park from Holgate to Massachusetts street, cut back and yes - cut down - some of the trees in order to establish a viewshed looking out over 31st Ave.

The council members were present to gain feedback from the Leschi community regarding the project and sought any interest or additional involvement from residents. Their presentation garnered a lot of excitement and fond memories from attendees.

One in particular spoke to the importance of opening up this viewpoint, she said, “It is a spirituality thing, being closed in within a city has an effect on people,” and many others seemed to agree.

The presentation inspired interest from two community members who volunteered to sit on a committee for this Colman Park restoration project.They will represent the Leschi community in its undertaking, and others are encouraged to reach out and join the committee as well. In the future, there will be three public meetings regarding this project, and all community members are welcome to attend. These upcoming meetings will feature professionals, including an arborist who will be talking in more detail about next steps, especially the environmental preservation concerns of this community initiative.

The second half of the Leschi community meeting was focused on the restoration of the north and south Leschi moorages. Paul Wilkinson, manager of moorage for Seattle Parks, and Paula Hoff, also of Seattle Parks, were present for an open discussion regarding the future of our community’s treasured marinas.

Simply put, the Leschi moorages are slowly falling apart. They have not had proper upkeep, and the safety of these facilities has been questioned. While the Parks department is responsible for their upkeep, budgets are limited and the moorages don’t serve as many community members as other Parks’ initiatives therefore they are not as high of a priority for the department. However, Seattle Parks does indeed care for their history and the purpose they serve. This is why they recently put out a public request for proposal, or RFP, to garner third party interest in the management and restoration takeover of both the Leschi and the Lakewood moorages. There were two bids submitted to the RFP and Foss Marina Management was ultimately selected. According to Hoff, Foss’s priorities and plans for the moorages closely align with those of Parks and the community. Those priorities include making the moorages safe, accessible and affordable, protecting the surrounding habitat and the facilities’ original footprint, ensuring a community benefit, maintaining the sailing heritage of the area and improving public access. This agreement will be a strategic partnership between the two entities, and Seattle Parks will still own the moorages.

The Parks’ representatives made it clear that this project is in the very beginning stages of development, what will come next is a long permit process with a plethora of requirements to be met, then a contract will be negotiated with Foss, and what will follow will of course include input from the Leschi community to ensure the projects are executed in accordance with community interests. Once a contract is agreed upon and a design is drawn, there will be opportunities, including community meetings, for public and community input regarding the project. While there are a lot of fears regarding hiring a third party corporation to come in and manage Leschi’s marinas, Parks’ ensured Foss’s positive track record and intent to preserve the moorages’ historic presence in the community. Foss has taken on a similar marina restoration project in Tacoma at the Tacoma waterways near the Museum of Glass.

One of the fears of the management change is that it will price out the lower end boater and lead to larger boats at the moorages and the stacking of boats. Parks mentioned that while Foss plans for a return on investment, as any business would in a similar endeavor, the history and traditions of Leschi’s moorages will be kept intact.

Wilkinson said, “We want to preserve the boats that are there, but we can see stacking in the future: stacking of sail boards in order to increase the use of the facilities.” Tentatively speaking of a timeline for this project, Parks mentioned that they would like to start replacing the south Leschi moorage by the end of this year, with the north moorage replaced soon after. Once again, they highlighted the craziness of the permitting process, but hope to also have a contract signed and agreed upon with Foss by the end of the summer. In Foss’s proposal to Parks, they envisioned the timeline for the project lasting up to five years. For more information regarding Parks and the Leschi moorages, including Foss’s proposal, visit Park’s also welcomes any questions, feedback or input via email from the Leschi community regarding the future of these beloved marinas.

~Caroline Emde

Caroline Emde is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri School of Journalism as well as a recent addition to the Leschi Community. She recently moved here from Chicago and currently works in public relations for a small firm in Seattle. When she isn’t writing for work or for pleasure, she enjoys being outside, hiking, swimming, painting and exploring the city! She is excited to have the opportunity to write for Leschi News and delve deeper into the local community.

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