Arboretum North Entry project to reclaim wetlands, create overlook hill


All images: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

The end game for the new Arboretum multi-use trail announced last week is the second phase North Entry project planned for the post-520-replacement-era. The project would return the WSDOT Peninsula / Miller Street Dump to the Arboretum after it was taken for highway use half a century ago.

Things are different this time around and WSDOT will replace wetlands lost to 520’s expanding footprint with new wetlands at several sites around Lake Washington. One of those sites includes five acres on the garbage-dump-peninsula’s western shore which will be restored and planted with native species to increase biodiversity. Separate from this mitigation work but in partner with it, the proposed North Entry project would incorporate the new wetland, daylight Arboretum Creek (currently piped underground) and extend the park to the future Montlake Lid.

Some 28,000 cubic yards of earth will be regraded to create the new wetland. Rather than hauling the material offsite, the North Entry plan calls for it to be piled into a 40-foot hill at the peninsula’s south end, creating a new overlook with views of the wetland and surrounding tree canopy. 20130129-082224.jpg While the plan is still in early stages, Seattle Parks expects to reclaim ownership of the peninsula once highway construction is complete. Details of the land transfer are not settled, but it is assumed WSDOT will not keep a property for which it has no use. The Ramp-to-Nowhere made the peninsula “useless” when the R.H. Thomson was defeated in 1971 — those ramps are to be demolished by 2016.


North Entry plan. Click for larger view.


New multi-use trail coming to the Arboretum, Ramp-to-Nowhere to be demolished

Image: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

Image: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

Walking and biking in the Washington Park Arboretum will be easier in coming years, with today’s announcement of a new multi-use trail to be funded through SR 520 mitigation efforts. The trail will connect Madison Street to the south with Foster Island Road to the north in this first project phase, and eventually extend to the Arboretum’s North Entry expansion near the Montlake Lid in a second phase after 520 replacement work is complete.

The 12-foot wide trail will meander east of Lake Washington Blvd, passing the Arboretum’s new Pacific Connections garden, Azalea Way and the Wilcox Bridge. The trail will be paved with semi-rough material to create a bit of noise alerting pedestrians of on-coming cyclists. With this facility, the park will have a new 2-mile loop including the pedestrian-only Arboretum Drive.

This $7.8 million project will be the largest single donation to the Arboretum in its history, said Jack Collins, Arboretum Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC) Chair. Funding will come from WSDOT’s $300 million federal TIFIA loan secured last fall.

“This is an historic day for the Arboretum,” said ABGC member Paige Miller, in thanking state legislators for their help with this project. “The Ramps-to-Nowhere will be no more.” Demolition of the unused ramps will be part of 520’s West Approach Bridge construction beginning in 2014.

“This is a win for all parties involved,” said Julie Meredith, WSDOT’s SR 520 Program Director. “We are pleased to move forward with our mitigation efforts.” Arboretum trail funding will be paid next month with design work continuing through this year. Trail construction would start along with the West Approach Bridge in summer of 2014.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

In other Arboretum news, the Graham Visitor’s Center now has a coffee bar.

OMG There is a computer growing in the Garbage Bay wetlands + Monday news

Over the weekend the Seattle Times published an underwater photograph of the Arboretum lily pads, showing a unique perspective on urban bio-diversity. Nearby, in Garbage Bay, there is this:



Nature and the city are not opposed — each is a form of the other. Which brings us to this morning’s news roundup:

– The City Council will discuss the prospects of the Second Montlake Bridge at 10:30 and backyard development at 2:30 (more info here, via the Laurelhurst Blog — and here, via CHS).

– Following on the heels of the North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association’s stance against walking and biking on the Portage Bay Bridge, the Coalition for a Sustainable 520 has re-emerged to take the same stance. Both groups favor a narrow bridge width to protect views.

UPDATE: 12:30pm

Capitol Hill Seattle has more info on local opposition to the walking & biking path on the future 520 Portage Bay Bridge.

RERUNS: Breakdancing on the Ramp-to-Nowhere

Images: Montlaker

The Ramp-to-Nowhere has always been used in creative ways – from jumping off of it to living under it to declaring one’s love for Gina on top of it. On a recent spring day, a film crew used the ramp for a breakdancing video shoot. While waiting for edited tape to emerge from the studio, here are few pics:

All images: Montlaker

Originally published July 3, 2012

REPOSTED: Penthouse Living Under the Ramp-to-Nowhere

The idea of re-purposing transportation infrastructure is not new — the Highline in Lower Manhattan has even made it trendy. But before the Highline was converted from an elevated railway into a world-famous park, it was overgrown and abandoned, left-forgotten and off-limits. And consequently, it was much loved and admired by creative souls looking for new ways to live and play in the city.

Image: WSDOT

The Ramp-to-Nowhere has similarly attracted creative uses during its orphaned life in the Arboretum. Once someone built a penthouse apartment nestled under the roadway, between the girders spanning over the lagoons. The penthouse had a sofa, a bed, plenty of storage and an entry door under lock and key. Vinyl flooring, carpet and art on the walls made the place feel like home despite the extra-low ceiling.

Image: WSDOT

Image: WSDOT

Access to the penthouse was by rock climbing up from the water using hand holds drilled into the concrete columns. A rolling platform spanning between the bottom flanges of the I-beams made it easy to travel under the roadway — better for bringing in the groceries that way. There was a basketball hoop down at water level, apparently for pick up games with canoers.

Image: WSDOT

This ingenious little abode was discovered (and removed) by maintenance crews in 2001, but the curious attraction of the ramp remains, waiting for others to come along and put it to use.

Originally published May 18, 2012.

UW student’s “Lily Pad” project blurs land, lake and nature in the Arboretum wetlands

All images: Todd Yinglin

As part of the mitigation plan for the expansion of 520, the State will fund the creation of five new wetland sites on Lake Washington, one of which being the WSDOT Peninsula and its ambling lagoons next to the Washington Park Arboretum. The City of Seattle has provisionally approved a plan to create five acres of wetlands along the peninsula by regrading 28,000 cubic yards of earth and replanting native species. Regrading one wetland to make yet another leads to the question: just what is a wetland anyway?

UW student Todd Yingling presents an interesting answer in a Landscape Architecture studio that addressed this issue for the WSDOT Peninsula site. His Lily Pads project uses floating platforms to grow plants and create walking paths out over the water. The floating “lily pads” take a common plant found in the area and reuses their form at the urban scale. The “natural” shoreline is consciously left alone – natural since its creation when 520 was built in the 1960s – and keeps remnants of the freeway ramps as viewpoints and reminders of the man-made history of the site.

Thanks Todd, for sharing your project!

For Cyclists, the Ramp-to-Nowhere Goes Somewhere

Image: Montlaker via Google Maps

Of 520’s many ramps-to-nowhere, there is one that does go somewhere: it connects the Arboretum and the Montlake flyer bus stop on 520 with 2000 feet of unused freeway ramp. The ramp was built 99% complete in 1963 and then waited for the R.H. Thomson freeway that never came – its ends left truncated by Seattle’s freeway revolt. WSDOT has since maintained its uselessness with signs that say, “No Trespassing.”

Imagine riding a bike out of the Arboretum and onto a bicycle ramp that soars over the far side of 520, landing exactly where busses arrive from the Eastside. No more battling through traffic on Montlake Boulevard. Sadly, the opportunity to create the best bicycle ramp in Seattle has suffered the same fate as the R.H. Thomson. It seems that entrenched interests at the Arboretum, the city and the state have always squashed the idea and prevented the ramp from becoming anything other than a symbol of political stalemate.

Image: Montlaker

Making the ramp usable for cyclists and pedestrians would not take much. A little carpentry and a few concrete highway barriers would safely complete its missing ends. The hardware for hand rails and lamp posts is all there, as it has been since the early 60s. There is plenty of space for riders and walkers and best of all – the view is fantastic.