Deep Background

Groundswell NW is all-volunteer non-profit organization based in the Ballard District.  Through the 2014 Ballard Open Space Plan, we seek to gain a better understanding of our community’s current and future open space needs and to identify opportunities to create and enhance parks and public open spaces in the greater Ballard area.

A previous Open Space Inventory and Action Plan was conducted in the mid 1990s by Groundswell NW.  Since that time, a significant number of opportunities have become or will become public space.  A partial list of the successes from that inventory include:

•    Crown Hill Glen/Plumis Park

•    Greenwood P-patch

•    Salmon Bay Natural Area

•    Thyme Patch Park

•    Ballard Corners Park

•    Kirke Park

•    Baker Park expansion

•    Burke Gilman Trail extension to Golden Gardens Park

•    Walkable Crown Hill Plan

•    Numerous traffic circles

•    Crown Hill Park

•    Playground improvements at Whittier, Loyal Heights, West Woodland, North Beach, and Salmon Bay schools

•    Soundview Playground

•    14th Ave Park Boulevard

The previous inventory and action plan has been a huge benefit to the Ballard District by noting opportunities, engaging neighbors, informing the City, and creating new open spaces.

Building on the foundation of the 1996 Ballard Open Space Inventory and subsequent plans, the 2014 inventory will assess progress to date, review the viability of previously identified opportunities, identify new opportunities, and recommend a course of action for addressing the open space needs of the community.  We also anticipate an “early success” project to develop out of this project, such as a mural, kiosk, habitat restoration enhancement, greenway, or small park improvement project, which will involve community members in the creation, design, and execution.

Groundswell NW, a volunteer-run organization, hired Site Story to design and facilitate a survey process that involves volunteers in the data collection and development of recommendations.  The consultant will be responsible for drafting the final report and assisting the Steering Committee in creating educational materials and maps based upon the inventory’s findings and recommendations.  The Steering Committee will serve as the project manager, working closely with the consultant and carrying out public outreach and volunteer recruitment.

Once the inventory is completed, Groundswell NW will seek opportunities to disseminate the inventory’s findings, such as with the Ballard District Council, the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners, Seattle Parks Foundation, local “Friends of” groups, and local media outlets, among others.  The final report, as well as all project materials, will be made available online.

Ultimately through this project, Groundswell NW hopes to nurture stewardship groups of neighbors throughout the greater Ballard area and to utilize the inventory’s findings to inform city planning efforts and other decisions affecting our community.

The 2014 Ballard Open Space Inventory will benefit the broader community in multiple ways.  The inventory will be carried out through volunteer-based data collection and will involve community members in the envisioning and development of the final recommendations and priority actions.  We anticipate an “early success” action to develop out of this project, such as a mural, habitat restoration enhancement, or small park improvement project, which will involve community members in the creation, design, and execution.  One such possible “early success” might be collaboration with Ballard Greenways to enhance the network of streets and by-ways made safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The volunteers and the broader community will benefit from engagement in this process, as we will nurture the evolution of clusters of neighbors growing into “Friends of” type groups engaged in stewarding and advocating for existing and new open space in their micro-communities.

This project will benefit the greater Ballard community as Groundswell NW intends to use the findings and recommendations not only to shape our activities in the next five years, but also to inform our advocacy, especially at the city level.  This inventory will help us be a representative voice for the greater Ballard area as the City of Seattle updates the neighborhood plan, make decisions about development and transportation, addresses future park funding issues, and prioritizes park acquisition and development projects in the coming years.

Groundswell NW began with Lillian Riley’s dream of having a park in every arterial quadrant so children wouldn’t have to cross a busy street in order to have a place to play.  To support that vision, Groundswell NW conducted a volunteer-driven survey in the 1990s, the Ballard Open Space Inventory, which identified 126 open space acquisition opportunities and 111 open space enhancement opportunities.  The Open Space and Recreation element of the 1998 Crown Hill – Ballard Neighborhood Plan identified 11 arterial quadrants without public open space. Nearly twenty years later, Groundswell NW’s actions and advocacy have led to the creation and improvement of numerous parks and green spaces throughout Ballard, including projects to serve four of those quadrants.

While we have made significant progress toward our founding vision, the greater Ballard area has undergone significant changes during this same time, such as rapid redevelopment, increasing density, demographic shifts, an evolving economic base, and gentrification.

Moreover, Ballard is anticipated to continue as one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Seattle.  As a November 2012 Seattle Times article pointed out, some 1,200 new residential units are expected to be available by mid-2014 with another 750 open by the end of 2015.  These new developments are mostly large apartment buildings that lack green space for residents and do not offer open space accessible by the public.

Several studies have been published in the past few years demonstrating a variety of benefits to people and communities when open space is easily accessible, the most important of which are healthier populations, higher property values, and increased quality of life.

Recognizing those benefits and also that conditions in Ballard have changed since the last survey, Groundswell NW is seeking a Small and Simple Grant to conduct an update to the earlier inventory, which will help us gain a better understanding of our community’s current and future open space needs and identify opportunities to create and enhance parks and public spaces in the greater Ballard area.

Ultimately, we envision that this updated open space inventory will inform the City of Seattle’s neighborhood planning efforts and park acquisition and development priorities.

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