Checking out every park in Seattle? Piece o’ cake. At least that’s what Linnea Westerlind thought when she first contemplated the idea. Three years, and hundreds of visits later, this blogger and mom of three now understands what a huge undertaking it is.
When her first son was born in 2009, Linnea took a year off from work. Craving a project, and eager to get out in the Seattle summer sun (yeah, it sometimes makes an appearance!), she hatched her plan to visit every park in the city. Westerlind documented her quest in her blog: A Year of Seattle Parks. As the title says, her deadline for completion was a year.
Then Linnea realized there were over 400 Seattle parks.
Not to be daunted, she dove into the project, and managed to see an impressive 189 parks the first year. Now she is within months of achieving her goal.
Linnea kindly agreed to answer my questions about her project and to share what she’s learned visiting all those parks:
What has surprised you the most as you’ve worked towards your goal?
I didn’t expect to learn so much about the history of Seattle through visiting these parks. Many of our parks are named after well-known founders of this city. We are also lucky that so many of these people donated the land that has become park space now. I’ve also been surprised by how many strange spaces are considered parks, like little triangles of grass and tree-lined medians. I’m sure most people pass these kind of spaces every day and don’t realize they are public parks.
How has the process of reaching your goal changed over the years?
In 2011, I became pregnant with twins and went on bed rest for five weeks before they came early at 33 weeks. Suddenly, I had three boys under the age of three and life has not been the same since! A few months after my younger sons were born, I started missing the project. My oldest was in preschool by then. So, I bought a double Bob stroller and the three of us ventured out. Everything takes longer now with twins, but I am still enjoying getting out and seeing new places.
What have been your favorite parks?
I’ve always loved the big Seattle parks, Lincoln Park, Discovery Park, Seward Park, Green Lake and Magnuson. Some of my new favorites are the much lesser known ones–I-5 Colonnade, Soundview Terrace, Bradner Gardens Park, Pritchard Island Beach, Schmitz Preserve Park and Ballard Corners Park.
Were there any parks you didn’t like?
There were definitely a few times when I walked all around a neighborhood trying to find some little hard-to-find park, and then it turned out to be a tiny inaccessible greenspace or an uninteresting strip of grass with a lone tree. Luckily, most of the parks — big and small — I’ve enjoyed.
Have you discovered new parks you like to visit regularly as a result of this project?
I’ve found some great playgrounds for my kids in all corners of the city and also lots of nice places to hike and walk. The project has definitely helped me to get out of my neighborhood and explore other parts of the city.
How many more parks do you need to visit to reach your goal?
I think I have 25 to go…although the city opens a handful of new parks every year. So, I think this project could continue forever!
Did many new parks open after you started the project?
I think about a dozen or more have opened since I started. I’m always adding them to my list. It’s fun to see new parks turn from an empty lot into a really usable, fun space. I just visited a park in Ballard last weekend where the grass hasn’t even grown in yet. And already, it was being used by people who live nearby and are excited to have a park in their neighborhood.
When do you expect to have seen them all?
I hope to finish up by this spring.
How are you going to celebrate once you’ve achieved your goal?
I don’t know! Maybe I’ll have a picnic in one of my favorite parks with some family and friends. I’m also hoping to turn the project into something more accessible for people to use when they want to visit and learn more about Seattle parks.
Anything else you’d like to say about the project or Seattle parks?
I’ve always loved walking, writing, photography and exploring new places. The best thing about this project is that it combines all of those things. I’m having so much fun with it!
Thank you for answering my questions Linnea. Good luck reaching your goal!
Check out the blog: A Year of Seattle Parks