The Parks District will fund trail repairs, improve neighborhood walk/bike access

Map of the 2016 Parks District investments. Notice the red star on the north end of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Map of the 2016 Parks District investments. Notice the red star on the north end of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Seattle’s crumbing trails are finally set to get some love from the Parks District, according to an announcement from Mayor Ed Murray. Trails are just one small part of the city’s parks system that has fallen into disrepair due to years of deferred maintenance, Murray said while outlining $47 million in parks investments all across the city.

“Years of deferred maintenance and lack of major investment has taken its toll on Seattle Parks and Recreation facilities,” said Murray in a statement. “In 2016, we will launch a major round of improvements to community centers, open spaces and facilities across the system.”

The city is currently conducting a survey of trail conditions in part to guide $500,000 in maintenance investments budgeted for 2016.

And these fixes can’t come soon enough, especially for the city’s oldest trails. Some sections have not been paved since the late 70s or 80s, and the width of many older sections has gotten skinnier and skinnier as the edges fall away. For example, anyone who has biked on the Burke-Gilman Trail essentially anywhere north of the UW knows how jarring some of the bumps can be. And especially since so much of the trail does not have lighting, these bumps are especially dangerous during dark hours.

But wait, why is the Parks District in charge of maintaining such an important transportation facility as the Burke-Gilman Trail? That’s a great question. Many sections of trails in the city are technically parks while others are under the control of SDOT. You probably don’t even know when you cross from one to the other. But when it comes to budget decisions, funding needs to come from both departments. And when budget crunches happen, the Parks Department has higher priorities than trail conditions.

Should Parks be in charge of major transportation facilities at all? I suppose that’s a whole different conversation.

Connecting parks and neighborhoods


This amazing connection from the Beacon Hill neighborhood greenway to Jefferson Park should be a guiding light for neighborhood park access.

As we reported when we endorsed the Parks District vote last year, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and other neighborhood leaders worked to make sure the new District was tasked with connecting parks and their surrounding neighborhoods. Too often, parks themselves are wonderful, but the streets bounding them are busy and have terrible walking and biking access.

One function for the city’s neighborhood greenways is to provide routes from homes to parks. With high quality and safe connections to parks, a good neighborhood greenway can almost feel like an extension of the parks itself. And in the same way, many paths and streets in parks work as biking and walking transportation connections. Nearly all of my favorite bike routes go through parks (including Denny Park, which is also budgeted for $909,000 in pathway and drainage improvements), and many more connections could be improved and expanded with some smart investments.

In other words, a holistic view of parks would see them as part of the surrounding neighborhood that don’t just stop at the legal border.

The mayor’s 2016 Parks District budget includes $319,000 to “collaborate with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to mark and activate greenways where they enter parks with signage, programming, seating for pedestrians, and other ideas.”

I can’t wait to see the improvements they come up with. Is there a poor park connection in your neighborhood? Let us know in the comments below how you think could SDOT and the Parks District could improve it.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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24 Responses to The Parks District will fund trail repairs, improve neighborhood walk/bike access

  1. Josh says:

    Most drivers are (I hope) smarter than paint, but I’m not wild about the sharrows in that “after” view indicating that motorists can drive onto the trail.

    No point making things any more confusing than they have to be. Save sharrows for where they belong: Sharrow = shared lane in the direction of travel.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I bet today they would use the dashed green paint instead of sharrows. That said, I don’t think any driver is going to honestly confuse this for a car crossing.

      • Josh says:

        I agree drivers are probably smarter than the paint here, but this misuse of sharrows dilutes their actual meaning — when a driver sees a sharrow, I want them to know that it means I’ll be riding the same direction in the same lane that they’re using.

        Would SDOT start randomly using green lights to signal something other than allowing traffic to proceed through an intersection? Of course not, they need to keep the meaning consistent. Consistency promotes predictability which drives safety.

        But that same consistency is deeply lacking in bicycle facilities.

  2. Josh says:

    SDOT and Parks should, theoretically, both be complying with the City’s adopted standards for bicycle facilities, but they’re extremely inconsistent with basic safety issues like properly locating and marking access-control bollards.

    Safety standards have required for decades that bollards be brightly painted and reflectorized, but Parks has continued to install new dark wooden bollards as recently as this year, with inadequate sight distances and narrow openings that don’t meet AASHTO or ADA requirements.

    Whatever standards the City adopts for trailheads, someone needs to make sure those standards are actually followed in the field by whatever agency owns a particular facility.

  3. Southeasterner says:

    Living across the street from a park my major gripe with Parks is the damage they do to the infrastructure. I can point to many places on the sidewalks that have been completely destroyed by repetitive use of heavy Parks trucks and equipment (including a brand new ADA compliant ramp). The sidewalks were never designed to support the amount of weight they place on them, and it shows, and it’s beyond rational reason why their employees can’t park where the rest of us do and walk the short distance to the trash cans to change out the bags, for larger parks just use golf cart / 4 wheelers like they do in every other city.

    It was this very reason I voted against the Park levy. Why should we give them more money to destroy our infrastructure, which we then have to come up with more funds to replace?

    So to answer your question on who should be responsible for infrastructure maintenance my immediate response would be King County, as SDOT (maintenance deferral) and Parks have proven to be incompetent. However, on further reflection maybe if Parks were responsible for fixing the infrastructure they wouldn’t be so quick to destroy it.

  4. Ballard Resident says:

    Will the new 14th Ave NW Park include some kind of provision for a bike path? I found this on East Ballard Community Association’s website.

    “No bicycle facility:
    This is new since September when we advised that there would be a 3 block long cycle track connecting the Greenway on NW 58th and running up along the park. Further analysis revealed that a dedicated cycle track would take away much of the available green space for the park and wouldn’t make sense to have for just 3 blocks. If, in the future, SDOT agrees to fund a dedicated bicycle facility from at least Market to NW 65th, then accommodations could be made to include it within the park.”

    Seems very short sighted. I’d think this area should be the perfect place for a cycle track.

    • Bob Hall says:

      Oh man, I hadn’t seen that. I’m thrilled they ditched that idea. 14th Ave as a whole could be made better for biking, but I was always highly skeptical of creating a 3-block long cycle track.

      I’m willing to accept incremental projects that may not seem to make sense on their own, but only as long as there is a bigger plan. In other words, if the plan was: “we’ll build these three blocks now, because we got X dollars for it, and then next year we’ll apply for another grant and complete the rest of the plan, and then it will be a cohesive project”. But for 14th Ave, what was the rest of the plan going to be?

    • AW says:

      It isn’t clear where the 3 blocks of bicycle path would be located – do they go north of 58th or south to market ? If the latter then losing this would be terrible as that stretch is uncomfortable for a bike due to narrow drive lanes and passing cars. This is an important route heading to the BG trail (after crossing market go to 11th Ave NW and then straight down to the trail).

  5. ronp says:

    The lack of lighting and bumps on the BG trail from Uvillage through the UW is a disgrace to the region a and a slap in the face of all the low carbon green talk emanating from elected and appointed officials.

    I know they were trying for TIGER grants etc. But the time to fix the trail is now.

    Much more biking traffic when the light rail station opens.

    • Ints says:

      “But wait, why is the Parks District in charge of maintaining such an important transportation facility as the Burke-Gilman Trail? That’s a great question. ”

      In the 70s when responsibilities and jurisdictions over the BGT were decided, SDOT’s focus on transportation was limited mainly to motorized vehicles with pedestrians and cyclists considered a nuisance at best. It was probably intentional that they were not given sole jurisdiction over the trail.
      Now that SDOT has expanded their concept of transportation to include cyclists and pedestrians it could be worth having that conversation but I would like to see a balanced approach to the BGT, as it already is too accommodating to cyclists at the expense of pedestrians.

      “…..But when it comes to budget decisions, funding needs to come from both departments. And when budget crunches happen, the Parks Department has higher priorities than trail conditions.”

      Sadly Seattle Parks and Recreation have a fraction of the funding and support that SDOT gets which is a reflection on our priorities as a city.

  6. Andres Salomon says:

    Seattle Parks has been pretty awesome recently. First, there’s the wifi at various community centers; now I can check email and stuff when I’m waiting for my kid to finish playing with various toys.

    Then there’s the stuff mentioned in this post.

    Finally, there are the bike rack upgrades. I whined about the crappy racks at Green Lake Community Center over twitter, after watching tons of people with cargo & family bikes (and normal bikes) struggle to use them. They responded, and they were upgraded within 2 months. I’ve been bugging the Lake City Pagliacci Pizza (who has an entire off-street parking lot) to install ANY racks for over a year now, and it looks like SDOT is finally installing some on the sidewalk.

  7. Gary Anderson says:

    The BGT is pretty rotten from the city line through the UW campus. A couple street crossings, NE 112 and Lakeside Pl NE, are extremely rough. On the UW campus where they very coarsly ground down the bumps they are almost as bad as the bumps were. Some patching has been done but it’s generally so bad I try to avoid the BGT if I can. The BGT was once a showpiece trail to be proud of, not so much anymore (at least the Seattle and UW section).

  8. Johnny White says:

    This is certainly a welcome development. I just hope that motorists, and even pedestrians, respect the bike accesses as it will be mutually beneficial to everyone.

  9. Mark says:

    My first reaction: What are we applauding here? $500k hardly begins to address the shortcomings of the BGT from UW to 145th, and that’s only ONE trail segment in the city!

    Heck, you could collect almost this much with a pledge drive. If this is the extent of the city’s commitment to long-haul bicycle transportation, we’re screwed. And frankly, I don’t think it helps to spin it in such a positive light. Change requires a stark assessment of where we’re at, now.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You must be really good at holding pledge drives.

      • Mark says:

        Well, I’m an engineer, so one order of magnitude counts as “close” to me. Personally, I’d gladly chip in $100-$200/year in user fees to repair and maintain that stretch of BGT at a standard comparable to the King County-funded section in Lake Forest Park. How many distinct BGT commuters are there on the north city section? My impression is that many/most of them, like me, are fairly well off financially. So it seems to be at least vaguely in the right universe.

        Either way, you can’t seriously argue that 500 grand is going to make much of a difference. It is time to start calling people to account, IMO, not just cheerleading these wholly inadequate proposals.

  10. Tom Wynne says:

    It does seem that 500k is a drop in the bucket in regards to the snout mind cost of trail dedication and maintenance/ improvement, but it’s a step in the right direction. Public commentary and voting seems the best way to rattle some cages and make things happen.

  11. Rob says:

    I’d love to see a dedicated bike lane connecting the Eastlake Bridge, along Harvard Ave E, to the existing bike lane along 10th Ave E, with a dedicated lane between Roy and John along Broadway with a clean connection to the newly completed two-way bike lane on the East side of Broadway.

  12. Pingback: Beacon Hill trail is a big neighborhood greenway improvement | Seattle Bike Blog

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