by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Forbes.com and the web edition of Forbes Magazine have named Cal Anderson Park one of the 12 best urban parks in the U.S. Forbes is a well-known publication which features news about developments and trends in business and finance.
The story, "America's Best City Parks," says of Cal Anderson Park, "When a federal regulation required drinking-water reservoirs to be covered, Seattle took the opportunity to make its Lincoln Reservoir roof double as park space."
"The result," says Peter Harnik of the Trust for Public Land, "was beautiful parkland. The recently redesigned space in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood includes paths, wading pools, and playing fields."
The park is named after the late Cal Anderson, a decorated Vietnam veteran who served as an aide to the late City Councilmember George Benson and to Mayor Charles Royer. Anderson was then appointed and later elected the state's first openly Gay legislator. He served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1987 to 1994, when he was elected to the State Senate. Anderson died in 1995. A beloved politician, Anderson worked diligently on legislation relating to Gay rights, campaign finance reform, easier voter registration, and easy access to government documents.
Cal Anderson Park features the rebuilt Shelterhouse, which includes a multipurpose room, outdoor restrooms, a plaza, and storage for maintenance equipment. The new community space, completed in 2003, is routinely used for community meetings, events, and performances. The Olmsted-inspired improvements to Cal Anderson Park include a fountain, texture pool, the Waterworks reflecting pool, promenade paths, landscaping, an irrigation system, and lighting.
"We are so proud and pleased to know that the special qualities of Cal Anderson Park are being noticed nationally. To be in such august company is gratifying," said Kay Rood of Groundswell Off Broadway and a founding member of the Cal Anderson Park Alliance, about the Forbes.com award. "We have known from the outset that this park would provide a much-needed place for communities to gather, to relax and play. What it also has become is the heart of Capitol Hill."
Rood says, "People simply love this park, and it's what they all bring to it that makes it so special."
Cal Anderson Park has a long history. The southern half of Cal Anderson Park began life as Lincoln Park in 1907. It was the first park developed by the Olmsted Brothers' under their 1903 parks and boulevards plan for Seattle. On the northern half of the site was the Lincoln Reservoir, put into use in 1901. In 1922, the Board of Park Commissioners renamed the playfield on the site's southern half "Broadway Playfield" after the neighborhood and its main street, and in 1980 the field was again renamed "Bobby Morris Playfield" after the late King County auditor and Capitol Hill coach.
In 2003 the entire site was named Cal Anderson Park.
According to a Seattle Parks and Recreation news release, instrumental in the park's development were Groundswell Off Broadway, a local group led by Kay Rood that supported the renewal and redevelopment of the whole site, and Anne Knight and Jerry Arbes of the Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks. The group's focus was to preserve the Olmsted legacy and create a historic park that would be a true gift for future Seattle residents. The park was characterized by local architect Jerry Garcia as "a venue for urban strolls out in the open and devoid of commerce - our first great park of the 21st century."
After Seattle Public Utilities covered the reservoir in 2004, the Parks and design team stepped in. With funding from the Pro Parks Levy approved by Seattle voters in 2000, the State Recreation and Conservation Office, and $1.2 million raised by the community, Olmsted Parks carried out the plan for renovation work.
After the park opened in 2005, a group of park neighbors and users formed the Cal Anderson Park Alliance to generate creative, innovative activities, programs and events to activate Cal Anderson Park. Its goal is to build on and sustain healthy, safe and varied uses for the park.
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