Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two P-Patches, Four Parks In One Morning Walk

The Phinney Neighborhood Center (PNC) at is a fine starting point for city walks in any direction. And most any direction provides a hill climb and a close encounter with a barista. This occasional series guides walkers on roughly six-mile jaunts with notes about points of interest.

By Peter Hendrickson
The P-patch program is alive and well in Seattle, and particularly well represented with five community gardens along the Greenwood to Fremont fertile crescent. Cross the street west from the PNC for a grande mocha latte and pumpkin scone to fuel a level and downhill walk north along Greenwood Ave. to soak in the heart of the Urban Village Center. With spring, the activity of the restaurants and small shops spills onto the sidewalks, inviting a stroll rather than winter’s quickened pace. Quick, name the business in the Becker Building.

At 85th St. (one mile) check the billboard at the Taproot Theatre, then head north... again on 1st Ave to monitor the Piper Village mixed use construction project. The absence of sidewalk is remedied at Sandel Playground on 90th, a great place to walk your dog, zip your skateboard down the curved asphalt, wade with the kids or chase a Frisbee. Head west to 3rd Ave then south to NW 88th where, a half block west, a white picket fence overhung with lilac signals the Greenwood P-patch, up the rosemary flanked salvaged pavement walk through the archway in a neighborhood of modest post-war homes.

Chat with a gardener or simply admire the edibles and florals. Don’t miss the impressive vine at the northern neighbor’s house. Exit east via 87th to the corner of Evanston Ave(two miles) for an illustrated history of Greenwood Park. The text and photos in the entry arch tell the story of Japanese market gardens lovingly tended then lost due to internment during the war, later to become the Otani Greenhouses. At the northern end of this 2.2 acre gem, the urban toilet demands kudos for the “Closed” sign which appears in the ironwork when the gate is latched for privacy—rugged aesthetics. The Seattle to Everett Interurban rail line ran this way with a 1910 inaugural electric trolley trip. By 1939 autos made the trolley redundant but the right-of-way is being reclaimed for cyclists and walkers.

Wander east on 89th St to Linden Ave. for a pleasant stroll south to 83rd St and down the hill to Aurora. Cross Aurora and take Green Lake Dr N (3 miles) towards Green Lake. Hug the shoreline where you can walk, run, stroll, cycle, skate or mosey past Bathhouse Theatre, keeping an eye out for the well lit crosswalk and light at 66th to cross Aurora.

Linden Orchard Park is two blocks away down Linden Ave. at 67th St. This wellcultivated P-patch/Park was once an orchard and kitchen garden but now sports an arroyo stream bed for play and water recycling. This wheelchair accessible gathering spot also features a tool shed with a turf roof, a stained glass window and mosaic pavers. Inscriptions on several paver tiles tell the story of strong community support. Like many blocks in the area, the curb strip planting is elegant. Only the entry gate at 67th St. seems a bit out of place on its galvanized supports.

P-Patch Community Gardens started in the early 70s when the City of Seattle bought the Picardo Farm (there’s the “P”). Historian Judy Hucka traces city gardens back to the Boeing Bust, hard economic times. UW student Daryln Rundberg Del Boca started Neighbors in Need, using part of the Picardo truck farm so Wedgwood Elementary students and families could grow vegetables in 8 by 8 foot plots. Surviving three decades, P-patches are now a cornerstone of City’s Department of Neighborhoods with seven full-time staff and over 2000 plots. Nearly a third of gardeners report they grow 50% or more of their food during April to October. Most gardens have waiting lists.

Return to the PNC with a brisk walk up N 67th St, pausing to catch your breath and the view at the bench on the corner of Dayton Ave. N, about 4 miles. This walk is half a Figure 8 walk. Next column the other loop will sweep south to visit three more P-Patches including the vertiginous Billy Goat’s Bluff, no relation to the Fremont Troll.

[This post is from the current edition of the Phinney Ridge Review]

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