Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Aparkolypse 2015: Ravenna Park

We feel claustrophobic and overrated by just writing about another place in the City of Seattle, but duty compels us to continue on in coverage of our park tour. Just north of University of Washington campus is Ravenna Park, another delightful oasis in Seattle's hellscape. Ravenna Park hits all of our most important checklist items for a good park: aesthetic quality, attractive and useful playground, multiple options for play, and non-Saw bathrooms.


The park's official website offers a full geological/topographical memoir of the region, including the cheerful tidbit, "If Ravenna seems a leafy paradise now, it is only a weed patch compared with the magnificent forest it once was. Even after the original logging craze had leveled most of the virgin timber in the Seattle area, Ravenna had been saved as a haven for fir and cedar giants." We also learn of the European origins of the neighborhood's name: "W. W. Beck, the realtor who bought the land in 1887, was ecstatic when wandering among these trees. He named the place 'Ravenna' after an Italian seacoast town that was famous for its pine trees, where poets, warriors, and statesmen once strolled in a state of euphoria similar to his own."


Ravenna Park is a place you can either make a quick trip to or spend a big chunk of the day with your group. A fact that will surprise those familiar with Seattle: the actual parking area is difficult to find and has terrible accommodations. Carpooling is strongly recommended as is anticipating that you'll park somewhere else, which you'll have to be cautious of since Seattle loves its permit parking in residential areas. Decent bathrooms and a stylish drinking fountain are right by the playground.

Wading Pool

At our visit, the wading pool wasn't available and hasn't been for a while due to budget considerations. So if you see it open, enjoy and get back to us how it went. The rules on its website make half-hearted attempts at whimsy.

Hiking Trails

Fairly tame trails 4.5 miles in length curl throughout the park (and neighboring Cowen Park), which you can navigate via this map. The part we walked was quite pretty and mostly very gentle, though there are some more challenging options available.

Picnic Area

Ravenna Park has has a reservable picnic shelter (see pics here) and has scattered picnic tables throughout the property, even in the outfield of the baseball field (see the next section).

Sport Fields

Tennis courts and a baseball/softball field are available for reservation. They're about the quality one would expect from a public city facility, but they're there if you need them.

Play Area

Our personal favorite: a giant sand pit that we didn't plan for! Our kids forsook the cool play area and spent their time filthying themselves up. Swings? Slides? Bridge? Nah - we can play with toddler toys in the sand, Dad. Sadly we were unprepared for the chess/checker board too.

The playground is cool and there is a wide open space right nearby, plenty of room to run and play with balls. But why do any of those fun things when you can fill your shoes with sand and gripe about it for the next few weeks?


Our sarcastic take on the play area aside, Ravenna Park is great. We very much enjoyed our hike and the play area. If you have the misfortune of being or (gasp) living in Seattle, we recommend you come by and enjoy.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Aparkolypse 2015: Golden Gardens Park

Though you must suffer with the drive through the hellscape that is Seattle west of I-5, Golden Gardens Park is totally worth it. Golden Gardens is the single best thing about Seattle, the likely reason God hasn't wiped out that town with an earthquake or tsunami (although He did allow the plague of hipsters). While the park was outside our project of visiting parks in Snohomish County - Aimee's department at work was hosting a party - it is probably the very best park we visited all summer.

Random Note

Most parks in the area close at sunset, but Golden Gardens closes at 11:30 p.m., so it is evening gathering-friendly.


We're going to rave quite a bit about this place, so we'll start by complaining. Getting there is a pain. The park is tucked away down winding roads, and to get there, you must first traverse the traffic-rich, traffic engineering intelligence-light roads, assuming your vehicle doesn't pull down a utility pole as it catches on one of the countless low-hanging utility cables. 

When you eventually get there, parking is the next chore. Spot-stalking abounds. In peak weather, barring some fantastic luck, your parking spot is likely to involve a bit of a hike, which gets complicated when you're shepherding small children, carrying their gear, bringing food and equipment for a picnic, or a permutation of that set. There are tons of spots spread out over a few lots, there just happens to be many, many people waiting to fill them.

But even as claustrophobic and misanthropic as we are, being in the crowd is totally worth it there. Golden Gardens is one of the most diverse-use and aesthetically pleasing parks we encountered. Restrooms (with showers/foot showers on the exterior) are located right between the playground and the beach. The building is rentable for weddings, parties, etc., as are the picnic shelters. They're actually pretty affordable, surprising for a city that loves to nickel (Nickels?) and dime its residents and visitors.

Joggers and walkers can enjoy the ADA compliant trails, though they could probably do without this low-res map. Take your dog to the off-leash area and bask in the company of Seattleites who almost literally worship animals. The basketball half court feels like an afterthought, but it's there if you need it.


Our kids had a great time on the unique playground. The ship design of one of the major pieces is cool, but we really like the rope net climbing dome, one of our handful of favorite pieces of play equipment we saw on our park tour. A large field neighbors the playground, excellent for improvised ball or Frisbee play. Decent seating for parents/chaperones and a clean environment round out a very nice play area.

The Beach

An actually sandy beach! It's like a reverse-oasis for Western Washington. Aimee's department gathered for a cookout on the beach, so we got to enjoy a great spot for hours. Fires are permitted in the designated fire pits, but they are first-come, first-serve, so make sure somebody is dispatched early to reserve your pit. The views of the Puget Sound are beautiful and the beach was well-maintained and friendly to bare feet.


Our only complaints about Golden Gardens park are the usual day-to-day nuisances of life in Seattle: traffic and parking. This place is too beautiful, too useful, and too much fun to deserve a fate like being located in Seattle.

Watching for potential tsunamis

Monday, March 7, 2016

Aparkolypse 2015: McCollum Park

Another of Snohomish County's diverse-use properties, McCollum Park (aka McCollum Pioneer Park) has a broad selection of activities and possibilities for local residents.  McCollum's excellent location and variety of choices make up for some glaring and annoying flaws.

Features You Probably Won't Care About

For the purposes of this blog, we're not all that interested in stuff like public transit, but McCollum does offer a substantial park-and-ride. Programs at the Washington State extension emphasize agricultural and gardening learning (beekeeping!) and education about healthy families (food safety, nutrition, etc.). Adopt-a-Stream's Northwest Stream Center Facility "offers room rentals, an interpretive boardwalk, and a variety of educational programs," so that might be worth a look. We were too busy picking blackberries. 


A bit of our family history: the pool is where Aimee learned to swim and natatory endeavors became one of her beloved pastimes. The pool is reservable for your re-creation of Michael Phelps's non-cannibus-related feats. The recently remodeled pool facility is also where the bathrooms are located, so if it is locked up, like it frequently is, you will have to do your business in the inconveniently located portable restrooms. Snohomish County tends to close its restrooms in the cooler months (i.e. seemingly most of them), so this handy chart of bathroom schedules will help you prepare for those particular needs.

There are picnic tables and benches by the playground and scattered throughout the park, though on the west side of the park proper there are reservable picnic facilities, which need to be done by phone at this location.

A somber addition to the park is the DUI Victim Memorial Wall, part of Snohomish County's ongoing efforts to eliminate drunk driving. It stands right next to the picnic facilities.

While we personally didn't investigate it too closely, McCollum also has a BMX bike track which looks pretty cool. The group maintains an active Facebook page, so bike racing enthusiasts have a track to enjoy and an online spot to buy and sell equipment.

Image via McCollum Park BMX Track

We'll start with the complaints: the fields are pretty terrible year-round. In summer the open field is a dusty mass laden with stabby grasses and in the wetter months is a soggy mudfest; it is remarkably useless.
All this picture needs is tumbleweeds
The "ball fields" boast a backstop and that's about it. We did find a stray softball to add to our collection of balls.

Among the good news is that the playground is pretty cool. A soft but not overly-squishy deck cushions any potential trips and falls. The setup is fairly unique and accessible to a range of ages.


As the crow flies, North Creek flows about 11 miles (according to Google Maps) from a random spot in Everett to the Sammamish River in Bothell, generating scenic views and ecologically interesting spots along the way (like the area known as North Creek Park). McCollum Park's gentle walking trail largely follows North Creek before looping around. There are a few educational signs at the trail head and some monuments along the path, along with bird feeders posted high in the trees. The paths are well-maintained and easy to use for strollers and people who aren't training to summit K2. Hikers and other parkgoers can follow this semi-accurate map to make their way around the expanse of the park.

In the right season, hikers will find loaded blackberry bushes on the way back to the playground from the trail. The WSU Extension maintains a demonstration garden for your botanical edification.

                                                                                                            We'll let the reader decide if this says "pool" or "poo!"


We pointed out some vexing flaws in this post, but McCollum Park is pretty cool. Access to some of the best features requires some planning yet is a solid place to drop in and play or go on a lovely little walk. These people pictured below seemed to enjoy it.