Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Profile in Courage at the Bellevue Skate Park

A skate camp held at Bellevue Skate Park was featured recently on the KOMO news feature, Eric's Little Heroes.  Watch the clip by clicking on the box below, or following this link:

There has been a wealth of research lately validating the importance of play in social and brain development of children and adults.  This video is a great example of how kids can get practice learning how to face a real challenge within a safe environment.  The star of the show is Mateo, who is learning how to 'drop-in' to the skateboard ramp (the equivalent of stepping off a cliff).  As he prepares, you can imagine the questions running through his head:

Has my training prepared me for this?
Do I trust my instructor?
Do I have faith in myself?
What will people think if I succeed?
What will people think if I fail?
How will I handle what other people think?
Where can I find the courage I need to take the first step?
What do I do after I take the first step?
How much of a risk am I taking?
Is the reward worth the risk?

We've all been in these situations before where we have to dig down and test ourselves.  The practice these kids get through play will serve them well in later life.  All this while having fun, making new friends and getting great exercise at the same time.

Thanks to Mateo for letting us all share in his victory. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Other Park Blogs of Interest

Last year, when preparing to launch this blog, I researched other city- or park-related blogs to see how things were done. Since then, I've kept my eye open for good examples and thought I would share those. First, our colleagues at King County Parks have an impressive and informative blog at:

Look at their June 16, 2010 post to see how you can get into the Marymoor Concert Series for free.

At a national level, I have collected good information from the City Parks Blog, hosted by the Trust for Public Land. That blog can be found here:

For an intriguing look at Bellevue, scroll to their June 21, 2010 post highlighting a mapping analysis of popular tourist sites (many of which happen to be parks!) around the world. The analysis looks at photos that have been uploaded to the web and 'geotagged' with the location where the photo was taken. Most of Bellevue is included on the map of the Seattle area. Looking at the map, you will see that Pike Place Market and the Space Needle have a clear lead, but the Bellevue Botanical Garden shows up as well as Downtown Park and several of Bellevue's waterfront parks.

One other blog that I've found recently is The Dirt - hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects:

This blog has a national and international focus. See the June 16, 2010 post describing a trend among major corporations to offer vegetable gardens on their corporate campuses as an employee benefit.

If you know of other interesting places on the web about parks, open space, sports, cultural arts or recreation, please share by leaving a comment or sending an e-mail.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Council Considers Parks & Open Space System Plan

At their Regular Session meeting on May 3rd, 2010 (click date for agenda), the Bellevue City Council is scheduled to consider approving the 2010 Parks & Open Space System Plan.

The current draft of the plan is available on the project web page. Since the plan was presented to the City Council on March 22, the document has benefited from serious proofreading by other staff in the Parks Department and a couple community readers (thank you to those who helped in this way).

If the plan is approved on May 3, we will begin the final stage of the project. This will include gathering and creating more charts, tables and maps to better illustrate the final document. We will also incorporate photographs and poems from the contest we sponsored earlier this year.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bellevue Skate Park and Botanical Garden Nominated Best in the Northwest

The Bellevue Skate Park was nominated in the Skate Park category and Bellevue Botanical Garden was nominated in the Best Park category of this year's Evening Magazine Best of the Northwest - Best Northwest Escapes contest. If you are interested in voting, you can click on the links for each - voting ends April 11.

These two unique facilities represent the diverse range of activities that are available throughout the parks system. I recommend a visit to both. At either location you can observe and perhaps learn a trick or two from masters at their craft, be it gardening or skateboarding.

Pop quiz: Is "deadhead" a gardening term, a skateboarding term, or both?

Learn more about the Skate Parks here:

Learn more about the Botanical Garden here:

Friday, March 19, 2010

DRAFT Parks & Open Space System Plan

A draft of the updated Parks & Open Space System Plan is available at the project web page. Along with the draft is a map and list displaying the long-range capital project recommendations included in the draft. Click here to go to the web page.

The draft plan is scheduled for review by the City Council at their meeting on Monday, March 22, 2010. Council agendas can change, so please check the Council agenda web page for the most up-to-date information (or contact me).

Within Bellevue, the Council meetings are broadcast on cable channel 21. The meetings are streamed live over the internet from the Bellevue TV web page. Previous council meetings are archived for viewing as well, so if you are reading this sometime after March 22, you can still find a tape of this or any other Council meeting at the Bellevue TV page.

Since we started gathering public feedback for this project in September 2009, we've made thousands of contacts with Bellevue residents and park users through various surveys, this blog, and in-person presentations. To all those who have participated, thank you for taking time to express your opinions and future hopes for Bellevue's parks and open space system.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Parks & Open Space System Plan Taking Shape

The blog has been silent recently as all writing attention was shifted to the edits and re-writes necessary to update the 2003 Plan to meet 2010 expectations. The plan is still in its draft form and will continue that way until it is reviewed and approved by the Bellevue City Council. This should take place in the next few months.

A draft of the full plan will be posted to the project web page before the end of March. In the meantime, I would like to share the introductory section from the working draft here. Let me know if you like it, if you don't or if you notice a glaring grammatical error. I will admit up front to run-on sentences, but if you see a dangling participle, I'd like to know about it.

Also, a reminder that all the previous blog posts are still available for you to peruse and add comments where you like (most discussion topics can be found in August 2009).

DRAFT - 2010 Bellevue Parks & Open Space System Plan - DRAFT


In 1888, John Muir saw Bellevue in a way that few others had ever seen and in a way that is impossible today. Muir was a celebrated naturalist, whose detailed and emotion-filled written descriptions of the American West were widely published in national magazines. His writings painted a picture of natural wonder so compelling that he is credited as one of the driving forces behind the creation of this county’s National Parks system.

In a published collection of essays and travelogues entitled, Steep Trails, Muir describes how from his home in Yosemite, California, he ventured north by ship up the Pacific Coast, through the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound. Landing in Seattle, he visited several points in East King County, including Snoqualmie Falls, on his way to attempt a climb to the summit of Mount Rainier.

With a party of eight, Muir reached the summit on a beautifully clear day with views of Washington Territory in all directions. Muir later wrote, “We remained on the summit nearly two hours, looking about us at the vast maplike views, comprehending hundreds of miles of the Cascade Range, with their black interminable forests and white volcanic cones in glorious array reaching far into Oregon; the Sound region also, and the great plains of eastern Washington, hazy and vague in the distance.” Included in his view, an expanse of heavily forested rolling hills directly east of Seattle, bounded by two large sparkling lakes.

This was Bellevue as John Muir saw it, just over 120 years ago. The tiny settlement around Meydenbauer Bay and scattered farms were perhaps not even visible, and if so, certainly dwarfed by the huge expanse of untouched forests, lakes and streams. Yet, sensing this area’s future, Muir noted that “[Washington Territory] is already rich in busy workers, who work hard, though not always wisely, hacking, burning, blasting their way deeper into the wilderness, beneath the sky and beneath the ground. The wedges of development are being driven hard, and none of the obstacles or defenses of nature can long withstand the onset of this immeasurable industry.”

Since that time and in keeping with Muir’s assessment, exponential growth and development has led to a vastly different environment on these rolling hills between the lakes. According to a study commissioned by the City in 2008, Bellevue’s once dominant tree canopy has diminished to 36% of the city’s land area. Impervious surfaces (any type of surface that does not allow water to travel to the ground below, primarily streets and rooftops) have spread to cover 46% of the city. Within the foreseeable future, there is a strong possibility that balance will tip and the majority of Bellevue’s land area will be either paved or otherwise built upon.

This pattern and pace of development has produced a change in the community’s perception of the natural environment. In the early 20th Century, the natural environment was valued as resource to be reclaimed and repurposed for uses perceived to be more beneficial, such as farming, mining and lumber. Today, in the early 21st Century, the natural environment is valued as a resource to be recaptured or preserved for other types of uses now perceived to be more beneficial. These benefits include acting as a “green infrastructure” system , providing a range of economic benefits and supporting development of a healthy community. Evidence of this shift in priorities is shown through a survey of Bellevue residents in September 2009 where 76% of respondents agreed that Bellevue Parks & Community Services should place a priority on improving the health and ecological function of forest, wetland, lakes and streams.

Working as a green infrastructure system, the forests, wetlands and open areas that Bellevue has preserved through its interconnected park and open space system clean water, clean air and absorb carbon emissions. They are a piece of infrastructure as important as the city’s roads and sewers. A 2008 Urban Ecosystem Study calculated that Bellevue’s tree canopy provides 62 million cubic feet in stormwater detention services and removes 687,000 pounds of pollutants from the air annually. Further, it absorbs 2,582 tons of carbon each year, helping to reduce the city’s overall carbon emissions.

Bellevue’s parks provide economic value to city residents. Many studies have shown that parks are a good investment for a community. John Crompton, a professor at Texas A&M University has published several studies showing how providing parks within neighborhoods attracts homebuyers and increases property values. Parks also attract economic development. Early Bellevue residents recognized this fact by using parks and recreation to draw tourists to the small town. In her history of Bellevue, titled The Bellevue Story, Connie Squires writes, “As a result of these steamers [ferries crossing Lake Washington], Wildwood Park was set up near the present Meydenbauer Yacht Club. This became a large attraction for Sunday Seattle picnickers… later a large dance hall was built there and eventually it was used as a skating rink…” Today, in addition to local tourism, high quality parks, schools and other quality of life indicators are used increasingly by businesses to decide where to locate their offices, seeking places to retain and attract a productive and well-educated workforce.

Parks play a significant role in the community’s overall health. Access to and contact with nature provides medical benefits including lowering blood pressure and stress indicators, decreasing recovery time from surgery, and improving symptoms of mental health and behavioral disorders. For example, one study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that access to places for physical activity led to a 25.6% increase in the percentage of people exercising on three or more days per week.

By cleaning the environment, supporting a high quality of life and encouraging healthy lifestyles, the investment the community has made in the parks system pays itself back.

The community’s vision for how parks and open space should serve the city is captured in the Bellevue Parks & Open Space Plan. The plan is a long-range planning document that guides the City’s continued investments in parks and open spaces. The Plan is begins with a general description of Bellevue’s demographic profile and its physical and natural resource characteristics. From there, the mission of the Parks & Community Services department is provided along with an overview of the scope and functions of the organization. With this context in place, a detailed discussion of future recommended capital projects is presented for the years 2010 to 2029. The plan ends with sections regarding the importance of maintenance, renovation and security as well as methods of financing considered to implement the recommended projects.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hear Ye, Hear Ye - A Public Hearing

Our "door" at Bellevue Parks & Community Services is always open to thoughts, comments, opinions and ideas about how to improve the park system - so please feel free to e-mail or call me anytime. However, the organized comment gathering opportunities for the update to the Parks & Open Space System Plan are nearing an end. One of the final chances will be a public hearing hosted by the City's Parks & Community Services Board. The more information on that meeting is provided below.

The Parks & Community Services Board is a seven member committee of Bellevue residents who have applied and been appointed to this board by the City Council. They serve in an advisory role and review much of the work that goes on in the department before plans and projects are presented to the City Council. They will review the Parks & Open Space Plan draft and provide a recommendation to the City Council on approval in just a few months.

If you have never been to a public hearing and would like to know more about how they work before you show up, give me a call or e-mail. We can also take comments in writing if that is more convenient or comfortable for you. They will be entered into the official record in the same way as verbal testimony at the hearing.



The public is invited to a public hearing on Tues., Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. to provide input regarding long-term acquisition and capital improvement objectives for Bellevue’s Parks & Open Space System. The public hearing will be held during the Parks & Community Services Board regular meeting at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Avenue NE, in Room 1E-108.

The Bellevue Parks & Open Space System Plan will guide development of parks and open space over the next 20 years. It also considers the design and balance of programs and services supported by the department, and how these may change over time to meet the needs of the community.

Written comments will also be accepted and may be mailed to Camron Parker, Senior Planner, Parks & Community Services, City of Bellevue, P.O. Box 90012, Bellevue, Washington, 98009-9012; or sent by e-mail to Comments must be received by 5:00 P.M. on January 12, 2010.

Translation and American Sign Language services are available with 48 hours advance notice. Please call (425) 455-4162 (voice) or 711 (TDD Relay Service) for interpretation services.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photography and Poetry Contest

We visit parks for many reasons. One reason is to surround yourself with beauty. Beauty can be found in many ways and in many places.

It is found deep in the forests of Coal Creek Natural Area, where you can watch a rain drop cling to the tip of a fern. It is found in the Bellevue Botanical Garden, where skilled hands design and arrange fantastic displays. It is found observing the joyful face of a toddler on her first trip down a playground slide or in the high-five of two teenagers as they defeat gravity on a skate park ramp.

For most of us, this beauty is indescribable. We recognize it, appreciate it and move on. However, there are a few among us who know how to capture this beauty through words or images so that we can all share in the experience.

We are looking for these few.

As we continue the task of updating Bellevue’s Parks & Open Space System Plan, we are hoping to engage the creative community by interspersing throughout the document photos and poetry that are inspired by our parks system.

If you, or someone you know, is blessed with the gift of verse, or can compose the perfect camera shot, please consider participating.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fill Out the Parks Survey

If commenting on blogs is not your thing - please consider filling out the survey by clicking on this link or pasting the following address into your browser window:

Bellevue Parks Survey

It should take about five minutes or less and is a quick and easy way to let us know what you think about the future of the parks and open space system in Bellevue.

Bellevue park users of all ages are invited to participate - so if you live in Bellevue or work in Bellevue or go to school in Bellevue or any combination of the above - I would love to hear from you. If you know other people who care about the future of parks and open space in Bellevue, share the link.

Also new - the City of Bellevue has launched a new page on Flickr. A colleague of mine has been working to add pictures of Bellevue parks and special events. There is a link to the site in the slideshow found in margin to the right. Near that is a link to the City's YouTube channel. Between YouTube and Flickr, you can find some great visuals of our parks system. More content is added to both sites on a regular basis - so check back every now and then.

Thanks for taking our survey - and please consider commenting on some of the previous blog posts - or just e-mail me directly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A younger point of view needed

One of the largest groups of Bellevue park users are children, youth and teens. Yet, when we go through one of these planning processes to set the direction for park development for the next ten years, who do we hear from the most? Adults.

Do you know what that means? Well, let me show you. Here are pictures of the bike, skateboard and tennis racket that I grew up with. So, the guy who owned these (me) is the same one who is writing this plan and most of the people I am hearing from had similar, if not more antiquated, sporting goods when they were young.

Biking, skateboarding and tennis are still going strong as popular sports, but definitely not in the same way as a couple decades ago. So, if you are a teenager or young adult, I would greatly appreciate it if you would read the other posts on this blog and add your comments, so that we can have a well-rounded discussion with many points of view represented.

As long as we are on the subject, here are some links to a few of the City's existing youth and teen programs. Some you may know about, some you may not. Youth Link is a youth leadership program - there is the award-winning Bellevue Youth Theatre - users of the Bellevue's Skate Parks have set up a blog here - and you can find out about youth sports and the TRACKS outdoor education programs as well.

**Just in case you don’t know, that wooden frame thing over the tennis racket head was supposed to keep the racket from warping. Unless you wanted to be laughed at, you’d take if off before you play.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Learning by Example

The Parks & Open Space System Plan update gives the community a chance to step back and look at the parks system as a whole. According to public opinion surveys, overall satisfaction with parks and recreation in Bellevue is consistently rated good or excellent by the vast majority of Bellevue residents (usually somewhere just above or below 90%). This tells us that we are generally on the right track and we want to keep it that way into the future.

One way to stay relevant is to see what other communities have done with their park system and recreation programs. In your travels, either to neighboring cities or around the world, what parks have you seen that you thought were excellent? What made them excellent? Was it an outstanding facility, or view, or recreation feature? In other words, what models should we look to as we seek to add to and improve Bellevue’s parks over time? In addition to your comments, if you have a photograph you’d like to share, please e-mail it to me at

Commenting on Specific Park Development Projects

In reviewing the comments that have come in so far, I’ve noticed that a few people would like to comment on specific park projects that are underway. The City has several active projects at this time. Each is described in more detail at the Park Planning and Development page on the City’s website.

If you have a comment about a current park development project, the best place to make that comment is by phone or e-mail to the staff working on that project. Using the link above, you can find the appropriate contact information and go straight to the source to get your questions answered and provide your opinion.

The other significant benefit of contacting the project manager is that they can collect your contact information and make sure that you are included on the mailing list for updates on that project as it progresses over time. We are not able to do that with blog comments since there is no contact information attached.

So again, project specific comments are best addressed to that project. That said, if using this blog is a convenient way for you to comment on a project other than the Parks & Open Space System Plan, feel free to e-mail me directly at or use this comment box below. Once your comment is submitted, I will forward it to the appropriate person.

For those who have already made park project comments that were attached to other posts, I’ve grouped those comments here and they have also been forwarded to the appropriate project manager.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How do you find parks, classes and special event information?

What do you do when you want to branch out and find a new park to visit? Do you ask your friends and neighbors for suggestions? Do you call City Hall? Is there a web page you turn to regularly? Do you just get in the car or on your bike and go until you find something green?

What if you are looking for something to do with your kids the weekend after next? Or, maybe your son or daughter expresses a sudden interest in a drama lessons – or you decide you’ve always wanted to learn to play Bridge and would like to take a class?

This can be more complicated than it sounds, especially in East King County, where one street can cross several city boundary lines.

Most cities in East King County have a strong web presence on If you haven’t visited this site before, I recommend it. You can find parks, trails and recreation classes for most cities listed together, allowing you to compare all kinds of information and find just what you are looking for. I know of some other sites as well – many geared toward specific population groups. I happen to have young children, so I’ll often visit or to look for things to do with kids.

Please take a moment to comment and tell us how you get information on parks and recreation opportunities now. If describing a web page, please include a link. How do you think this will change in the future? How or where do you think Bellevue Parks & Community Services should get information out about our parks, classes and special events?

What would you like to see more of in Bellevue’s parks system?

This is one of the more important questions we are posing to the community, so it makes sense that this is our first discussion question for the blog. In ten years, what should Bellevue’s park system look like? How can we continue to best serve our park users? Do you think there should be more of certain types of parks or less of others?

All communities are subject to change over time and Bellevue is no exception. Our challenge is to anticipate those changes and adjust accordingly. Here are some facts to consider. Over the next decade:

  • Bellevue’s growth in population will come predominantly in the form of higher density housing located in places like downtown Bellevue and in a redeveloping Bel-Red corridor.
  • The average age of Bellevue’s resident population will increase as Baby Boomers make older adults a larger percentage of the overall population.
  • Bellevue’s overall racial and ethnic make-up will continue to diversify.

These are certainly not the only ways that the Bellevue community will change over the next ten years. However, you can see that each might have its own impact on the demand for specific types of park and park facilities.

So, what do you think? Over time, what do you think we will need more of, in regard to parks? What may we not need anymore? What elements of the park system are so fundamental, that you don’t expect to see any change at all?

What should we talk about?

This is place to come if you are reading through the posts and don’t see the topic you would like addressed. Leave your comment here with your idea and we will consider it for a future post.

Welcome Part II – About Parks & Community Services

Hopefully, you have read the Welcome – Part I post and are interested in learning a little more (or seeing how much you already know) about Bellevue Parks & Community Services.

The mission of Bellevue Parks & Community Services is posted at the right and repeated here:

We build a healthy community through an integrated system of exceptional parks, open space, recreation, cultural arts and human services.

As the mission implies, Bellevue Parks & Community Services is interested and involved in all kinds of issues – most of which revolve around the concept of sustainability. We are focused on environmental sustainability, managing a system of parks and open spaces within Bellevue which are instrumental in maintaining our community’s air and water quality. We are also focused on social sustainability, offering programs and services designed to promote healthy lifestyles. Many of these programs serve the general population, but we also place special emphasis on program and services for youth, older adults, individuals with disabilities and households with low-and moderate-incomes.

Can you guess how many acres of parks are managed by the City of Bellevue? For that and more interesting facts about what we do, click here.

Welcome Part I – About this Blog

Hi, and welcome to the blog for Bellevue Parks & Community Services. This is a discussion for and about the City of Bellevue’s parks and open space system and the community services and programs offered by Bellevue Parks & Community Services.

This blog acts as one way for Bellevue parks users to communicate their ideas for the long-range development of the parks system. Your comments will help the City of Bellevue update a long-range management plan. This plan projects ten years ahead and sets a direction for future development of parks and open space. It also considers the design and balance of programs and services supported by the department and how those may change over time to meet community needs.

The City cannot plan for the future without hearing from the people who use our services and perhaps more importantly, people who currently do not use our services. So, I would appreciate your participation and opinions on the topics being discussed.

Here’s how it works. From now until the end of 2009, I will post entries focused on a specific topic related to parks, recreation or community services in Bellevue. With every post, you will be invited to comment on that topic. All comments received will be recorded and considered as we develop our long-range planning goals. In addition to this blog, public input will be gathered in other ways as well – through surveys, presentations to community groups and other methods. Whenever a new opportunity to become involved comes up – I will post the details here.

As you consider what comments you would like to make, keep in mind that this blog will be a little more formal than most. It will be moderated. That means that you are free (and encouraged) to comment either positively or negatively, but all comments must be directly related to the post to which they are attached and all the normal rules of civility apply. Comments that don’t meet these criteria will not be posted. When you do submit your comment, don’t be alarmed if it isn’t posted immediately. As with all moderated discussions, there will be a time delay. Also, new topics will be introduced just a couple times a month, so I’d suggest subscribing to the feeds from this site so that you don’t have to check back looking for new content. If you subscribe, when something new comes up you’ll get an alert.

And finally – what if the topic you want to discuss isn’t raised? Well, you have two choices. You can leave your idea as a comment on the post entitled “What should we talk about?” or e-mail me your idea directly. To e-mail me, click on the Camron @ Bellevue Parks link under the Contributor tab at the right.