The patch of ground doesn’t look like much – it’s full of weeds and marked by graffiti-marred signs – but it’s precious: a public spot for people to connect to Seattle’s waterfront.
The city has 149 such places, small sections of public property along 200 miles of shoreline on Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, the Ship Canal and Lake Washington. The city calls them “precious community assets,” but many are unknown, neglected and overgrown.
The city's Department of Transportation is trying to change that with improvements.
The street end above is at Sixth Avenue West and West Ewing Street on the north side of Queen Anne Hill.
“What we want to do is … turn it into a place where people want to come in and gather and have more pleasant access to the shoreline,” Brian DePlace, director of Seattle's Street Use Division, told KUOW’s Ross Reynolds.
The city says two-thirds of these 149 street ends are in need of improvement, overgrown or encroached on by private property owners – DePlace says the city has an aggressive fee structure for such encroachment, money that goes back into improving public access. Artist Sam Trout (yes, that's his name) has been commissioned to create public artworks at these spots.
One street end that’s been improved is by the Ship Canal on 11th Avenue Northwest in Ballard. There’s a little boardwalk toward the water, a little blue swing, a bird’s nest, new bike racks, a sitting area.
“So we converted an area that was full of a lot of detritus and blackberries and were able to make this a public gathering space,” DePlace says.
If you'd like to get close to the water on one of these hot afternoons, you can find a map and photos of these 149 spots on the city website.