Parks are Memory Makers

Photo: Issaquah Highlands HY Board members Ethan Hunter (left) and Deon Lillo (right)
helped Parks Director, Jeff Watling (center) with innovative park ideas.

By Nina Milligan, Highlands Council

April 6, 2017

Issaquah’s Parks and Recreation holds their final outreach meeting tonight, April 6th, (at Sunset Elementary) but you can still submit your ideas through April 21st through the online survey. Link to it here>>>

City of Issaquah Parks and Recreation Department is working on a new, comprehensive, 20-year strategic plan for our parks (updated every six years). City staff are welcoming ideas from the community through a series of public meetings. I attended last Tuesday night what the department called a “Listen and Learn Workshop” at Grand Ridge Elementary.

The workshop started off with a brief presentation by Jeff Watling, Parks Department Director. After laying a very basic groundwork for the workshop’s objectives, Jeff encouraged open and creative dialogue. He wanted us to think big. “This strategic plan is intended to be visionary,” Jeff enthused.

We divided up into two groups to “workshop” seven questions that were prepared to extract ideas and priorities from attendees. In my group were four members of the Issaquah Highlands HY (Highlands Youth) Board: Ethan Hunter, Sage Cowan, Emily Palm and Deon Lillo. These young leaders did not hesitate to contribute, bringing up unique ideas and inspiring perspectives.

The first question asked what are our parks’ strengths, and what can be improved. Sage Cowan chimed in with, “All our parks are nice hang-out places.” Deon likes our trails for running. Ethan likes that, “our parks are convenient, close-by meeting points for friends.”

Improvements? “Formalize trails that people already use, especially those near schools,” Emily suggested. Deon suggested the parks department support each Issaquah neighborhood to create a time capsule, perhaps collected by the young people, something they could return to when they get older.

Deon explained, “Parks build memories.” He described how the times we spend in parks, especially with family and friends, resonate throughout our lives.

Next, Jeff asked us to “Dream big” and share your wish list for Issaquah parks.

Toni Hunter, Ethan’s mom, wished for a splash park and more teen, high-adventure, activity parks. Emily wanted a swimming pool for all ages. And a climbing wall. Sage wished for parks next to businesses so you could mix it up: hang out in a park, then walk to get a bite to eat. Deon concurred, pointing to Bellevue’s Downtown Park as a great example.

Deon dreamed aloud about an artist wall, sanctioned graffiti of sorts. The art could be semi-permanent with a gallery of photos to capture the art when it’s gone.

There were countless more ideas brought forth. City staff documented all of them. Even though the workshops end on April 6th, the online survey is open until April 21st. See it here>> After listening and learning, the parks department will bring a proposal to the City Council’s Services and Safety Committee in the early summer. Jeff expects the strategic plan to be adopted by year’s end.