UW News

December 14, 2015

Seattle’s Ballard is ripe for green-space restoration, new report says

UW News

A vacant lot at Northwest 65th Street and 7th Avenue Northwest in the West Woodland section of Ballard.

A vacant lot in the West Woodland section of Ballard could benefit from restoration work.Theresa Yoder

When you look at a map of Ballard, something surprising might jump out — there are very few public natural areas for residents to enjoy.

The Seattle neighborhood has its fair share of single-family backyards and gardens, but for the increasing number of residents who live in apartments or condos in Ballard’s downtown core, there aren’t many public green areas.

This map shows the 55 sites identified as having restoration potential.

This map shows the 55 sites identified as having restoration potential (click map to enlarge)Theresa Yoder

A University of Washington graduate student saw green-starved Ballard as an opportunity to call attention to areas in the neighborhood that have restoration potential. Her new report, the “Ballard Green Spaces Project,” identifies 55 sites that could be restored as natural areas for people and wildlife, increasing the neighborhood’s total amount of accessible green spaces.

The report also identifies landowners and contacts for each site to make it easier for residents, community groups, the city or nonprofits to tackle a restoration project in Ballard.

“My goal is to put this information out there and show people the possibilities in case they want to do a project,” said Theresa Yoder, a UW graduate student in environmental and forest sciences. “I think it’s important to give people a connection to nature. If you’re not surrounded by it and can’t experience it, you’re not as likely to see its intrinsic value.”

Ballard is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Seattle, with more than 700 new residential units built in its urban core in 2014 alone. Increased density and development squeezes the amount of natural areas residents can enjoy, which also prompted Yoder’s project.

Loyal Heights substation.

Loyal Heights substation.Theresa Yoder

“Not everyone has the ability to leave the city and experience nature — that’s why I feel these urban restoration projects are so important,” she said.

The sites described in the report include wooded lots, existing parks with underused areas, street dead-ends, unused Seattle City Light substations, public school grounds and even private residences that have environmentally critical areas.

Yoder first used Google Maps to find all of the open spaces or vacant land throughout Ballard, then visited each site to check the potential for restoration. She whittled down her list if sites were slated for development.

She then visited each site a second time and collected specific data from each location, including photos and observations about vegetation, tree coverage, public access routes and more. She used City of Seattle’s GIS data to gather other details such as zoning, ownership, potential landslide areas and places where the slope would be too steep for a project.

The final report lists this information for each Ballard site as well as recommendations to further restore the land.

The Greenwood Triangle.

The Greenwood Triangle.Theresa Yoder

Each site described in the report could use restoration work in some way, Yoder said. Some of the sites are obvious natural spaces and others are forested sites that ran wild. Some look totally unworkable. Many of the schools and parks in Ballard could be improved with more native plants and habitats, she said.

Nearly two-thirds of the sites are on public land and range from larger areas such as North Beach Park, Soundview Playfield and Salmon Bay Park to more obscure sites like the vacant corner lot at Northwest Market and Northwest 55th Street or the Greenwood Triangle. The report also suggests a number of street ends, traffic islands, medians and substation lots that could be improved for public use.

The corner of Northwest Market Street and Northwest 55th Street.

The corner of Northwest Market Street and Northwest 55th Street.Theresa Yoder

“I think Theresa’s work provides a really good overview of what is possible in terms of creating some enclaves of native vegetation and natural ecosystems,” said Kern Ewing, a UW professor of environmental and forest sciences and one of Yoder’s faculty advisers, along with James Fridley. “Greater Ballard is going to change, so why not embrace the change with thoughtfulness about environmental amenities?”

Finding each site’s landowner and the appropriate contact information was a difficult process, Yoder said. The report lays out the best-available contact for each site, and she hopes that reduces the barrier for individuals and organizations that want to tackle a restoration project.

Yoder plans to compile a Seattle-wide list of contacts in the various public agencies and departments that manage other sites around the city that might also have restoration potential.


For more information, contact Yoder at sylph@uw.edu.