UW News

March 25, 2016

Arboretum trail project underway will expand public access

UW News

A conceptual image of the new trail.

A conceptual image of the new trail.The Berger Partnership

Construction started this month on the Washington Park Arboretum‘s new Arboretum Loop Trail, one of the largest improvement projects to date in the Seattle public garden.

Read more about the loop trail project

The paved path will create more opportunities for pedestrians, wheelchair users, slow-moving bicycle riders and families with strollers to exercise and explore the arboretum, which features one of the nation’s most diverse plant collections west of the Mississippi River.

“The loop trail is an important part of our master plan and will provide entry into part of the gardens and collections of the arboretum that are rarely visited today,” said Sarah Reichard, director of UW Botanic Gardens, which cares for the arboretum’s gardens, trees and plant collections.

“The trail will allow the citizens of our growing city a stroll through one of the most beautiful places in North America.”

a map of the total loop trail.

(Click on map to enlarge) The Arboretum Loop Trail is outlined by the thick white and black dotted lines. The white portion is the new section of trail, while the black portion is the existing Arboretum Drive, which will connect to form a 2.5-mile loop.The Berger Partnership

As part of mitigation for the current phase of the SR 520 bridge project, the Washington State Department of Transportation is providing $7.8 million to help complete portions of the arboretum’s 20-year master plan, which was adopted in 2001 after years of public input. This paved path is a central element of that plan.

Once finished, the new 1.2-mile trail will connect to Arboretum Drive, creating a 2.5-mile loop through the public garden, from East Foster Island Road south to East Madison Street. Using footbridges, visitors will have year-round access to parts of the 230-acre arboretum that currently are hard to reach, including wetlands and Arboretum Creek.

A conceptual image of a bridge.

A conceptual image of a bridge.The Berger Partnership

Staff and volunteers assessed nearly 2,400 plants along the proposed trail and chose a route to minimize impacts and avoid the largest and most unique trees as much as possible.

As part of the project, persistent invasive species will be removed along the entire trail route and thousands of native and noninvasive plants will be added in ways that support the master plan.

“The trail project will improve ecological function along much of Arboretum Creek by widening the channel, adding pools and woody debris to slow water and improve habitat, removing invasive plants and planting a diverse range of natives — far greater than what existed before,” said Ray Larson, curator of living collections with UW Botanic Gardens. “These changes will create a more natural stream channel and enhance ecological benefits to insects, birds and animals.”

The arboretum is owned and managed cooperatively between the University of Washington and the City of Seattle, with support from the Arboretum Foundation.

Construction is scheduled to continue until December 2017. Ohno Construction is completing the project.


For more information, contact Reichard at reichard@uw.edu or 206-616-5020 and Larson at halcyon@uw.edu or 206-616-1118.