Article on the
Rededication of Flo Ware Park
By Diane Solvang-Angell
Saturday, May 8th, 1pm-5pm
Program from 1pm to 2pm
Rededication of Flo Ware Park
Mark your calendars and bring your
family for fun and food, Saturday, May 8th. Starting at 1:00
P.M. the Leschi community will gather at 28th S. and S. Jackson
to cut a ribbon and rededicate newly renovated Flo Ware Park.
King County Councilman Larry Gossett
will be on hand as Master of Ceremonies and the twenty-four young Coyote
artists who created the park’s grand new entryway will take their bows.
You may have noticed that a
long-neglected corner of the Central District has come back to life. For a
number of years the mini-park on 28th and Jackson languished in
disrepair. Neighbors avoided it. Broken glass and occasional drug needles
littered the sand beneath the rusting play equipment. Cracked concrete
paths were dangerous for senior citizens. And there were no barriers to
keep basketballs from rolling into the street.
This past September new construction
began at the park. It happened because a community came together to plan
and fundraise for renewal of the park. The result is a happy space for
neighborhood families and the rescue of a community legacy.
The park is named in honor of
Florestine (Flo) Ware, an African-American woman who fought to bring
social justice to the community. She was a tireless crusader on behalf of
the underprivileged, the poor and the elderly. She worked unceasingly to
improve academic performance in the Central Area public schools. Over the
years she helped many foster children.
Through her 1960’s KRAB Radio talk
show, “What’s Coming Down,” she brought attention to community needs. She
aggressively advocated for Meals on Wheels. As a result of her persuasive
campaigning, the city purchased property for the Central Area Senior
Many felt it was a shame that a
deteriorating park represented her legacy. In the fall of 2000 the Leschi
Community Council decided to do something about it. They launched a
community effort to restore the park to a safe place where families would
Starting from scratch, Thurston
Muskelly, president of Leschi Community Council, asked John Barber, chair
of Leschi Parks and Green Space Committee, to look into the park’s
After a community meeting at which
neighbors voiced their concerns about the park, an initial small group of
community volunteers, along with Barber, a veteran activist of
environmental projects obtained a “Small and Simple Grant” from the city
to hire a landscape architect. The group eventually commissioned Barker
Associates Landscape Architects to draw up initial plans for the park.
Then Friends of Flo Ware Park reached out to the community in a series of
planning meetings. More than 200 residents took part.
“We started with a blank slate,”
said Barber. “The landscape architects asked participants for their ideas
of what they wanted in the park. In small groups people did paper cutouts
of park features. Each group laid out a version of the park they
envisioned. From those visions the architects developed alternate designs
that the community voted on. The resulting design was put to discussion
and presented to the Seattle Parks Department for final approval. Barker’s
landscape plan became the basis for fundraising, and estimating the
renovation cost of approximately $500,000.”
The Barker design included a colored
concrete ribbon with the words and deeds of Flo Ware embedded in its path.
Soon more Leschi residents joined
the park effort, including Kimberly Bowen of Bowen Consulting, who served
as fundraising chairman. Each volunteer who joined the planning committee
brought a different strength that complemented the group. Diane Solvang-Angell,
an arts educator, served as art chairman. Throughout the project, Cynthia
Davenport, Christine Matthews, Peggy Herman, Mark Tapia and Tonna Kutner
also shared expertise in key steering roles. Kutner’s firm, Computer Lynx,
provided the park’s website (flowarepark.org) to track restoration
progress and post research on Flo Ware.
Funds for the park’s renovation came
from city, county, corporate and foundation grants, as well as
neighborhood donations. Grant writing activity for the park took place
during a time when Department of Neighborhood Matching Funds, Pro Parks
Levy Opportunity Fund and King County’s Youth Sports Facilities Grant
programs were available as resources. In addition, Leschi community
residents and merchants enthusiastically supported the project with
volunteer labor and in-kind donations. Through private and public
fundraising events, rummage sales, raffle tickets, and redemptions from
Red Apple grocery receipts, the $500,000 needed to renovate the park was
Anticipating last fall’s
construction, the responsibility for the final landscape design was
transferred to the Seattle Parks Department. Landscape architects Randy
Robinson and Shwu-jen Hwang presented final plans at Leschi community
meetings held at the Central Area Senior Center. Neighbors engaged in
lively discussions to consider types of play equipment, colors, public
art, the size of the basketball court, and the inspiring quotations of Flo
Ware planned for the meandering ribbon-path. The community’s enthusiasm
for the project was evident in the large attendance at the meetings.
The Seattle Design Commission gave
the park’s design their enthusiastic endorsement.
Drive by the park today and you’ll
notice an inviting open space with colorful play equipment and a new
basketball court. There are tables for chess tournaments and picnics.
You’ll also see the grand new entryway--a boldly designed colonnade that
pays tribute to the many cultures that make up the Central Area. A
portrait of Flo Ware is featured in its archway.
This unique public art piece was
created by Coyote, a community non-profit arts and enrichment program for
junior-high youth. Twenty-four 12 to 15 year-olds and six professional
artists collaborated to design and build the entryway as part of Hit the
Streets, Coyote's annual summer work program for neighborhood youth.
“I think the park is an amazing collaboration with lots of talented and
perservering community folks. All you need to do is go by the park and
see what a remarkable success it is by how it’s being used,” says
Marybeth Satterlee, Executive Director of Coyote.
In addition to Coyote’s entry
artwork, the community is looking forward to adding more art. Local
artist Monad Elohim proposed a sculpture of Flo Ware and a set of bronze
plaques for the park’s seating wall.
So join the May 8th
celebration! Come and see the park. Walk the ribbon quotes, and enjoy
this sparkling new gathering space as a tribute to Flo Ware and her
admonitions: “Get Involved” and “Build Community.”
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