I grew up in Yokohama, Japan, in a neighborhood that was once much like Magnolia. There were magnificent bluffs that overlooked the city, its working harbor and the coastline beyond. On a clear day, Mount Fuji’s majestic presence towered over the landscape — an otherworldly mirage I am still reminded of each time I see Mount Rainier. But over the years, Yokohama’s coastline was filled in and lined with oil storage tanks, refineries and elevated highways.
Moving to Magnolia in 1989, decades later, I felt as if I had returned to the magical land of my youth. But I always worried the magic would evaporate much as it did in Yokohama. Instead, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to watch as the neighborhood has become an ever more wonderful place to live. We’ve built new playgrounds, expanded our parks and planted cherry trees along once-bare parking strips.
In 1991, when the Elliott Bay Marina was completed, I was initially ambivalent about this island of privilege. I couldn’t afford to rent a slip, let along buy a yacht to moor. But I came to enjoy walking those new paths where I could smell the salt air and thrill in the immediacy of the city skyline, the expansive sound and the huge container ships. The marina, I realized, gave Magnolia the gift of a stunning new waterfront.
No easy access
Last year, the city and county began construction of an expanded Smith Cove Park, a project that will add substantially more publicly accessible, wooded land and shoreline to the area east of the marina.
At a groundbreaking last year, Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw remarked that the park would “add another green gem along our waterfront.” She was referring, of course, to the tree-lined, off-road trails that connect the marina and Smith Cove Park to the emerald necklace that is Myrtle Edwards Park.
When the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down sometime in the next few years and is replaced by a waterfront park, there will be a single, uninterrupted trail that will allow you to journey from the marina all the way to Pioneer Square without ever crossing a public street.
Sadly, there is no easy way to walk from Magnolia to the marina, Smith Cove and the emerald necklace beyond. To get there, you need to drive out onto 15th Avenue West and then come back across Magnolia Bridge to the marina exit.
A few weeks ago, I was looking at a map that included proposed walking and biking trails across Seattle when I saw a dotted line connecting 32nd Avenue West to the marina. The dotted line represented a proposed 100-yard or so multi-use trail that would cut through city-owned woodlands to create a shortcut that connects Magnolia to the marina. A few hardy soul2s have already worn a rough path through those woods.
I have since learned that in the next few weeks the city will set priorities for trails to be built over the next three to five years. This little path to the marina could be put on that list — if the community wants it enough.
How could we not?
Lots of benefits
Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to walk or bike from the heart of Magnolia to the marina in a matter of minutes?
Wouldn’t it be fun to take a picnic to the newly expanded Smith Cove Park without getting in your car?
Imagine starting off on a walk down the boulevard and finding yourself, drink in hand, watching the sunset from Palisades restaurant or Maggie’s Bluff.
Or picture setting off in the morning for work on your bicycle and arriving downtown after bicycling almost entirely on off-road trails?
The trail would encourage more of us to live healthier lives by opening up new places to walk, jog and ride our bicycles.
It will strengthen our community by encouraging more of us to spend time outdoors, where we can meet each other and talk.
Incidentally, the trail will also raise housing values. Increasingly, people are moving to areas from where they can commute to work by bicycle. It’s something we should encourage since it will reduce the number of cars that clog up the road and increase smog in the air.
The reality is that this project competes with many projects throughout the city; city engineers are already setting priorities even as you read this. The trail won’t happen unless the city hears from you right away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell them, “Please build that multi-use trail linking 32nd Avenue West to the marina. We want it.”
Show them that we want to keep making Magnolia a better, cleaner, healthier place to live.
LESLIE HELM, a resident of Magnolia, is editor of Seattle Business magazine and author of “Yokohama Yankee.” To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.