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Gas Works Park

Proposal For Seattle Gas Works Park
Alternative Energy Demonstration

Gas Works Park is located on the North shore of Lake Union in Seattle Washington. Today thousands of people enjoy many wonderful features including:
  1. A panoramic view of the downtown cityscape of Seattle.
  2. A view of Lake Union’s boating, float plane and wildlife activity.
  3. Expansive lawns for informal games and picnicking.
  4. A wonderful hill for flying kites and seeing things better.
  5. The presence of artifacts varying in size from small to monumental. These were left in place by Richard Haag, the park’s designer to honor the site’s fifty years as a major energy producer for the region. The site was in succession a coal and oil gasification plant and natural gas distribution center.
  6. The site of one of the major 4th Of July Celebrations and other regional events such as the Fremont Solstice Festival. On the 4th of July alone forty to fifty thousand people visit the park for family and community get togethers that culminate in a major regional fireworks display.

    Gas Works Site Buildings And Their Current Status (Recent Parks and Green Space Levy Funding)

    The original pumping equipment from the Gas Plant is housed in a building called the Play Barn. This large shed building was the original pump house. The pumps, compressors and piping have been modified so that they can be played on by children. Associated with these buildings are additional outdoor play areas that have also adapted Gas Plant equipment for children’s play.

    A recent Seattle City Parks and Green Space Levy Funding allocated funds for renovation and upgrading of the Play Barn and the adjacent children’s playground. An integrated solution will provide inside/outside play areas for all children.

    The Gas Works Park Story

    Today when people look at Gas Works Park few are aware of the many transformations that have occurred to the site and to the surrounding Lake Union and Lake Washington. Most people know little of the role the quest for energy and timber resources played in these transformations.

    Looking back two hundred years the area would have been covered to the edge of the water with forests of giant trees. By one hundred years ago the forests was almost completely gone. On the east side of Lake Washington large coal mines were producing large quantities of fuel for Asian-Pacific shipping, and industry on the West coast. This production and distribution of coal rivaled the oil and gas activities of today. The cities of Newcastle and Black Diamond Washington got their names from this activity. The Chittenden Locks and the cut to connect Lake Washington and Lake Union were not done for pleasure boats but for ships and barges to carry coal and lumber products. In fact the promoters of the development of the two lakes had a vision of surrounding them with coke plants and steel mills not suburban homes and businesses.

    The Gas Plant was first built to provide lighting gas to the City of Seattle. The coal from Blue Lake Mine near Bellingham was shipped to the Gas Works Park site by railroad. Through a process much like an oil refinery it was heated and the gas that was given off was collected, stored and piped throughout the city. Later the gas was used for other things besides city lighting much as natural gas is used today. In the nineteen thirties the plant was converted to an oil gasification plant. In the nineteen fifties when natural gas pipelines arrived in Seattle the site became a distribution center for that product. Then in 1970 work began to transform the site into a nationally and internationally recognized park.

    Gas Works Park Northwest Energy Educational Center

    An existing regional organization called Friends of Gas Works Park and a new local community based organization called Wallingford Solar Initiative are working to support the development of an energy interpretive center that would include:

    A photovoltaic solar panel installation on the renovated Play Barn roof. The exhibit would show how the site could be used to produce new clean energy into the future. Visitors could see “meter running backwards” exhibits. There is enough South facing roof space on the building to generate significant electricity.
    1. A demonstration wind turbine site is also an alternative energy possibility.
    2. A place for local school children to learn about local history and clean energy production. Wallingford Solar Initiative is developing a plan to provide and train volunteer docents to be available on call to describe the history energy production when school groups visit the site.
    3. A current shovel ready opportunity for employing people in the alternative energy field installing the equipment.

    The Site Is Eligible For Seattle City Light Demonstration Matching Funds

    The current goal is to tell the story of Northwest energy development on this site and provide park visitors with an opportunity to learn about modern alternative energy options while at the same time produce a respectable supply of electrical energy to the northwest power grid. Seattle City Light has indicated that the site is eligible for green energy demonstration matching funds. Support is being sought from other sources to complete the project and possibly enhance it.

    Photo: Play Barn With Solar Panels and Wind Turbine

    Photo: Fremont 2009 Solstice Celebration

    Seattle Parks and Recreation Notice of Intent

    Page one of the letter:

    Page two of the letter:

    Nicole Deflaux,
    Nov 27, 2010, 4:01 PM