A common goal
"The steady progress we've made is because of the active participation and partnership of the neighborhood and the city," said Sheryl Shapiro, a Watershed Educator with the Seattle Parks Department and Seattle Public Utilities.
In the late 1980s, a community effort began to restore and preserve Longfellow Creek, one of four major creeks that flow year-round within the Seattle city limits. The creek runs for four miles, from Roxhill Park across from Westwood Village to the Duwamish River at the head of Elliott Bay.
The progress and success at Longfellow Creek is an example of what strides can be made when a community comes together with a common goal. “The steady progress we’ve made is because of the active participation and partnership of the neighborhood and the city,” said Sheryl Shapiro, a Watershed Educator with the Seattle Parks Department and Seattle Public Utilities.
High Point is part of the Longfellow Creek Watershed. An urban watershed is a natural drainage area, bounded by ridges, that has been altered over time by paved surfaces such as streets, buildings and parking lots. “Longfellow Creek is an oasis for fish, wildlife and people within the urban landscape. However, as rain washes over this geographic area, oils, lawn and garden chemicals, pet wastes and other contaminants are carried via a network of storm drains and pipes to the creek,” explained Sheryl. “My job is to teach people how to make smart and responsible choices that reduce negative impacts to Longfellow Creek while helping to make our homes and community healthier.”
Because the High Point neighborhood is 10 percent of the Longfellow Creek Watershed, Seattle Housing Authority, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities, went to great lengths to ensure it would have minimal impact on the creek, which runs along the eastside of the neighborhood below the greenbelt. By incorporating elements such as grass and vegetated swales along the streets, porous pavement and a large storm-water pond, runoff will be slowed, allowing for pollutants to be filtered before reaching the creek.
“Building a community is more than taking care of the needs of the people who live there,” said Sheryl. “It’s about finding and building connections to the world around us which help create a foundation for responsibility and pride for our shared environment. It’s clear that Seattle Housing and its partners at High Point understand and embrace this approach.”
Longfellow Creek Legacy Trail
Along Longfellow Creek winds one of the neighborhood’s newest trails — the Legacy Trail. This four-mile trail leads you through an urban wilderness of native plants and wildlife.
At its south end, the trail begins at Roxhill Bog in Roxhill Park where over 250,000 native plants have been planted to recreate the historic peat bog. It then cuts through Westwood Village shopping center, winding through neighborhoods to a trailhead just east of Chief Sealth High School.
This is where the creek first appears from beneath the ground. Here a wheelchair-accessible sensory garden invites you to explore through sight, sound, smell, and touch.
(The Dragonfly Garden provides a dramatic entrance to
Dragonfly Pavilion. Which can be found along Legacy Trail.)
As you continue your urban hike along the trail through wooded shade, open spaces and neighborhood paths, take time to admire both your surroundings and the striking artwork guiding you. In 40 locations along the trail, brightly-colored art panels with images of plants help hikers familiarize themselves with the urban watershed. In addition, neighboring buildings have incorporated architectural artwork inspired by the creek and trail, serving as a reminder of the importance of the creek to the community.
The northern terminus of the trail is at SW Yancy Street, home to the creek’s resident beaver. But before you finish your hike you’ll pass through the Fishbone Bridge — an enclosed bridge with open walls designed to resemble a salmon skeleton. After the bridge you’ll end your hike at Dragon Fly Pavilion, north of the West Seattle Golf Course and your new home at High Point. To access the trail from High Point, just walk down the staircase east of central park.
For information on how you can volunteer to preserve and protect Longfellow Creek and Legacy Trail, contact Sheryl Shapiro at (206) 615-1443.