Olympia Planning Commission reviews Parks Chapter; considers "pocket parks" and open space preservation


The Olympia Planning Commission met on Monday to discuss proposed updates to the city's Parks, Arts, and Recreation chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, covering a wide range of topics around equity, accessibility, and sustainability in the park's planning.

Commissioner Carole Richmond suggested adding a new "pocket park" category to the park's classifications discussed in the Comprehensive Plan.

Richmond described pocket parks as small, urban green spaces typically half a block in size.

The commissioner envisioned pocket parks being created through conversions of parking lots or other small open areas within dense urban areas that could provide nearby gathering spaces for recreation and socializing where larger parks may not be accessible.

The commissioner believed pocket parks could help address park access equity issues, particularly for downtown residents who need more extensive nature areas nearby.

When discussing the level of service standards for parks, Commissioner Greg Quetin suggested including more future-focused language in the Comprehensive Plan. He said the level of service is defined based on acres of parkland per capita.

Quetin felt the standard should consider evolving community needs as the city grows. He proposed language encouraging the parks department to study "different ways of defining the level of service" beyond just acreage. That could include factors like proximity to various park amenities and gathering spaces to ensure parks continue to serve residents adequately.

Quentin suggested accessibility should also consider walkability to that park, such as having safe pedestrian infrastructure.

Conserving Port Peninsula

Richmond also advocated for preserving an existing open space in Port Peninsula. She suggested the city collaborate with the Port of Olympia to safeguard the remaining undeveloped stretches along the Port Peninsula waterfront from future development.

Richmond argued that the port lands offer an opportunity to maintain a sizable natural refuge easily accessible to downtown residents.

"That's a discussion I would like the city to have with the Port. We have an existing open space there. And I'm talking about everything, the existing level of development," Richmond said.

Richmond added that the Port of Olympia is mulling further development under its Vision 2050 Plan. She is concerned that this asset could disappear without city intervention.

Planning Commission Chair Zainab Nejati brought up the issue of equitable bathroom facilities at parks. She noted that while the women's restrooms at one local park had diaper-changing stations, the men's did not.

The chair argued that all restrooms should be equipped to meet any parent's needs, regardless of gender. She believed addressing issues like equal diaper accommodations could help make parks welcoming environments for all families.

Equity challenges

Richmond wanted to know about specific equity challenges in the Parks chapter.

The commissioner noted that while equity issues are acknowledged as a problem, the current plan lacks a definition of the nature of those problems. Richmond suggested assessing existing inequities to establish an analytical framework, even if information is limited.

"You can only make a plan when you understand the problem. Solutions come from how you define a problem," Richmond said as she suggested to better focus first on understanding the nature of any equity challenges through research and community engagement before determining appropriate remedies in the plan.

Olympia's principal planner, Joyce Phillips, noted that each chapter was still under development, and the city worked to integrate equity considerations throughout the process. She also pointed out that the recently updated parks master plan included significant equity analysis, developed with input from the city's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion staff.

Commissioners suspended deliberations until the next meeting to allow staff to provide suggested language addressing the ideas they brought to the table.


1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • johnvaneenwyk

    "Richmond also advocated for preserving an existing open space in Port Peninsula. She suggested the city collaborate with the Port of Olympia to safeguard the remaining undeveloped stretches along the Port Peninsula waterfront from future development."

    Excellent! Many of us have been advocating this for years, but the Port always seems addicted to development, as if that improves the quality of life for Olympia residents and businesses. The marine terminal loses money every year, pumps untold amounts of pollution into the air, and creates flooding from its impervious surfaces. It's time to terminate the marine terminal and turn the entire peninsula into a park. What a boon to downtown businesses and quality of life that would be!

    Thank you Commissioner Richmond!

    Tuesday, February 13 Report this