Celebrating Discovery Park’s 50th year and adhering to its master plan

Guest Editorial:  Queen Anne News July 20, 2022
(first of two parts)

by Monica Wooton

 “In the past three decades there have been more than a hundred proposals for “just a piece” of Discovery Park for “a worthwhile use.” If even half had been successful, there would be no park left. Citizens who fought so hard to create our 534-acre Seattle park remain diligent to see that the Park’s Master Plan is carefully followed.” Those words were penned and published by Bob Kildall in the year 2000, in his history of Discovery Park, in Magnolia: Memories & Milestones, p.252.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Seattle largest and most unique Park – it is most important to revisit and honor the history and history makers who made and make Discovery Park unique. We must re-educate and educate every State, County and City of Seattle citizen and all elected officials about the history of the “why” and “how” of this park’s uniqueness as “…an open space of quiet and tranquility…”; and, the importance of the Master Plan and City Ordinances that protect it.

In 1968, twenty-five civic and environmental groups, led by Judge Donald Voorhees, organized the “Citizens for Fort Lawton Park” (CFLP) in June 1968. They sought Washington State’s congressional delegation’s help to not only move the proposed Anti-Ballistic Missile site from Fort Lawton; and, to obtain excess Fort Lawton property for a City park.

In 1970, there was a peaceful occupation of the Fort lead by Bernie Whitebear. At that point, Mayor Wes Uhlman decided to lease land to The United Indians of All Tribes and include them in the creation of the park.

Voorhees, as a main leader in the creation of the park in 1972, first wrote those words regarding “quiet and tranquility” that became a critical part of the Primary Function-Central Purpose of the Master Plan formally written by the landscape architect who designed Discovery Park, Daniel Law Kiley.

Thus, began the movement that is now in its 5th decade.

Hopefully, for the next 50 years and beyond, the park will withstand forces from outside who do not understand the sanctity, brilliance and foresight of those words that created this park. Discovery Park is unique. Discovery Park is not Central Park, Stanley Park or Golden Gate Park. And, that is on purpose!  In fact, it has always been planned as something quite opposite, quite different and quiet special.

We must instill the necessity for the same kind of grit, constant vigilance, and political activism that has preserved this park’s uniqueness as first imagined. We must remind folks of the thousands who have followed, who keep that vision in focus and that history alive; and, thus – the park protected as it was envisioned.

We must remind an older generation and teach a new generation about the kind of stewardship and commitment that has been ongoing these past 50 years to keep Discovery Park: “…an open space of quiet and tranquility for the citizens of this City—a sanctuary where they might escape the turmoil of the City and enjoy the rejuvenation which quiet and solitude and an intimate contact with nature can bring.” Those words of the Master Plan have been revisited since originally written in 1972, in the year 1974 and again in 1986. The Primary Function – Central Purpose has never changed, nor should it ever.

–Wooton acknowledges that Discovery Park resides on the land that belongs to the Ancestral Duwamish who were forcibly removed to create the City of Seattle.     discopark50.org/dp50/indigenous-people

Celebrating Discovery Park’s 50th year and looking into the future

Guest Editorial:  Queen Anne News July 27, 2022
(second of two parts)

by Monica Wooton

In, 1988, City Ordinances were added to keep uses out of the historic buildings at Discovery Park. The fight over the use of the historic buildings went on for decades from the 1960’s through the 80’s. There were groups that wanted to preserve the exterior of the buildings as a testament to Colonial Revival architecture and the fort’s place in history. Still, others saw the buildings as a resource for more park opportunities and re-use. Bob Kildall, stated: “It would be very difficult to carry out the master plan if parts of the property are cut up as islands earmarked for other uses…and, if various buildings are used in such a way as to attract larger amounts of traffic into the Park.” Many disagreed.

 On June 14, 1988, the City Council finally voted; and, in the words of a Times article of June 14, 1988: “six historic military buildings surrounding the Fort Lawton parade grounds will stand as empty-silent memorials to the old Army base.” The Chapel has been added since.

The Park has become an escape for city dwellers from the streets, buildings, cars, noise, pollution, crowds and the stress of urban living. The chance to be in contact with the wildlife, view the serenity of the mountains and Puget Sound, and the opportunity for peace and solitude is an invaluable gift that Discovery Park affords local residents and visitors from all over the world. They appreciate and are amazed that within just a few minutes from the center of a city that it is still possible to find a place of wildness, quiet and tranquility…” continued Kildall in his history.

Could these words have been more prescient?

So vigilance and history making must continue today to uphold Discovery Park and its Master Plan and the City Ordinances. The words are powerful, more today than ever, as Seattle grows denser and significant preserved land within the city providing natural habitat for native flora and fauna become so scarce and so precious. Land that provides city dwellers the opportunity to interact with nature, in nature, on its terms without the hand of humans interfering or marring the landscape.

Proposals for a golf course, use as a Seattle World’s Fair site, an aquarium, a wet moorage for yachts, and for various arts related uses in the historic buildings have all been defeated by vigilant citizens and thoughtful politicians who believe and understand the Master Plan principles, and wrote the City Ordinances; and, know: the unique purpose and design of Discovery Park are worth fighting for.

We can never, ever be complacent. We can never forget the history and human dedication that got us Discovery Park and why it is not Stanley, Central or Golden Gate Park. And, that was on purpose!  In fact, it has always been planned as something quite opposite, quite different and quiet special.

I end this with a quote that so moves me to preserve Discovery Park in its uniqueness:

 “Suppose that you had been commissioned to build a really grand opera house; that after the construction work had nearly been completed and your scheme of decoration fully designed you should be instructed that the building was to be used on Sundays as a Baptist Tabernacle, and that suitable place must be made for a huge organ, a pulpit, and a dipping pool. Then at intervals afterward, you should be advised that it must be so refitted and furnished that parts of it could be used for a court room, a jail, hotel, skating rink, for surgical cliniques, for a circus, dog show, drill room, ball room, railway station and shot tower?…But, that more or less is what is nearly always going on with public parks. Pardon me if I overwhelm you: it is a matter of chronic anger with me.”*

Discovery Park is the grand opera house nature created and built. The Master Plan was devised to keep it as is.

*Frederick Law Olmsted – Olmsted Papers, Vol. IX, The Last Great Projects 1890-1895, David Schuyler and Gregory Kaliss, Editors, Jeffrey Schlossberg, Assistant Editor; p. 296-297.

–Wooton acknowledges that Discovery Park resides on the land that belongs to the Ancestral Duwamish who were forcibly removed to create the City of Seattle.   discopark50.org/indigenous-people

Anniversary plans fall into place as funding is awarded and fundraising begins for 50th Anniversary of Discovery Park.

The Department of Neighborhoods Matching Grant Awarded

A $50,000 matching grant was awarded to the Discovery Park 50th Anniversary Planning Committee to provide for special park activities relating to history, learning and stewardship as well as a formal public ceremony with dignitaries and honored guests on October 1, 2022. The grant also provides some seed for a full-length documentary by Fidget Films about park history to be publicly premiered on Dedication Day, October 28, 2023. Other legacy projects include a park endowment fund, the “Future 50,” and a pilot project for children, an interactive and immersive program called Discovery Rangers, based on the federal government’s Junior Ranger Program. This program is intended to get a new generation excited about and working on human and natural history, environmental learning and stewardship activities and principles by becoming familiar with this park’s special features and the ideal of preserving all our public parks.

Joyce Erickson wrote the successful grant request and will oversee its implementation. Volunteer hour matches ($25,000) will be required by community members. 

There is also a fundraising campaign to donate to and opportunities to volunteer. Related historical, learning, and stewardship projects associated with the Anniversary are expected to be announced.

Tulalip Grant Awarded for 50th

Associated Recreation Councils (ARC) was awarded $4,800 for the 50th by the Tulalip Cares Charitable Fund. This grant will be used to support five stewardship events that lead up to the October 1st celebration and educational components of the celebration day. 

Tulalip Charitable Contributions Mission
Charitable Contributions Fund provides the opportunity for a sustainable and healthy community for all. The Tulalip Tribes strive to work together with the community to give benefits back to others to help build a stronger neighborhood. That’s why, in Tulalip, it is traditional to “raise our hands” to applaud and give thanks to those who have given to us. We “raise our hands” to the numerous organizations in our region that contribute to our communities.

Fundraising begins with early donors
Individuals, nonprofits and corporations have begun to donate to the 50th Anniversary. Thanks to our early donors and sponsors . Donate now through our fiscal sponsor Seattle Parks Foundation.




Happy 50th Anniversary Discovery Park!

You are invited!

Let’s commemorate and celebrate as a community.

All Seattleites (and, those beyond) are invited to visit, participate and celebrate  Discovery Park, Seattle’s largest and most unique park, in this 50th Anniversary year of its existence.

Discovery Park is NOT Central Park, Golden Gate Park or Stanley Park with their man-made structures, densely populated crowds and unnatural overlays of endless activity and concrete. Quite the opposite, Discovery Park is itself a living legacy and natural landscape that celebrates respectful stewardship to native plants and animals and remains as a reminder: that indigenous peoples, the Ancestral Duwamish, resided here since the beginning with a cultural tradition based in the love of their sacred land and a tradition of stewardship. In celebrating together, we acknowledge that history and also the subsequent compelling history that preserved this beautiful natural landscape.

We celebrate the original, indigenous stewards and all subsequent stewards who have preserved this land as a natural habitat for native flora and fauna. The same environmental principles, upheld in indigenous culture, were vigorously recommitted over and over these past 50 years because of the visionary 1972 Discovery Park Master Plan written by park planner Daniel Urban Kiley to keep this land an “…open space of quiet and tranquility…”

This website is your ticket to the celebration. Your invitation to participate! It will provide a calendar of ongoing events and activities for the whole family up to and on the day of celebration October 1, 2022. It will provide interesting history and blog posts on various Discovery Park features and topics. This website will allow every citizen the opportunity to celebrate and contribute in concrete ways to Discovery Park’s anniversary via fun walks and talks, visits to the Visitor Center to pick up special maps and materials, volunteer for stewardship activities or make a monetary donation to the “Future 50” endowment. There will be some surprises along the way! So, please this website visit often!

We are excited to bring new and updated history, environmental education and stewardship for the Park as part of the this anniversary. A new documentary is being planned and will be premiered publicly (follow the website for details!) to tell the evolutionary and compelling history of this unique urban Park as well as serve as a reminder of the constant work that must continue on to keep the Master Plan alive and this landscape unspoiled.

Many non-profit organizations have partnered for many months to put together a meaningful, exciting celebratory day on October 1, 2022. Your participation, offer to volunteer or donate to help us create a happy birthday for Discovery Park is most welcomed!

Enjoy the park:
Calendar of events

Participate by helping:

Give a gift toward the “Future 50”:

See ya in the Park!