Seeking WASLA Volunteers for a Community Design Charrette!

Kendall, WA, April 24-25, 2015

Pictured above (from left) are Jerry, Shorty, and Vern, community residents and members of the newly founded non-profit Kendall/Columbia Valley Connectivity Plan Association, and Stephanie Stroud of the National Park Service. Kendall, an “urban growth area” of about 4,000 people, lies between Bellingham and Mount Baker, at the intersection of two busy state highways. Grassroots efforts in the area are now combining forces with the National Park Service and WASLA to plan a three-mile bicycle and pedestrian path that will bring safety, connectivity, and recreation to their small community. 

This week professionals from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program toured the community, and drove through a few quaint neighborhoods located directly off of the highway. These neighborhood streets contain the homes of most of the area’s residents, including a Slavic community and hundreds of visiting Canadian citizens who call Kendall their second home. Shorty pointed out that, though the streets were quiet at that time, on a weekend day you would have to be careful driving through the neighborhood, “because of all the children on bikes.” Bus stops are present on street corners, which are very important in this region—the 72X, which serves the area and connects it with Bellingham, is the most popular bus route in Whatcom County. Tucked next to the highways are also a lake, a land trust area, an old railway path, and a view of the historic limestone quarry, all within two or three miles of each other. A trail system could connect all of these cultural and natural assets, which would be difficult if not dangerous to walk or bike to now. The community has already suffered traumatic losses from vehicular collisions with walkers and bicyclists and it isn’t hard to see why. Because of the busy state highways, driving is the only way to reach the library, resource center, school, and other services. In fact, the elementary school has banned walking and biking to school, and sometimes that means students may not make it to class.

These and other concerning conditions brought Kendall residents to action, and they have made significant progress since 2011. Speed limits have been reduced around the school and a roundabout at the intersection of the two state highways is now funded. Construction of the roundabout will also include a sidewalk and a new pedestrian crossing that will extend to Kendall Elementary School and allow children to safely cross the to the North Fork Community Library. They also applied and are currently receiving support from RTCA and WASLA.

In addition to meeting with residents, RTCA provides technical assistance and support from volunteer landscape architects, which are recruited in various ways such as newsletter announcements—just like this one! WASLA and the RTCA program have worked together in a partnership for community projects similar to the Kendall project, typically charrette-based, since 1998. The first project they worked on together was in Seattle’s International District, and was a great success. It was called “Picture ID,” and included a design charrette that provided invaluable visual aids that were shown year-long at the International District’s Neighborhood Strategic Plan meetings. The drawings conveyed abstract ideas to multi-lingual residents who could then understand them and debate their feasibility. These quick, hand-drawn graphics were also used in a presentation to Seattle City Council, and over fifteen years later you can see those same ideas, or evolutions of those ideas, come to life.

Above: one of the sketches from the “Picture ID” charrette (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

To find more about the National Park Service’s RTCA program, check out this video. With the RTCA’s organizational resources and WASLA’s technical support, you can see how great projects can become reality. If you know of a community in need, RTCA may be able to help.

Come join the National Park Service, Kendall residents and fellow landscape architects and make a big difference in a small community. There will be a two-day charrette with food and lodging provided, April 24-25. What better way to celebrate Landscape Architecture Month?

To volunteer, contact Don Benson, ASLA, WASLA liaison, at 206-297-1259 or by email at [email protected]

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