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Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle at Duwamish River People’s Park

July 7, 2022

By Katie Byrnes, Washington Sea Grant Hershman Fellow 

There’s something new (but also old) coming to South Seattle with the opening of the brand new Duwamish River People’s Park and Shoreline Habitat. The park, opening on July 16, will be one of the largest habitat restoration projects along the Duwamish River and is the product of years of creative planning and careful design elements. An important element is 14 acres of newly restored estuarine habitat along nearly half a mile of shoreline; the site will enhance critical habitat for fish and wildlife species and benefit the surrounding Duwamish Valley communities by creating river access, greenspace, and recreational opportunities.  

 As we all know, recycling can put still-useful materials to work and keep them from going into the landfill.  Many of the features you’ll see throughout the park and habitat restoration area are reused and repurposed materials that had a previous life around Seattle.  

Repurposed cruise gangways 

Former cruise gangway at Duwamish River People's Park with Mt. Rainier in the background

The two bright blue bridges in the park and elevated viewing platform shown above were formerly gangways that were used at Seattle cruise facilities. When they were no longer needed for their original purpose, the Port kept them and  reused them to create unique public access features. The elevated platform gives a birds-eye view of the Duwamish River and Mount Rainier.  

Stepping stones made from concrete pilings 

Stepping stones at DRPP made from concrete pilings

If you make use of the hand-carried boat launch, concrete steppingstones will guide you down to the water’s edge. These steppingstones are the cut-ends of old hexagonal concrete piles that were stashed away for reuse years ago. To make them less slippery when wet, the contractor was originally tasked with scarring the tops of the steps, but instead opted for artistic etchings.  

Historical steps  

At the end of the stepping stones, you’ll find granite steps that lead you into the water at low tide. These steps are repurposed granite curb stones that were previously used by the Seattle Department of Transportation. The city now uses concrete curb stones rather than granite, so these steps are both a part of Seattle’s history as well as a functional element of the park.  

Wood salvaged from Puget Sound 

Anchored logs with a backdrop of the Duwamish River

Anchored logs are used throughout the restoration area to provide shoreline stability and habitat complexity. These logs were all contributed by the Army Corps of Engineers Navigation Safety Program which removes logs from Puget Sound that pose a safety hazard to small vessels. Rather than having the Corps dispose of the logs in a landfill, the Port has arranged to receive them directly for use in habitat restoration projects.  

The cedar planks atop the gabion benches at the entrance of the public access area are milled from the salvaged logs, too!  

Reused elements of the South Park drawbridge 

Aerial shot of Duwamish River People's Park

The Duwamish River People’s Park is located in South Park, a historic neighborhood in the heart of the Duwamish Valley. You may have traveled over the new South Park bridge to get to this neighborhood, and when you visit the park, you’ll be able to see an element of the previous bridge. The steel platform near the stepping stones in the habitat area is a part of the former drawbridge that the Port arranged to save when it was being demolished.  

Adding to the history, the steel platforms sit atop granite foundation blocks that were discovered during the construction of Union Station downtown.  

Home grown donor plants 

Intertidal plants at Duwamish River People's Park

Many of the intertidal plants used throughout the restoration area came from other Port restoration sites. Since these plants are successful and flourishing at other Port parks, it made sense to harvest a few to plant at the Duwamish River People’s Park.  

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