In the spring of 2009—after a particularly long winter with a new infant—Linnea Westerlind made it her mission to visit every public park in Seattle (426 and counting). Four years, three children and countless Google Maps printouts later, the West Seattle resident—who also works as a marketing and communications consultant—completed her mission. She chronicled her journey and discoveries on a website, and then turned it into a book. The newly published Discovering Seattle Parks ($18.95; Mountaineers Books) offers a comprehensive look at about 100 of Westerlind’s favorite spots, from urban parks with usable features (such as chalk walls and bocce courts) to hidden alcoves tucked away near the water.
Growing up in Kirkland, Westerlind learned to love the outdoors during ski trips to Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass, on hikes and while visiting West Seattle’s Lincoln Park. Now, as a city dweller with a family, she’s passionate about uncovering the city’s public spaces and sharing them with her kids and others who love green space and parks. “With the number of parks, the variety and the miles of shoreline, it’s hard to find another city that has what we have,” she says.
During her explorations, she discovered how rooted Seattle’s parks are in the city’s history. “I found that exploring Seattle’s parks is a great way to learn about our early founding, like the Olmsted brothers’ influence [who, in the early 1900s, designed many parks in Seattle and beyond, including New York City’s Central Park], and to understand where we were as a young city.”
Of Seattle’s parks and her new book, she says, “My hope is to share something new for everybody; that everybody can find something new to seek out.”
Linnea Westerlind’s favorite parks are the lesser-known ones, such as Jack Block Park in West Seattle.
She discovered many waterfront street-end parks, some of which have been informally adopted by the surrounding neighbors, who have added benches and flowers.
One tiny North Seattle park turned out to be an overgrown parking strip.
She started the project before smartphones were ubiquitous. “I used to print out Google Maps, mark the addresses of the parks and use them as my guide. Sometimes it would be raining, and my maps would turn soggy and my notes would smear. I got lost a lot!”