Playstreets 2019

This summer Queen Anne Greenways again held two Playstreets, closing a block of 1st Avenue West on Queen Anne, and filling the street with entertainment and education fun for the community.


We shared our booth with one of our sponsors, the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT provided some of the funding for the Playstreets this year.


One of our members, Michael Herschensohn, guided a button-works process that combined creative drawing skills with fabrication, in which each person colored a disc of paper that then got turned into a button.


Here’s a multi-step view from a previous event, with Heather Trim handling the button producing mechanics.


We also promoted some concepts that we would like to see developed in support of making streets more friendly and engaged with the community surrounding them.

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In this drawing we highlighted the various civic buildings and spaces that surround the potential Festival Street that would serve as their focus space – and indicated the way in which a Greenway might connect all of them to two nearby neighborhood parks.

SDOT staff Alyse Nelson and Nora Yao brought along materials promoting the Festival Street idea that has already been implemented in a half dozen other Seattle neighborhoods.


This program makes it easier for communities like ours to use public street spaces for a variety of events.


We already run the Playstreets with the cooperation and involvement of two of these organizations – the Queen Anne Community Center and the Queen Anne Farmers Market, two groups that would benefit from the addition of a Festival Street. The weekly Farmers Market draws steady flow of customers every Thursday during the summer.


It’s no accident then that we hold our Playstreets on Thursdays. The market audience overlaps with our audience in many ways.


As the afternoon progresses, many of the market shoppers make their way to the adjacent food court for supper, where a collection of vendors offer a wide variety of flavors to choose from.


It’s pretty amazing to see the level of energy – human and otherwise – involved in a simple, temporary set-up.


At the other end of the festivities, the Queen Anne Community Center staff set up many of their normally indoor activities out in the open, along with their booth, from which they supplied this years balloons.


We work regularly during the spring with the Community Center Director, Gina Saxby, on all the arrangements for games, tables, and chairs for the event;


but that doesn’t keep her from jumping into the middle of things on Playstreet day.

In addition to balloons, her staff helped kids create their own bead-work ideas.


This year they supplied a mountain of Big Blue Blocks.


There seems to be something inherently attractive about over-scaling familiar objects.


It’s also intriguing that they all appear to interlock but that it’s not exactly clear how that should happen – experimenting required !

Near their booth, the Seattle Fire Department put one of their trucks on display.


For some kids – and their parents – it’s a revelation to get up close and personal with all the specialized equipment.


Other adults got a chance to engage with their kids in Foosball, a perennially popular game that normally sits in the lobby of the community center.


In the middle of all this, a traffic jam on the local race track attracts attention.


Something about who has the right of way – and what’s to be done about it.


Other drivers show a bit more courtesy.


And even the speedsters occasionally stay inside the lines.


And what would a racetrack be without a fashion statement, coordinated with the vehicle of course.


This year, Jake Ostrow, son of one of our Greenways members, added a greenway,


though, as in real life in Seattle, it was later taken over by ride-em traffic.

Near our booth, in the center of things, we worked with the Farmer’s Market’s music coordinator, Sara Holt, to add some liveliness to the event. It’s been evident that music helps to “hold together” a space this large with this many different events going on.

In July David Goldberg and his Mud Junket band brought their Roots Rock rhythms to an appreciative audience,


and entertained people seated on the adjacent hillside.


In August, Brian Ernst showed how a one-man band, using pre-recorded background music, could carry the same space.


Nearby, using the music as a backdrop, Cory Lynn Atencio, went through some basic yoga positions with kids wanting to try yoga for a first time. In the top photo she talks in August with a customer who had tried it out in July; and in the bottom photo she responds to a demonstration of a remembered pose from the previous session.


Heather Graham brought her Parasol Painting again this year, helping people create their own designs that they could take home.


It’s definitely a hands-on process, and requires a bit of touch-up at the end.


Wendy Walker from the Audubon Society helped some future birders feel  real (stuffed) birds to get a sense of their bills, feathers, and feet.


She also had a telescope with her to check nearby trees for birds – and luckily was able to sight one.


Amanda Erven from Blue Highway games brought along some quiet games and played cards with some customers,


while others had help from Mom.


Other games were more rambunctious, such as this oversize set of Jenga blocks that tested tower building and team building at the same time.



As the afternoon slid into a pleasant evening, many people settled in with dinner from the Food Court – or their own picnic baskets.

We set up tables and chairs in a casual arrangement so that people could gather in family groups or sit and watch others enjoying the displays. In addition, some chose to make their own arrangements on the grass.

Overlooking everything, Don Cheyette of Seattle Adventure Sports, set up his always-popular climbing wall.

25′ high climbing wall

Each climber gets harnessed up and attached to a safety cable. After that it’s up to them to figure it out. Some are shy about the process; but others are not, and take to it with vigor.

And 25′ later – SUCCESS !

and for Queen Anne Greenways, another Playstreet success as well.


Success, of course, doesn’t happen all by itself. Sometimes it can seem that way, but it actually takes a lot of effort along the way. Here are the folks that helped make it all happen.

Michael Hershensohn (l) and Mark Ostrow (r) were instrumental in obtaining funding, coordinating with SDOT and its Festival Street program, preparing graphics, and, here, sorting out the intricaces of button making.
They are both on the board of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.
Mark Spitzer (l) and Andrew Koved (r) coordinated the set-up and break-down of the canopies, tables and chairs. Bart Gubbels was also instrumental in this effort.
Mark also coordinated the outreach to the various participants and the Queen Anne Community Center and Farmers Market.
In addition to Gina Saxby (noted earlier in the blog above) Queen Anne Community Center staff members Dirk Hallingstad and Mike Davis set up up the QACC booth, assisted by De’Quan Flight-Roberson, Patrick McCallum, Luel Teka II, and Mykhal Williams.

Queen Anne Greenways benefitted from support and media coverage in the community, arranged by QAG members Bryan Quandt and Bridgette Graham. This included articles in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News and inclusion in the calendars of Seattle’s Child, The Stranger, ParentMap, Seattle Bike Blog, and Seattle Weekly. We also couldn’t have been nearly as successful without the support of Matt Kelly and his Queen Anne Farmers Market crew. It was a solid relationship.

And finally, thanks to everyone who came out and had a good time !

Queen Anne Playstreet – August 2018

This year, Queen Anne Greenways decided to see if we could pull off TWO Playstreets – and found that we could – although at times we felt as if we were in an upside-down process, along with our young customers.


Our Playstreets focus on using a block of a street that passes through a civic campus  (City Pool, Community Center, Middle School, Sports Fields and Farmers Market) for activities focused on families and children. We promote them in advance;


and consciously hold them in conjunction with the Thursday Farmers Markets.


This gives us an automatic audience and gives that audience some added attractions. The market includes a truck food court with lots of interesting menu choices that


makes it possible for people to hang around for a while and enjoy the busker entertainment that the market features, in this case, folk songs.


The Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet frames the market with activities that vary from small and intense to large and challenging – such as this climbing wall by Seattle Adventure Sports.


Don Cheyette and his team introduce each new climber to a harness;


and give them a beginning lesson. Then they’re on their own.  Well, often some moral support is required from Mom and Dad.


And occasionally a boost over a tough spot.


The equipment is set up so that even if the climber totally lets go, the suspension cable won’t release until they choose, and even then the ride down is slow and reassuring. Some of the climbers have done this before.


This young lady made barefoot climbing look pretty easy. She also had a good sense of how to use the various hand and foot holds.


Of the ones I saw climb, she came the closest to the top.


Apparently it’s really in her genes – she free-climbed this tree a little later.


Just down from the climbers, Scott Cooper of Blue Highways Games, generated a different kind of excitement.


Lots of noise – and disbelief when this young woman won AGAIN.


I didn’t watch long enough to catch on to Speed Cups,


but anytime you have to “beat the bell” things get wild. Blue Highways makes a point of giving everyone an opportunity to “unplug and reconnect” by stocking only board games, puzzles and in-store competitions that don’t need electronics.


They have a strong following, and many of their customers showed up here.

We enjoyed having Christiane Woten from the Queen Anne branch of the Seattle Public Library come again and bring her collection of crafts. At this sort of event,


there’s a lot of craziness going on; but we’ve learned that for many, quieter involvement in creating things has more attraction. The library also has many local fans.

In the middle of the Playstreet we had to deal with a modern intrusion. In spite of putting up No Parking signs 3 days in advance, we still had three cars parked on the street when our set-up process began. Unluckily, one of them was sitting on top of an event we couldn’t move – our giant checkerboard.


So we got out the stencil and shifted the board a couple of rows to the west, a nuisance task to have to accomplish at the last minute. The owner of the car eventually turned up and – not very apologetically – moved her car. The giant size (15″x 15″ squares) invites animated interaction.


It also encourages parent / child participation, with all the inherit balancing of ‘learning the game’ against ‘winning and losing’.


Corey Lynn Atencio came again this year to introduce kids to Yoga. This offers an interesting combination of energy and calmness to the rest of what’s happening.


Corey reports that one of the fun things about working with small children is their combination of willingness and flexibility. Suggest a move – and done !


And of course, all these positions can be held with balloons attached.


A new and different group joined us this time, the Seattle Audubon Society (SAS).


Etta Cosey (foreground) and David Garcia (purple shirt) brought a collection of books, stuffed birds, binoculars, spotting scope, and information about the SAS. Since birds fascinate us but are normally elusive, handling them (even though they’re stuffed with cotton) becomes an exotic experience.


Birders know acutely how important good optics are for seeing birds in the wild where they’re often somewhat hidden in trees or shrubs some distance away. David brought binoculars, the best choice for a quick survey of a habitat.


But he also included a spotting scope, normally used where birds have perched for a period of time and can be examined in detail. Of course, it takes a bit of practice to figure out which eye to use and how to search for the bird.


I suggested we might be able to find a cooperative bird to help the process out.


And luckily for us, a Northern Flicker landed on a nearby tree and held very still.


Most Northern Flickers don’t come with identification cards; but that’s just one of the many features that the Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet and Seattle Audubon Society can offer to future birders.

We’ve learned over time that balloons are a big hit. We were fortunate to have Liz McQuiston from Queen Anne Kids set up her booth and pump up 250 of them.


We set up the Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet booth in the center of the festivities. As our contribution we helped kids draw pictures and then turn them into buttons. The drawing process was pretty informal but straightforward, overseen by Heather Trim.


Making the buttons involves magic – putting the drawing, the button-back and the drawing cover into the press in the right order and with the right side up or down, clamping it, then turning it around a couple of times and clamping it again.


But with a little practice, the magic works every time.


We couldn’t have done this Playstreet without the enthusiastic support of the Queen Anne Community Center. They supply a lot of the canopies, all the tables and chairs for the booths, and the active play toys that add so much of the energy. They also typically set up a booth or two themselves; and this time they focused on beads.


There’s a fascination in building something large out of many small pieces.


This civilized activity contrasted dynamically with some of the other activities they brought – ones that couldn’t be contained in a booth – like bubbles!


Bubbles exploded from all of the shaped wands

The over-sized blocks also got a workout. We were impressed with how many different ways the blocks could be interpreted.


But the noisiest and most dynamic toys were all the ride’em vehicles in action. We had laid out a track of sorts, which was both heavily used and totally ignored.


The resulting free-for-all perfectly fitted the energy of the afternoon.



To get a sense of what this feels like in motion, check out this time-lapse video made by Jake Ostrow, one of our Greenways supporters. Video Link HERE.

Thanks to Queen Anne Community Center director, Gina Saxby (right) for all her help with our fourth Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet!


The Seattle Fire Department paid us a visit for a while. It’s always popular with both parents and children – who get to sit in the cab –


and check out all the hoses and pumps.


We had a great band this time around – Mud Junket


They played a mix of jazz, blues and funky songs, and really anchored this part of the Playstreet. At one point vocals guest Sheryl Wiser added her talents as well.


That was a fun touch that I hadn’t seen coming.

Gradually people found dinner at the Farmers Market Food Truck Court and settled in at some of the tables and chairs we had scattered through the area.


Our own Queen Anne Greenways team reviewed the day’s activities –


At our table we asked what else people might like to see.


Chalk those ideas up as food for thought

for the next time we close the street to cars

and open it to families to enjoy together.







Playstreet 2018 – July

Our third Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet took place during a Seattle heat wave so everyone looked for shade while enjoying this year’s activities.

We ran an outreach campaign a few weeks ahead.


The Queen Anne Community Center provided some promotion as well. They are our primary collaborator since we have clear, overlapping missions.


We organize the Playstreets to run at the same time on Thursdays as the adjacent Queen Anne Farmers Market, since the market draws a steady flow of families.


Many parents combine events, shopping for produce at the stalls, sampling the food trucks for dinner, and jumping into the Playstreet activities. We’ve noticed that many of the farm stalls carry more than just food, in this case pelts.


The kids get into shopping as well –  present and future customers !


I don’t think of kids as being particularly interested in flowers; but there you are.


The food truck court is as busy as the market, with a wide variety of ethnic choices.


As a service, the market sets up a communal table that is heavily used.


All of this socialization factors heavily into our Playstreet planning since we draw on these crowds but we also provide interest and variety to the end of everyone’s day. Alongside the market’s activities, our start-up is pretty quiet –


but it doesn’t take long to close the street and start organizing.


The Community Center arranged for tables and chairs from their central source. We set up 50 tables and 300 chairs in a variety of arrangements.


This year’s activities were a mix of things that had worked well previously and some new ideas that were experiments we thought people might enjoy. One of the new ideas was ‘Giant Checkers‘, played on a street-stenciled checkerboard. We used spray chalk that wears / washes off relatively easily.


The checkers were improvised from 5 gallon bucket lids. This was one activity that some of the older kids got into.


And it was also something that parents could do with their kids,


although the kids appeared to have more fun on their own.


I did observe that for some players, moving the pieces with their feet was clearly preferable (jumping was tricky); and evidence of this was left behind.


In the center of the block we set up our Queen Anne Greenways headquarters.


Heather Trim answers questions for the curious.

We used this location to make information available about our activities.


We also collected comments and impressions from the crowd. A lot of these relate to intersections where the conditions are a challenge to pedestrian and bicyclist safety. We use these to organize our efforts in working with the Seattle Department of Transportation to have ADA ramps, curb bulbs, and crosswalks added at intersections.


This year our booth became Button Central for another new activity we added to the collection this year, courtesy of Michael Herschensohn and Cathy Tuttle of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

The idea is to make a picture within a circle with a personal message or image.


Just about any medium that works on paper will do.


Then the circular disk of paper goes through a magical metamorphosis, courtesy of the metamorphosis-machine on the table above – and voila !


Michael, Heather and Louise spent pretty much the whole afternoon helping with button-making. Definitely a winner.


Louise Franklin, Michael Herschensohn and Heather Trim running the button biz

Nearby, this year’s ride’em race track was in full swing.


Chalk spray made a good medium for racetrack outlining. There was even signage!


It was interesting to see how lines on a pavement focused the activity, even for kids this young – though driving sorta nearby the lines was also OK.


It helps of course to be appropriately dressed for driving in public.


There were the occasional violations of the rules of the road, but not too many.


Another new feature this year was an appearance by the Seattle Fire Department.


This popular outreach program impresses both the kids and the adults, though no one will admit to not knowing what they’re looking at.


But riding up front is another story – everyone knows about that.


Just beyond the fire truck was located one of our most popular activities from last year, Seattle Adventure Sports’ climbing wall. It arrives on wheels,


but then it stands up into its full 24′ height.


With a lot of safety and security features, it creates a secure way to try out this sport. Don Cheyette of Seattle Adventure Sports explains the set-up to a mom –


then puts each child into a harness, gives them a short trial climb to be sure they understand the basics; and sends them on their way up.


Definitely a big hit.

We had BALLOONS again this year, basic and sculpted. The Queen Anne Community Center staff set up a balloon production booth that cranked out about 300 in a variety of colors.


They also added a Play Doh table on the side that drew quite a crowd.


We want to acknowledge the enormous amount of support we got from the Community Center staff and their director, Gina Saxby, on the right below.


Louise Franklin of the QAG talks shop with Gina Saxby of the QACC

We met with her frequently as our plans unfolded (and refolded and unfolded); and she was always ready with suggestions and assistance. THANKS GINA !

Farther up the line, Jessica, one of the regular Farmers Market Buskers, joined us for the afternoon, crafting various animals by request.


I’m sure she’s learned and practiced these shapes dozens of times; but it was like magic watching her pull a dog out of a balloon.


Our band this year was Reposado. We set them up in the grassy area between the Playstreet and the Farmers Market so both groups could enjoy their funky music.


They’re a duo, with Joel Reposado on percussion and Jean Paul Builes on Guitar and Vocals. They played and sang a nice variety of themes and tempos that they call TequilaFunk and that the audience enjoyed.


If you’re curious, you can find them at:

At the games end of the street, along with the checkers, we enjoyed the return of the Seattle Public Library and its collection of craft activities.


Christiane Woten, Librarian and her assistant, Monique

Christiane uses a mix of things, from outreach booklets and information to crafts and games to engage with the kids; and it was obvious to me that a lot of these kids were library users and ready to jump in, especially at the crafts end.


Just down from the library we tried a new venture this year – Painted Parasols.

Heather Graham, aka the Parasol Lady, brought her paint-it-yourself operation and gave kids a chance to try it out.


There’s art combined with science lab involved, so special garb and guidance are included to ensure things go smoothly.


The results speak for themselves.

Nearby, Jeff came over from Blue Highways Games, a local store specializing in board games and puzzles. Some of the kids were familiar with them as well.


A few smaller things were simply scattered in among the larger activities.  We set up a beanbag toss that got some enthusiastic tossers with great form,


as well as some success-oriented droppers who adjusted the rules to suit.


I’m not quite sure why giant LEGO-type pieces are popular; but they are. Imagine if we had a hundred of these pieces to work with !


As the day faded gradually into evening, the shadows lengthened and the temperature dropped a bit. The end of the Playstreet brought out the picnics and dinners. Some people took advantage of grassy areas in the shade.


Others did the same but were also able to follow the Checkers contests.


Jake and his dad Mark Ostrow of our own QAG crew took time out as well.


Mark is one of the QA Greenways Core Group and also a Board Member of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. It was his thought to disperse the dining tables into a variety of settings to encourage people to use them as they were inclined.

Jake helped with set-up and also added some good photos to the blog collection.

Larger groups took advantage of the ability to group tables and chairs,


while smaller family clusters picked out a table just for themselves.


Of course, just as we found last year, some people found the simplest solution the best.


After clean-up, the street returned to its “normal” self.


We took a commemorative photo


and chalked this one up as a success.


But wait – there’s more !

Or there will be on August 30, 2018 when we do it all again.  See you there !



Los Angeles Tests the Power of ‘Play Streets’

Fickett Street in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in Los Angeles transformed into a one-day “play street” as part of a design initiative to reclaim streets for civic life. It was a collaboration with residents, activists, the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. CreditColey Brown for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — The temporary transformation of Fickett Street in Boyle Heights began with yellow shades resembling huge kites suspended over the sun-scorched asphalt. Soon, a thoroughfare known for its speeding vehicles and gang activity became something else entirely — a “play street” in which women gathered for Lotería, or Mexican bingo, and kids fashioned seesaws out of giant snap-together plastic shapes in colors inspired by local Mexican-American murals.

There are roughly 7,500 miles of streets in Los Angeles, and Fickett Street is only one of them. But in this predominantly Latino neighborhood where parks are scarce, residents and activists have begun a design intervention to reclaim streets for civic life, kibitzing and play. From London to Los Angeles, the play street concept, known as “playing out” in England, has become an international movement of sorts, especially in low-income communities that lack green space and other amenities.

The efforts in Boyle Heights, a 6 ½-mile area bisected by six freeways, is a collaboration between Union de Vecinos, a group of neighborhood leaders, and the Kounkuey Design Initiative, or KDI, a nonprofit public interest design firm that helps underserved communities realize ideas for productive public spaces.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has invested $300,000 on 15 KDI-designed pilot play streets this year in Boyle Heights and Koreatown, another heavily trafficked neighborhood. Seleta Reynolds, the general manager of the LADOT, first became aware of the concept while visiting Copenhagen.


Plastic “wobbles” provided by KDI became building blocks, seesaws and more. CreditColey Brown for The New York Times

“I was struck by the power of these interventions,” she said. “There is something irresistible about being in the middle of a place — a street — where you’re normally not allowed to go.”

On a recent Sunday, Kounkuey unveiled its “playground in a box.” Shade structures stretched across Fickett Street, affixed to loquat trees and no-parking signs, and the plastic “wobbles” created by KDI doubled as Tilt-a-Whirls, BarcaLoungers, and formidable hurdles for teenage skateboarders. Nine-year-old Amanda Alvarado built a McMansion. “Ava, lookit!” she exclaimed to her 4-year-old sidekick in pink pom-pom slippers.

The Fickett Street play street, the neighborhood’s fourth since the LADOT pilots began in 2016, was sought by Union de Vecinos as a safe and celebratory refuge. Perched on a bluff overlooking downtown and separated by the Los Angeles River, Boyle Heights, a neighborhood of about 100,000 residents, has long suffered from a host of land-use inequities, including its proximity to polluting freeways that decimated housing and sliced the community’s largest park in half.

Three-quarters of the housing units in Boyle Heights are currently rentals. And the fact that the neighborhood is near the downtown Arts District across the river has brought the issue of displacement to the fore. Art galleries and house flippers have moved in and longtime tenants have received eviction notices, raising the specter of “Ikea catalogs in the barrio,” as Josefina López, the artistic director of Casa 0101 Theater and the writer of “Real Women Have Curves,” put it.


Children take a ride during a play streets event earlier this month. CreditColey Brown for The New York Times

In her play “Hipsteria,” Ms. López imagined the last building in Boyle Heights 20 years hence, occupied by hipsters wanting to turn it into a dog hotel. “Boyle Heights is not a blank canvas,” she observed. “It’s a rich tapestry of immigrant history, culture and activism.”

It has long been an immigrant hub: The historic Breed Street Shul was the oldest Orthodox synagogue west of Chicago. (The rear building is now a community center.) The neighborhood’s landscape is distinctly Latino, with artful front-yard altars dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and Mexican-American murals bringing vibrant life to peeling walls.

In recent years, Union de Vecinos has been deeply involved in pro-tenant and antigallery activism, some of it confrontational. (Several galleries, including the artist-run 356 Mission, have announced they will close here.) But over the past two decades, its leaders have also worked hard to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer in the face of longstanding disinvestment. The alleyways crisscrossing the neighborhood were especially dangerous, filled with trash by people pulling off the freeways to dump construction waste, and had become magnets for illegal activity.

The group got rid of the litter and gang graffiti, installed brightly painted speed bumps and, in an alley near a liquor store, planted a garden full of spiky cactuses.


Children on Fickett Street in Boyle Heights turn wobbles into lounge chairs. CreditColey Brown for The New York Times

But improving the neighborhood has become a delicate proposition. As the area becomes more habitable for residents, it grows more appealing to outsiders, putting more pressure on housing. On Avenue Cesar E. Chavez, the primary commercial street, for instance, young people with laptops and earbuds sip coffee across the street from a lone Norteño accordionist in a sombrero standing beneath a red awning.

“There’s a difference between making something beautiful to sell it and making it useful,” said Leonardo Vilchis, co-director of Union de Vecinos. “So the question is, can we make this place more livable for people living here now?”

With tensions about gentrification running high, the community’s decision to embrace the play street concept was not a casual one.

“So many people want to come in and modify this place,” said Ofelia Platon, 45, a Union de Vecinos leader who lives around the corner from Fickett Street. “So there’s always a question of what would we need to give up?” A mother of three, she recalled taking her son Esteban, now 17, to a nearby park and having to drop on the grass because of a shooting.


The play street concept, known as “playing out” in England, has become an international movement of sorts.CreditColey Brown for The New York Times

The residents chose Fickett Street with the intention of providing a safe space not just for children but for the community, said Chelina Odbert, KDI’s co-founder and executive director.

“What a play street is not is a replacement for permanent parks,” she said. “But it bridges the gap in a way that’s really needed.”

Scarlett De Leon, a director for the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, grew up there and said she spent much of her childhood glued to television, a pattern she now observes in her younger siblings and her great-grandmother.

“It’s a cycle that affects different generations in one family,” she said. “So having a space to be creative and interact is important for emotional health.”

At the play street event earlier this month, Fickett Street was alive with fathers pushing play bins down the street with children riding in them. The scent of taquitos drifted from Maria Lopez’s kitchen — she made enough for everyone — and young men helped carry jars of watermelon agua fresca down the steps.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez, 18, attempted to jump a wobble with his skateboard. “I feel better when people are interested in each other,” he said of the street. “There’s a time to be indoors and a time to be out.”

Queen Anne Playstreet 2017

In conjunction with the Queen Anne Farmers Market and the support of the QA Community Center and QA Chamber of Commerce, Queen Anne Greenways organized its second annual Playstreet for kids on Thursday, July 27, 2017. As you can see, there were a number of people who got with the program.


To stir up interest we designed and distributed a flyer in the weeks before the date. The day was consciously selected to be in conjunction with the Queen Anne Farmers Market.


Playstreet 2017 Flyer by Mark Ostrow

We believe that streets can be used in many ways, that this Playstreet in 1st Avenue West, in conjunction with the Farmers Market (in adjacent West Crockett Street), illustrates how lively and social well-managed streets can become. It’s also clear that local businesses see the value in supporting activities like the Farmers Market; and we found that many of them supported us as well.


The day started with the quiet bustle of market set-up shortly after noon.


At 3:00 the Market opened for business.


Lots of carrots and radishes this time of year.


The Playstreet also started quietly, in anticipation that the kids would all show up when their parents came to the market. This view looks from the Market back to 1st Avenue where the Playstreet activities are being organized.


We set up our booth appropriately IN the street so we could answer questions, hand out information, and keep things running.


QA Greenways Booth with “Play in the Street” banner by Juliette Delfs and white board for suggestions and comments.

Several members of our ‘core group’ manned the booth during the afternoon.


Michael Hershensohn, Heather Trim, Jody Lemke

We learned last year that activities for the smaller kids worked well at the south end of the block, nearest to the Queen Anne Community Center. This also made it easier to set up, since the scooters, cars, wagons, blocks and mats were provided by the Center.

A variety of vehicles were driven in a variety of ways.


Ride-’em toys from the Queen Anne Community Center

But the group effect showed clearly that these kids understand Seattle traffic.


The band this year was Snake Suspenderz, a group of four characters that played and sang a variety of tunes.


l-r – Howlin’ Hobbit, Andrew ‘Sketch’ Hare, Thaddeus Spae, Salamandir

We set up the band in the middle of the block so that both the Farmers Market and the Playstreet could enjoy it at the same time, using the grass hill as an amphitheater.


Smaller and quieter activities took over the northern half of the block.

Ashley Barnett from Once Upon a Time, blew up over 300 balloons for a steady stream of customers. There were balloons everywhere !


Across the way, a couple of ball games attracted attention. The ‘idea’ of this first one was to throw the balls into the hoop from a distance – though in this interpretation it was apparently a lot easier and more direct to just dunk the balls.


Foosball has a lot more structure – though I’m not sure it was intended to be played by committee. Some of the onlookers seem skeptical as well.


We were lucky to have a new community partner this year, the Queen Anne branch of the Seattle Public Library.  Christiane Woten, Children’s Librarian, came along and brought Ryan Dahlquist to lend a hand.


behind the table, Ryan Dahlquist on the left and Christiane Woten on the right

Zigzag across the street again we come to Scott Cooper of Blue Highway Games.


Scott Cooper, in the straw hat, demonstrates the technique

Scott brought along some table games and some lawn games to add variety. This one involved balancing ice cream type cones and balls to see how high you could go.

In the grass just behind Scott’s table, Corey Lynn Atencio introduced a few young Playstreeters to the basics of Yoga. Lots of enthusiasm here !


QA Greenways member Juliette Delfs (left) takes in the Yoga instruction from Corey.

And after being enthusiastic, you definitely need to chill for a bit.


But wait !  It’s not really time to chill when there’s still a wall to climb.

Don Cheyette of Seattle Adventure Sports drove up with a wall on wheels and cranked it up – a good 24′ up. (This is a sequence of taking it down; but you get the idea)


This was definitely a smash hit; and Don said when I asked him, that he hadn’t come up for air the whole afternoon. The process is intentionally deliberate – there is gravity involved after all. First, some paperwork for Mom and Dad; and then a harness to securely hold the climber.


One of Don’s assistants hooks the harness to a cable and you’re ready to start.


Of course it’s not always as easy as it looks, especially when you realize that you actually have to do the climbing.


Some took to it easily (the girls climbed with bravado) and moved right up.


There was a clever secret that increased the fun.


The cable retracts as the climber goes higher on the wall – and doesn’t slip backwards. So if you want to rest or aren’t sure where to go next, the cable holds you in place. And then, when you’re ready to come down, you just pull down on the tube covering the cable right in front of your face, and the cable lets you slowly back down to mother Earth.

So for four hours lots of climbers gave it a go. The wall can take four climbers at a time.


Don Cheyette of Seattle Adventure Sports talks with one of the parents.

It was a pretty exciting exclamation point to put on the north end of the Playstreet.


As the day wound down, everyone started to focus on the basics – dinner !

Up in the food court part of the Farmers Market the communal table was packed.


On the Playstreet the groups were more clustered.


Conversation took the place of foosball and climbing walls.


And lounging Roman style was encouraged.


Chalk up a pleasant end to a fun day.


We at the Queen Anne Greenways hope that you enjoyed Playstreet 2017. As the coordinator this year I benefited from the sturdy assistance of the QA Greenways Core Group and would like you to know who they were:

Juliette Delfs, Michael Herschensohn, Jody and Bill Lemke, Mark Ostrow, Louise Franklin, Heather Trim, Andrew Koved and Schaun Valdovinos.

I also want to throw kudos to Charley Shore of the QA Chamber of Commerce for helping us with our printing needs, and Brittany Ryan of the QA Farmers Market for coordinating so smoothly with us on what is her busiest day of the week. And last but not least, a huge Thank You to Gina Saxby and Dirk Hallingstad at the QA Community Center for going all in with us in making their equipment available for the day.


Mark Spitzer, Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet 2017 Coordinator

Finally, I would encourage you to contact us with your thoughts about your experience and any suggestions and/or changes you think would improve the Playstreet.

You can reach me at: or contact one of the other core group members if you already know them.

Thanks for coming !

QA Greenways October 2016 Meeting

We had an informative meeting in the Aegis on Galer “Pike Market” meeting space.

Queen Anne Greenways

General Meeting Notes – October 25, 2016 

We invited Cathy Tuttle, the Executive and Founding Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG) to present to our group

  • SNG was started 5 years ago
  • Advocates for safe and comfortable streets for all ages, to walk or bike to where they need/want to go.
  • Project type – safe streets for pedestrian and bike that are outside main thoroughfares.
  • Organized through a coalition of local/neighborhood groups. There are 20 neighborhood Greenways.
    • Each neighborhood group brings projects to SNG to support through advocacy. QA Greenways brought the Uptown and SLU connection as a focus to SNG.
    • Organizing model is that each neighborhood group determines their priorities are. SNG supports with mapping, advocacy, advice, support.
  • Focus has expanded to include broader goals beyond just safe byways outside of major thoroughfares to include: signals, crosswalks, and accessible routes across major thoroughfares.

Notes on accomplishments:

  • One of SNG focuses/priorities was the speed limit change, 20mph/25mph for residential/arterial streets. This was a 3-year project.  Next is to now get $$ for engineering to support the 20mph.  Small projects that make big impact on safety (example:  crossing lights, curb bulbs)
  • In past 5 years SNG has influenced $30-40m street funding towards safe streets.
  • Of the 13th projects that were given NSF $ this year, 11 were neighborhood Greenway groups.
  • Bike Master Plan is slow in implementation by SDOT. SNG is advocating that signage happens soon, even if not ready to do road improvements

Questions for Cathy/SNG:

Negative perception of safety improvements interpreted as causing congestion, but doesn’t feel accurate.  Is it?

  • Of the 34 road ‘diets’ implemented and tracked – peak speeds are reduced but metro speed better, traffic flow has improved, injury dropped by ½.

What is Vision Zero?

  • Developed 30 yrs ago in Sweden
  • Streets should be designed for people to use safely so that no one is injured = zero.
  • City has bought into in theory but has not yet allocated $$.

There 20 groups, is the whole city covered or are there gaps?

  • Yes, there are gaps – Magnolia is one; West Seattle has only one group, but the area is too big for one group; Downtown should have one.
  • Cascade Bicycle club is becoming more of an advocacy and was looking at downtown, but now more focused on statewide
  • FeetFirst doesn’t really do advocacy

Strategic Plan?

  • Connected network of safe streets for people of all ages, incomes to get around.
  • We are looking at adding “streets as place”, not just as corridors

What has QA Greenways proposed as our lead projects to SNG?

  • Mark O attends core meetings (monthly, on the 23rd) and communicates these to SNG.
  • QA Greenways need to determine our key projects for 2017.

Available Grants and Events to keep in mind:

  • Laurie Ames reminds us to keep in mind the Neighborhood Matching Fund – including Small Sparks for up to $1000- applications year-round.
  • Safe-routes to School – mini-grant (up to $1000) Paperwork is easy. Need to get school principle support (end April+ end Oct). SNG has lots of ideas of what we can do. Up to $1000.
  • Plan a “Night Out” with a Small Sparks grant – apply by July 1
  • Plan a Parking Day parklet – Sept event

Neighborhood Street Fund update/discussion

  • Queen Anne did not get any applications approved.
  • Discussion – grants rewarded to communities where inclusion (race and social justice), equity are redressed and where there is density.
    • Generally grants appear to address terrible situations in need of improvement. Ours were, maybe, more “nice to have”.
  • We learned a lot from the application process
  • We need to think how our proposals serve citywide needs.
  • Next opportunity will be in three years – 2019.

Play Street meeting for next year

  • Proposed that Shaun and Juliette to run the planning for next year’s Play Street.
  • Considering applying for a Festival Street to make it easier to put on many Play Streets per year. Application needs to be approved by the District Council, the status of which is still unknown.
  • Michael has information about complaint(s) expressed to the QA Farmer’s Market about the Play street. Requires follow-up with Ms College (president of Farmer’s Market board) and market director, Brittany Ryan.

Upper/Lower loops defining

  • Plan to initiate community involvement in designating loops and access at the next General Meeting.
  • Consider inviting Bill’s Magnolia contact, who is working on a bike trail access from the waterfront, to this meeting.
  • TO DO – follow up with Cathy to get big laminated map (Juliette).

Queen Anne Elementary and use of the Boulevard

  • Buses are loading/unloading 8 buses delivering 4 doz students from various parts of the city.
  • There is concern that this use compromises the Boulevard’s park-like quality and adversely affects bike/pedestrian safety.
  • Bus zone was put on the Boulevard without parks approval.
  • Alternatives: Boston or 4th

Next General Meeting:  January 24th.

Playstreet at the Farmers’ Market

As part of its focus on safer streets, Queen Anne Greenways has wanted to explore some of the different ways in which streets can be used in addition to their basic function of moving traffic. Schaun Valdovinos suggested at one of our meetings that it might be interesting to try a kids Play Street in conjunction with one of the already popular Thursday Queen Anne Farmers’ Market days.


Heather Trim and Michael Herschensohn wrote up a convincing proposal to the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods and succeeded in getting a $1,000 grant to help defray the expenses of pulling all the parts together. We were on our way.

Working with Brittany Ryan, manager of the Market, Schaun and Juliette Delfs selected Thursday the 28th of July to try it out, and agreed to coordinate the closure of a couple of blocks of 1st Avenue West adjacent to the end of the Market and McClure Middle School and the Queen Anne Community Center. Mark Ostrow and Juliette organized a publicity handout that was distributed on the hill to drum up support.


Mark Spitzer arranged for a banner version to go up at the market a week ahead of time to help create some awareness of the upcoming fun.


Jody Lemke arranged with Gina Saxby at the Queen Anne Community Center to borrow chairs, tables, and a whole variety of kids toys from their collection. Michael Herschensohn added a loan of LEGO large-size blocks through Putter Bert at KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Factoria.

On the 28th we closed 1st West from West Howe to the McClure parking lot. On this warm day things started slowly as we got set up in anticipation of the arrival of families and kids later in the afternoon (view looking north from our booth toward the market).


We relocated the Queen Anne Pool ADA parking to a part of 1st West just off West Howe.


To give us a good overview of all the happenings, we set up our booth in a central location that was also convenient to the market picnic area. Heather Trim (seated) provided folks with a blueberry snack (six varieties from market vendors) and answered questions about the Playstreet and Queen Anne Greenways’ activities in general. Here she’s chatting with Laurie Ames from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, who supported the playstreet and has been a helpful contact within the DON.


Below, Heather explains the ins and outs of selecting blueberries to some new customers.


Heather also exhibited and explained a layout of the ‘Crown of the Hill’ project for public walking safety that the Greenway group is promoting.


The 3+ mile loop follows the crest of the hill, includes some regular streets, some historic boulevard and some undesignated areas. It’s a popular walking and jogging route that is used by tour buses to show off views of downtown and the Olympic Mountains, and each July becomes the route of the Queen Anne Helpline Fun Run.

While we were getting our booth in gear, the Nyamuziwa Marimba Ensemble – – was setting up for a couple of hours of high-energy traditional music from Zimbabwe.


The music worked really well to ‘hold’ the space and activities together; and we have to thank Steve Golovnin (below left) and his musicians for setting a great tone for our playstreet afternoon.


Some of the audience took advantage of the shade trees to take in the show.


Once we had moved the play equipment into place from the Community Center and families started to arrive, the action in the street picked up. One of the most popular areas was the small car / scooter area in front of the QA Pool.


The rules, such as they were, tended towards the informal. We put out the cars and arranged a few cones; and then the drivers took over.





We were able to have a bit of something for everyone, even those kids that weren’t so little – or who liked the feeling of being giants with a kids basketball net.


Other activities were more cerebral and construction oriented, such as at the LEGO table


We were impressed that in addition to the usual towers and cantilevers, a fairly large building got constructed. Now if you could just mount that winged sculpture on the left on top of the building you’d really have something.


Interestingly, there was as much interest in the really large blocks as there was in the small LEGOs – something about the full body experience we think. It would have been fun to have more of these blocks to expand the territory.



For more intense action – up near the band – there was Foosball, first one-on-one with a young man taking on his dad.


and then a mom and her daughter showed it wasn’t just a guy thing


and finally, once the adults were out of the way, group collaboration – sort of.


Scott Cooper of Blue Highways Games brought over a couple different testers for the kids (and some parents) to try out. One combined throwing skills with math strategy. Knocking down the numbered blocks was the easy part. The trick was that you could score the points numbered on the blocks only if you knocked them down one at a time – not so easy.


For the other game, Scott got right in at the table with the kids, a nice example of how things work at his store on QA Avenue.


Brittany, our QA Farmers Market contact also stayed in the mix and helped us to keep things running smoothly by touching base with Schaun periodically during the afternoon.


Our own Greenways group members also checked in as things developed so we could tune our efforts as we went along. Jody and Andrew discuss a couple of options.


In the grassy picnic area things got rolling in a couple of different ways – first the basics,


and then a less structured approach


Gradually the afternoon wound down into dinner time. The McClure Middle School building threw a welcome shadow out into the street, encouraging people to move the tables and chairs where they could be used for eating (pizza always works),


and quieter conversation – and knitting !  We were impressed.


Even the Queen Anne Greenways stalwarts took a break. Is that a yawn ?


All in all a fun day – and for a first time experiment, a success !