How Nice, Olympia

Linda Burton posting from Olympia, Washington – The children at the next table were squirmy bored. Mom offered crayon enticements to no avail; Dad kept eating. The little girl wiggled out of her chair, slid backwards, and wound up by the flower bed. “Look, Mommy,” she said. “Pretty.” She leaned over the fragrant lavender and pulled it to her face. “Nice,” she smiled. I had to agree with the little girl. It was nice, outdoors on the patio of this restaurant-by-the-water; the warmth of the late-afternoon sun; the scent of lavender. Red geraniums and ornamental grasses filled my view to the right; the boardwalk stretched my gaze a mile towards town. I could see the dome of the capitol above the masts of sailboats moored on water that was smooth as glass. The little boy joined his sister; they sat together on the planter’s wooden edge and talked the talk that children talk when all is well. After a bit the family headed down the boardwalk, holding hands. How nice, Olympia. This seems to be a magic place.

Magic? Yes, a boardwalk is a magic place; it lifts you up and over things; allows you to walk a special path. A waterfront is magic too, if put to proper use. If people can get there, and move around, see the water, use the space. My outside table at Anthony’s waterfront restaurant is bordered on one side by Port Plaza; some pavement; some plantings; a wide open space for public or private events; or just for an afternoon’s singular stroll. As I walked the path, a lone skateboarder cruised round and round; a couple stood talking by the water’s edge; someone climbed the tower for a broader harbor view. I turned and headed back the other way; past Budd Bay Café; past Splash Gallery; past Fiddlehead Marina. Flowers colored up the place; topped off by heady smells, salt water, and just a touch of fuel.

I’m in the park called Percival Landing now; one of Olympia’s three waterfront parks; it’s over three acres on the east side of Budd Bay, the southernmost tip of Puget Sound. Named after an old commercial steamship wharf; the original dock was built by Sam Percival, a sea captain from Massachusetts, in 1860. I wanted to know more about how this park and boardwalk came to be; back in my room I found the following article from Olympia’s newspaper, written just prior to the refurbished park’s opening last year; I share a part of it.

The Olympian, August 18, 2011. One week from today, Olympia officials will take down the fences and welcome the public to the refurbished Percival Landing boardwalk….Once the public gets to walk the new boardwalk …. once they stand under the new pavilions and gaze at the Olympic Mountains, when they cross over a new cove bridge and look back at the Capitol dome, and when they take time to check out the new bathhouse and park and playground, we suspect there will be a strong community push to reconstruct the rest of the old boardwalk as quickly as funds are available.

While many aspects of the designs are intentional, they may be lost on casual visitors. Take the two pavilions….The solar-paneled roofs are meant to replicate the curves of a net cast into Budd Inlet by Squaxin Island tribal members who once fished for salmon. The checkered pattern of the roofs is designed to look like fish scales. There are two canoe-shaped flowerbeds. The new bathhouse…. is designed to look like an American Indian longhouse. The back of the bathhouse, which faces Columbia Street, has that replica of Sam Percival’s ticket window and details about the history of the landing.

The shoreline which was once a dumping ground for blocks of concrete, shopping carts and assorted trash, has been replaced by a well-sculpted, small rock shoreline that will be perfect for salmon habitat. Steel grates allow sunlight to reach the spawning beds. One of the remarkable features is the lean-friendly railing over open-metal, transparent screen gridwork…. There are customized picnic tables and chairs that visitors can move, to create their own space. A concrete path parallels the wooden planks of the boardwalk that provides people with walkers, strollers and high-heeled shoes a safe place to walk. From LED lighting to the 22 sculptured blocks that will serve as the foundation for future art, an incredible amount of attention was given to the details of the Percival Landing refurbishing project.

How nice, Olympia! This is indeed a magic place.

Read more here:

About Percival Landing City Park

About Port Plaza and the Port of Olympia