Carkeek Park’s approximately 200 acres is diverse and includes saltwater, riparian, wetland, upland forest and meadow habitat supporting a wide range of wildlife. There are 6 miles of trails, many following the 1.5+ miles of creeks running through the park. The trail system leads people to view points, the beach, a playground, Demonstration Gardens, Pipers Orchard, a wetland, meadows, remnants of original fir, hemlock and cedar forests, and more. The park also contains many developed amenities including the Environmental Learning Center, a playground with a salmon slide and tide pool, over 50 picnic tables, 2 picnic shelters, and a large fire ring. The large field near the playground not only serves as an area for people from the community to come and play, it is used for larger events hosted by schools, churches, non-profits and businesses from around the region.
Carkeek Park’s creeks are home to native sea-run cutthroat trout as well as planted Chum salmon. Each year, volunteers raise and release approximately 60-70,000 chum fry and another 100,000 chum eggs in the Les Malmgren Imprint pond. Last year, 21 volunteers opened the imprint pond for about 95 hours over three months while feeding the fry. In that time, we had over 1800 visitors from around the city and some from out of state. This year, we had a new salmon return record of 618 individuals, including 44 Coho and two Chinook. During the salmon run as well as the summer months, Carkeek fits the Board’s proposed Regional classification of being a “destination.”
Carkeek Park is home to one of only two salmon runs within the City of Seattle (based on King County’s Salmon Seeson Criteria; the other is the Ballard Locks) and the only one with regularly spawning salmon. Each year the return is featured in local and regional publications and attracts thousands of visitors. The Salmon Steward volunteers this year, working three hours a day for five weekends (33 hours total), counted 2993 visitor contacts. The Salmon Run program included 21 student programs with 20 schools, including schools south of the ship canal, with 800 K-5 students and 60 adults participating. Each year 22 schools participate in the Salmon in the Classroom program. Each school raises salmon fry in their classrooms, and then the classes come to Carkeek to learn more about the salmon and release their fry in the imprint pond.
The creeks of Carkeek Park are also integral to Islandwood’s Homewaters program. Each year they bring 4th and 5th grade students from Seattle area schools to Carkeek Park to learn about watersheds and natural ecosystems. In the last year, Carkeek was the site for 16 Homewaters programs for nine different schools and a total of 715 students.
Carkeek Park’s beach is one of the premium tide pool beaches in Seattle. At a low tide, when an additional 20 acres is exposed, you can literally walk hundreds of feet out into Puget Sound to explore the intertidal habitat. Both the Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Parks Naturalists offer programs on Carkeek Park’s beach during low tides. Even when the tide is up, people from all over Seattle come to enjoy the beach, whether sunbathing, playing in the sand, kite surfing, fishing or just skipping a few stones. The views of the Sound, the Olympic Mountains and sunsets from the beach and the surrounding viewpoints in the park are some of the best in the city. Even the railroad overpass to the beach attracts kids and adults who flock to the bridge when a train passes underneath.
For years, the Seattle Boys and Girls Club, Seattle Parks Earth Keepers Summer Day Camp, Camp Fire Central Puget Sound, and many Scout troops from around the city and region have been coming to Carkeek Park for their day camps. Several of these day camps bring in hundreds of children at a time.
Since 2009, Carkeek Park is also host to the Heaven and Earth art exhibition, Seattle’s only outdoor public art exhibition in a forested urban setting. This year’s exhibition featured artists from as far away as Chicago and Minneapolis and had applications from artists from around the world including Vienna, London, and Germany. This year’s exhibition was listed by Departures Magazine International as one of ten outdoor public art shows in the US to “See Now.” There are an estimated 100,000 visitors to the park during the three month display period. In addition, hiking groups from Mountaineers, Seattle Plein-Air Painters, and other organizations actively offer programming that centers on the art-hike. Seattle Times has recognized the value of the exhibition by featuring in-print reviews every year since 2009.
Piper’s Orchard, one of Seattle’s oldest, if not oldest, orchards at over 120 years, is located in Carkeek Park. It is maintained by volunteers who have engaged in a new partnership with City Fruit. The orchard has received regional and national press over the years. Each year, the Festival of Fruit attracts visitors from around the city. In 2013, King County’s Cultural Services Agency 4Culture, added the orchard to its Roster of Historic Sites.
The Carkeek Park Environmental Learning Center, built at a cost of $660,000, is Seattle Parks and Recreation’s first state of the art LEED building and only one of four achieving Gold certification. While it is not currently opened to the public due to budget cuts in 2011, it is frequently used for public and private events.
Carkeek Park also has the Natural and Backyard Wildlife Habitat Demonstration Gardens. The gardens are organized around functions such as a rain garden, butterfly garden, bee garden, and ethno-botany garden, and all focus on native plantings. It is hard to say how many people come down specifically for the gardens. The two stewards visit with more than 200 people a year in the four hours a week they are there. There is also signage and a brochure for the public when there are not any volunteer gardeners present. Schools, including Edmonds Community College Horticultural program, use the gardens for educational purposes.
In the April 2008 edition of Sunset Magazine, Carkeek Park was listed as the third best city park in the West, ahead of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. They summarized Carkeek as, “Home to 6 miles of walking trails, legendary views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and hundreds of spawning salmon each fall, Carkeek is one of Seattle’s greenest getaways.” They also cited the historic Piper’s Orchard.