‘People have a perception that the park is unsafe:’ Seattle’s Freeway Park Association considering changes to attract visitors

SEATTLE -- Thousands drive underneath it every day, but they might still need to ask for directions to find the largest public park in downtown Seattle. At 5.2 acres, the Jim Ellis Freeway Park covers a section of Interstate 5 near the convention center.

“It’s the original concept of making use of this space over the freeway and turning it into a beauty,” said visitor Dan Brannen.

The Freeway Park Association is now launching a new effort to attract more people to the park that opened in 1976. Director Riisa Conklin says they are considering many options like adding a playground, a café or coffee cart. The plan would also include adding more lighting and enhancing the entrances so it’s easier to find.

“One of the challenges of Freeway Park is that it’s an incredibly important historic landscape so we have to be really sensitive when we are talking about making changes,” said Conklin.

As part of the “Finding Freeway Park” project, the organization is using part of a $25,000 city grant to hire a landscape architect. Over the years, the park developed a bad reputation following several violent crimes. Despite improvements, Conklin believes people still have safety concerns.

“People have a perception that the park is unsafe,” Conklin said. “This park is actually seeing historically low crime right now.”

By April, the Freeway Park Association will hire the landscape architect. The organization will also reach out to the community for suggestions.