By Alan Robertson
Formerly known as “The Soundway property”, a growing number of us are calling this section of the Duwamish Greenbelt the “Whitlock Woods” to honor Nancy Whitlock, the retiring Director and founder of Nature Consortium. Without Nancy’s efforts, there would undoubtedly be homes built on this property today. I will use Whitlock Woods below, instead of Soundway, since most are not familiar with Soundway.
Shortly after we moved here in 1988, I remember signs going up at 14th & Holly to announce this property to be part of the Duwamish Greenbelt and listing all of the activities that were not allowed. The property had been designated as greenbelt by a City Council that intended that the property remain green. This included Councilwoman Jeanette Williams with her (then) legislative aid Tom Rasmussen.
In 2003, the City of Seattle Fleets and Facilities Department recommended that 7 acres of greenbelt north of SW Holly, between 15th Ave SW and 12th Ave SW, be sold to developers. The City estimated that 39 houses could be built within the environmentally critical areas of the Whitlock Woods.
Oddly, the portion of property that was initially to be transferred for Greenbelt was the portion that had been scraped clean for its sand and gravel. The portion to be sold for development was the only relatively untouched portion of property remaining.
Many in the neighborhood opposed this development, and actively worked to keep this designated as greenbelt. Here is the letter that the Riverview Neighborhood sent to the city: Resolution
The city offered to sell us the property for $1.3 million, if we could raise the money in 9 months. We had a yard sale and raised $6,000. That left only $1.294 million to come up with. These were TOUGH budget times for everyone, but Nancy Whitlock went to Olympia and asked for money. Senator Erik Poulsen found $500,000 for us and provided support to push the council to recognize this effort. Nancy also pointed out Nature Consortium’s long term commitment to the Duwamish Greenbelt and the free labor that the city is receiving for forest restoration.
After much negotiation, the Mayor’s office announced in 2005 that the property would be saved for green space. It was not official until 2011, when the city council formally voted on legislation to transfer the property to Seattle Parks for Greenbelt.
It is important to note that MANY helped in saving this property. I hesitate to start naming people, because I fear that I will forget someone. I give Jeanette Williams credit for having declared it green space to start with. On the City Council, Tom Rasmussen and Richard Conlin were of great help. Senator Erik Poulsen pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the $500K. We had support from Representatives Eileen Cody and Joe McDermott. Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP provided us with pro bono legal assistance.
Most of this was as a direct result of work by Nancy Whitlock, which is why they are her woods.