There’s Another South Park?

Everybody’s heard of South Park, right? It’s the adult animated sitcom with the four offensive little boys. But did you know there’s an old neighborhood in Seattle called South Park?

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by my friend Julie, who wanted to know if I would take some photographs for her Alabama based company, B&B Roadway and Security Solutions. It seems they had supplied the warning gates and barriers on the new South Park Bridge here in Seattle, and needed promotional photos. Huh. South Park Bridge. Never heard of it. And besides, I don’t do contract work. I travel to cool places and try to shoot pretty nature pictures. I haven’t done any contract work since my college days.

Well, I located the bridge, and it turns out that it crosses the Duwamish Waterway right next to the huge Boeing facility and King County International Airport. The South Park neighborhood on the west side of the bridge is just south of the older Georgetown neighborhood, which is much better known to locals than South Park.

So I made a deal with my friend. I would go to South Park and scope out the situation, and if all went well, get some images for her company to review. If they liked them, we’d discuss terms, and if not, we’d forget the whole thing ever happened. She agreed. They weren’t in any great hurry, so I had the luxury of waiting for the perfect Spring afternoon in Seattle, with plenty of puffy white clouds in the beautiful blue sky, and off I went.

South Park Bridge

South Park Bridge

The Town of South Park was incorporated in 1902, and after some difficulties with water and sewer service, voted to be annexed by Seattle in 1907.

South Park Bridge

Warning Gate and Crash Barrier on the South Park Bridge

The Duwamish River which flows through it is named after the Duwamish tribe, the Native Americans who lived here for thousands of years, fishing the river, growing potatoes, gathering bulbs and berries, and hunting game. “Duwamish” is an Anglicization of the tribes’ real name, Dkhw’Duw’Absh.

The river was eventually deemed too curvy for the new European-American settlers, and a canal was dug to straighten it, called the Duwamish Waterway. Several bridges over these waters came and went over time, but the historic South Park Bridge was the drawbridge built between 1929 and 1931, and it was the one eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Unfortunately, it was already in poor condition in 2001 when the Nisqually earthquake struck. It was so bad that King County inspectors gave the bridge a score of only 6 out of a possible 100, and it was finally closed amid much fanfare in 2010 due to safety concerns. It was demolished that year with no clear funding plan for a replacement, but funding was eventually secured and rebuilding began in 2011.

The new version of the bridge was opened to traffic in June of 2014, but on my visit this month I noted that some cosmetic work continues to this day, particularly on the west walkway. But the bridge was busy with vehicular traffic, with cars, buses, and trucks going about their business. This image I got showing no traffic was taken during a rare moment.

South Park Bridge

Walkway and Roadway on the South Park Bridge

So what is the neighborhood like? The South Park neighborhood is home to about 4000 residents, and is not particularly affluent. Providing a degree of relief is the Marra Farm, once owned by the Italian American Marra family and now a 4-acre (1.6 ha) plot of land where more than 13,000 pounds (5,900 kg) of organic produce is grown each year. The Marra Farm is one of only two historic agricultural parcels inside Seattle city limits still in agricultural use. The garden is operated by several organizations, including Seattle Youth Garden Works, through which at-risk youths operate a cooperative market garden business and sell their produce at the Columbia City Farmer’s Market.

South Park Bridge Railing

South Park Bridge Railing

Well, Julie’s company seemed happy with the images, so we worked out a deal, and now I can no longer say I don’t do contract work. But for those of you looking for pretty nature pictures, don’t despair. We’ll get back on target next week. But hey, at least now you can say you know where South Park is!

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