If you think it can be difficult for a pedestrian to dart across E Madison traffic, try being a bumble bee. Creating a connection for the pollinators through the densely populated, heavily trafficked streets between Seattle University, Cal Anderson and Volunteer Park will be one of the problem researchers from the University of Washington Green Futures Lab and backers of the Capitol Hill Ecodistrict try to solve in creating a new Pollinator Pathway project along 11th Ave.
Part of the answer for the bees, says Ecodistrict director Joel Sisolak, is building higher.
“I think it’s important to know that pollinators don’t only travel right near ground level, which is why rooftop gardeners may be surprised to suddenly find bees working their potted plants 5 stories up,” Sisolak tells CHS.
The newly announced project is in the “pre-design” and “pre-development” phases “of a new 1.5 mile Pollinator Pathway® for native bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators between Seattle University’s grounds and the trees and gardens of Volunteer Park,” a statement on the initiative from Ecodistrict backer Capitol Hill Housing reads.
The Capitol Hill Ecodistrict set its first roots in 2011 thanks to a grant from the Bullitt Foundation. The most recent City of Seattle budget provided $45,000 for the effort to identify “opportunities for removing regulatory barriers that thwart sustainability goals, and create incentives for achieving City sustainability goals.”
The nonprofit developer is working with the Polinator Pathway movement founder Sarah Bergmann to shape a plan for “a busy new thoroughfare” merging “art, design, planning and science” that will “rebind and strengthen isolated green spaces across multiple scales and landscape types to achieve lasting, networked habitat.” It’s a mouthful. But it’s also a framework for strengthening existing green spaces along the route — and adding new ones.
A pathway in the Central District utilizes 20 gardens on Columbia to connect Seattle University to Nora’s Wood in the Madrona neighborhood. Another 40 gardens are planned. Compared to its Central District predecessor, a north-south pathway via 11th Ave would take the concept into the densest of human environments. While the Columbia corridor has primarily single family homes where gardens are hosted by homeowners in planting strips, an 11th Ave pathway will need to be integrated with small commercial, institutional, mixed use and apartment buildings.
On Capitol Hill, the plan at the moment is to utilize 11th Ave for the new pathway. “We like that it includes the eastern edge of Cal Anderson Park and the green space by Lowell Elementary School before reaching Volunteer Park,” Sisolak said in a statement about the plan. “It also could be a central piece of the new Arts District being planned for Capitol Hill.”
Sisolak says work has just begun to work with residents, landowners and developers along the route. Once funding for outreach is in place, Sisolak says the process of finding spaces for connective development can begin in earnest. At this point, organizers say the total budget required for the project isn’t yet known.