Gas Works Park - Overview

Overview

Gas Works Park incorporates numerous pieces of the old plant. Some stand as ruins, while others have been reconditioned, painted, and incorporated into a children's "play barn" structure, constructed in part from what was the plant's exhauster-compressor building. A Web site affiliated with The Seattle Times newspaper says, "Gas Works Park is easily the strangest park in Seattle, and may rank among the strangest in the world."

Gas Works Park also features an artificial kite-flying hill with an elaborately sculptured sundial built into its summit. The park was for many years the exclusive site of a summer series of "Peace Concerts." These concerts are now shared out among several Seattle parks. The park also has for many years hosted one of Seattle's two major Fourth of July fireworks events; in 2009 it was the sole such event. The park is the traditional end point of the Solstice Cyclists and the start point for Seattle's World Naked Bike Ride.

The park originally constituted one end of the Burke-Gilman bicycle and foot trail, laid out along the abandoned right-of-way of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. However, the trail has now been extended several kilometers northwest, past the Fremont neighborhood towards Ballard.

The soil and groundwater of the site was contaminated during operation as a gasification plant. The 1971 Master Plan called for "cleaning and greening" the park through bio-phytoremediation. Although the presence of organic pollutants had been substantially reduced by the mid 1980s, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Department of Ecology required additional measures, including removing and capping wastes, and air sparging in the Southeast portion of the site to try to remove benzene that was a theoretical source of pollutants reaching Lake Union via ground water. There are no known areas of surface soil contamination remaining on the site today, although tar occasionally still oozes from some locations within the site and is isolated and removed.

Despite its somewhat isolated location, the park has been the site of numerous political rallies. These included a seven-month continuous vigil under the name PeaceWorks Park, in opposition to the Gulf War. The vigil began at a peace concert in August 1990 and continued until after the end of the shooting war. Among the people who participated in the vigil at one point or another were former congressman and future governor Mike Lowry, then-city-councilperson Sue Donaldson, 1960s icon Timothy Leary, and beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Gas Works Park has been a setting for films, such as Singles and 10 Things I Hate About You. It has been featured twice on the travel-based television reality show The Amazing Race: once as the finish line for Season 3 and another time as the starting line for Season 10.

The building is a Seattle City Landmark and a Washington State Landmark.

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