In the perennial children’s classic The Wizard of Oz, the takeaway is that when you go looking for your heart’s desire, you need look no further than your own backyard. Sometimes as adults, it’s easy to forget that there is much bounty to be found in our own neighborhoods, especially when it comes to open spaces and outdoor activities in nature.
Before we visit some recreation sites in the Kirkland area and what they have to offer, a recent City of Kirkland Critical Areas report provides some noteworthy facts about our rich and diverse surroundings. For example:
• The city contains more than 400 acres of mapped wetlands, highly productive ecosystems that provide water quality, hydrologic and habitat functions. There are 120 individual wetland areas in total.
• Much, if not all, of the Totem Lake and Forbes Lake perimeters meet the definition of wetlands.
• Many animals such as native amphibians require pristine upland habitats for survival.
• Juanita Creek, Forbes Creek, South Juanita Slope, Yarrow Creek, Carillon Creek, Denny Creek and Champagne Creek show documented use by fish species including steelhead and cutthroat trout and coho, sockeye and Chinook salmon.
• In addition to fish, Kirkland habitats are home to mammals including black-tailed deer, coyotes, raccoons and black bears.
• There are five mapped nesting sites in the city for bald eagles, most in proximity to Lake Washington.
• Two mapped great blue heron breeding colonies are located in the Yarrow Bay wetlands.
• Trumpeter swans assemble and forage at Juanita Bay and the Forbes Creek wetlands.
The city and environs are home to more than 50 developed, in-development or undeveloped city, county or state parks. There is also Jasper’s Dog Park, which was created by the City of Kirkland in partnership with the Kirkland Dog Off-Leash Group (KDOG), and is located at the intersection of NE 120th and 113th Avenue NE.
Here is a sample of the city’s parks as well as other parks nearby:
Juanita Beach Park, 9703 NE Juanita Drive, Kirkland
Juanita Beach Park encompasses almost 22 acres and has 1,000 feet of waterfront on Lake Washington. The park hosts a summer concert series for kids every Tuesday from 10–11 a.m., July 9 – Aug. 20. Amenities include swimming, fishing, picnicking, a public dock, playground, softball, volleyball and tennis.
Juanita Bay Park, 2201 Market St., Kirkland
A designated urban wildlife habitat, Juanita Bay Park sits on 111 acres with 3,000 feet of waterfront. In addition to its wetlands and Forbes Creek, it has open lawn areas for picnicking, interpretive trails and boardwalks and guided interpretive tours. The wetlands are divided into discrete plant communities including wet meadow, marsh, open water, shrub wetland and wooded wetland, each with its own inhabitants. The variety of vegetation serves a migratory and permanent population of more than 100 bird species, along with mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Marina Park, 25 Lakeshore Plaza Drive, Kirkland
Marina Park is situated on 3.5 acres and has 695 feet of waterfront on Lake Washington. The park hosts an evening concert series every Thursday from 7–8:30 pm., July 11 – Aug. 22. Amenities include moorage, a boat launch, a pavilion, an amphitheater, public art, picnicking, fishing and swimming.
O.O. Denny Park Picnic Shelter/Picnic Area, 12032 Holmes Point Drive NE, Kirkland
O.O. Denny Park, named after Orion Denny, son of Seattle founder Arthur Denny, was opened to the public in 1922. According to Alan Stein on HistoryLink.org, when a 2001 budget shortfall forced the closure of 20 parks in King County, Finn Hill residents voted overwhelmingly for a small property tax increase to manage the park themselves in an agreement with the City of Seattle.
The park has two separate picnic areas offered independently. The Picnic Shelter is surrounded by 15 feet of lawn and can accommodate 100 people, with a seating capacity of five tables/30 people. It has power, water and a small charcoal grill. The Picnic Area can accommodate 50 people, with seating capacity of two tables/16 people. It has a small charcoal grill and about 30 feet of lawn surrounding it, not including the beach. There is a playground and beach access. Reservations are required.
Waverly Beach Park, 633 Waverly Way, Kirkland
Waverly Beach Park is almost 3 acres with 490 feet of waterfront on Lake Washington. There is a public dock, an enclosed swim area, a fishing area, a playground that overlooks the water, open lawn, picnic tables and windsurfing. Picnic shelters are available to rent, 30 people maximum with seating for 24. Reservations are required.
Doris Cooper Houghton Beach, 5811 Lake Washington Blvd., Kirkland
Open all year, Doris Cooper Houghton Beach Park is located between Carillon Point and downtown Kirkland along Lake Washington Boulevard. Amenities include a swimming beach (seasonal lifeguard), a fishing dock, a playground, volleyball, outdoor sculptures and a kayak/canoe (non-motorized vessels) launch area.
David E. Brink, 555 Lake St., Kirkland
At less than an acre, David E. Brink Park has 660 feet of waterfront on Lake Washington. It features a fishing area, picnic tables (gas-fired barbecues allowed), public art, a public dock and a shoreline trail.
St. Edward State Park, 14445 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore
Surrounded by low forest and sloping lawns, 326-acre St. Edward State Park is home to the former St. Edward’s Catholic Seminary, built in 1931. The large brick building, designed by well-known architect John Graham, is the focal point of the park, and it housed hundreds of students over the years until 1976.
Features of the park include a grotto fashioned from river rock (a popular wedding spot) and 3,000 feet of shoreline along Lake Washington. In fact, the park is the largest remaining undeveloped area on the lake. Visitors can picnic, boat, mountain bike, hike, fish and swim, and there is a playground for children. Horse trails are offered in the Holmes Point area.
Bridle Trails State Park, 5300 116th Ave. NE, Kirkland
Located between Kirkland and Redmond, Bridle Trails is a 489-acre day-use park with 28 miles of trails for equestrians and hikers (horses always have the right of way). It is known as one of the top equestrian parks west of the Mississippi and has four show arenas and a calendar of organized rides and other horse-related events. The park also features a 1.6-mile self-guided interpretive trail, educational programs, picnicking, evening musical shows and the Bridle Trails Foundation’s annual community party. It is strictly BYOH (bring your own horse), as there are no horse rental concessions.
For more information, visit the City of Kirkland Parks and Community website at KirklandWA.gov/depart/parks.htm.