Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jack Block Park

Three years ago I posted a photo of this beach but noted that it was fenced off (Jack Block Park: May 2008) Now it's open, providing access to the water from one of Seattle's best and most overlooked overlooks.

This is one of a couple of gravel pocket beaches built into the shoreline of this Superfund site on the southwest shore of Elliott Bay. Waves will gradually reshape them, but the northern exposure makes significant wave action infrequent and this molding will take time.

The largest waves, when they do reach this beach, will come from the north and will strike this beach at a fairly oblique angle. I suspect this will lead to the gravel shifting southwestward over time. Imagine a pebble on of this beach. There will be plenty of waves from the north nudging it southwest. But it's hard to conjure a wave from the southwest to move it back. There's a reason pocket beaches are swash-aligned. It represents a stable configuration. This one is like filling a tilted glass with water and expecting it not to spill.

I'm intrigued by the opportunity to build beaches along these industrial shorelines on the leading edge of old river deltas. In this way, this site is similar to the Olympic View site on Commencement Bay in Tacoma that I mentioned in March (Olympic View, Tacoma: March 2011).

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Golden Gardens

It's amazing that in over 430 entries and more than 5 years, I have never posted anything from Golden Gardens, even though it's the closest beach to my home and does not lack for interesting stories.

Early on the morning of July 4th, the beach was still quiet. A few vans were unpacking for the day's activities and people were beginning to mark territory for the afternoon's celebrations, but not much more was going on.

The north beach is gravel and sand and has retreated over the decades, perhaps aided by railroad, which was built along the eroding bluffs to the north and eliminated a potential source of sediment. In the mid-1990s, the City chose to nourish the north beach and restore the wetlands behind the berm. Both have done well in the 15 years since.

Meadow Point (the name of the landform, Golden Gardens is the name of the park) is the site of one of the largest relatively intact (although by no means original or pristine) backshore dune areas found in central Puget Sound. Keeping the Scot's Broom and other obnoxious vegetation in check is a full-time job for the city and the park's volunteers.

North storms appear to dominate sediment movement at this site, since this shoreline is sheltered from the more common southerly waves by West Point. The large Shilshole Marina and it's breakwater to the south may also influence Meadow Point - they certainly represent an abrupt end to the beach south of the Park.

The southern beach is swash-aligned, forming a broad crescent that faces the southwesterly waves. It is broad and sandy and by later today will be filled with people throwing frisbees, playing volleyball, picnicking, and launching kayaks. The north beach tends to be more for beach walkers and kite flyers.

Unlike Seattle's other beachfront parks where fires are prohibited, here they are not. Which probably explains the remarkable lack of drift logs on the berm.

Dixie Lee wanted to put the aquarium at Golden Gardens. Wolf Bauer did not. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, they argued about it, but in the end, the aquarium ended up on the downtown waterfront. This is neither the first nor the last beach that Wolf saved. Fittingly, Wolf was a key part of the design team that developed the 1996 beach restoration work.