On Monday I had the opportunity to get a personalized tour of Seattle’s new Olympic Sculpture Park. Grist kahuna-at-large Chip Giller and I walked the grounds of the 9-acre green space, located at the north end of the city’s downtown waterfront, with Martha Wyckoff and Chris Rogers, two key players in bringing the park to life — Wyckoff as an environmental consultant for the Seattle Art Museum and Rogers as project manager for the whole shebang.

In addition to the sculptures (a few of them ginormous), the free-and-open-to-the-public park features vast expanses of native-plant-covered green space, a “living” greenhouse with a 150-year-old tree trunk covered in mosses, ferns, and the odd salamander, and even a shallow beach and salmon-friendly seawall habitat.

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Seattle Sculpture ParkThe park beautifully marries art and nature amidst the urban backdrop of downtown Seattle. Perhaps a perfect example of this is Roxy Paine’s “Split,” the 50-foot stainless steel sculpture pictured at left (yes, the tree — and no, it’s not real). Below it, the green-roofed building is the Neukom Vivarium, which houses the 60-foot chunk of fallen tree removed from a Washington forest. Behind it, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Pier 70, and Elliott Bay. Though yesterday was gray and foggy (how odd for Seattle!), I’m told that on a clear, sunny day, you can see the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and the namesake Olympic mountain range in a 360-degree view from the park.

But I must emphasize that the Olympic Sculpture Park is much more than just a pretty spot for a summer picnic; I’ve got much more to say about what it’s done for the land (it was once a heavily polluted fuel transfer station!), the community, and me personally. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the park — and others like it — in coming weeks.

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