Cotton Hill and Crestwoods Parks Connect to Nature, Trails, and Each Other

Do you remember the goats? In April, 2008, a herd of 60 ruminants trotted into Cotton Hill Park for Earth Day. The first hired goats in Kirkland, they cleared a quarter acre of six-foot tall blackberries in three days, to the delight of a steady stream of onlookers.

Since then, the Highlands neighborhood has worked closely with the Green Kirkland and UW Restoration Ecology programs to restore the park to health. Invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberry were smothering the native plants. Volunteers have removed old tires, beer bottles, and invasive plants from more than half of the 4-acre park and replanted with native species.
They also built a 500-foot long raised gravel trail, allowing students, walkers, and joggers year-round access to the park, with its connections to adjacent schools, parks, and trails.

If you're wondering where Cotton Hill Park is located, you are not alone. Until recently, it was a mostly inaccessible patch of forest without an official name, tucked along the east side of the railroad tracks just north of Peter Kirk Elementary. The park was officially named last year, and a sign installed at the south entrance.
Healthy forests clean our air, filter our water, reduce flooding, sequester carbon, and provide wildlife habitat. They also provide opportunities for people to enjoy nature. When you enter Cotton Hill Park you are instantly transported out of suburbia and into the wild. Imagine a cool, green forest with the sound of trickling water from a year-round stream. If you're lucky you might see a Pacific tree frog, a Pileated woodpecker, or even a Wood duck.

If you follow the trail north and turn left, you will come to the railroad tracks, a corridor of quiet green. Cross the tracks and you are in Crestwoods Park. Climb a short set of stairs and soon the forest opens up into wide, green baseball and soccer fields. This 27-acre park also has a basketball court, restrooms, parking area, playground, swingset, picnic tables, and paved trails.
But it too has a wild side. More than half of Crestwoods Park is forest criss-crossed by a network of trails. In your wanderings you might come upon volunteer Stu Clarke, who has helped build and maintain the trails in both parks.
Cotton Hill and Crestwoods Parks are all about connections: trails that connect to surrounding parks and the railroad corridor, connecting the Highlands and Norkirk neighborhoods to each other, and connecting Kirkland residents to nature and meaningful restoration work.

How can you help?
Cotton Hill Park needs your help to clear, mulch, plant, and weed. Starting November 1, work parties will be held every Wednesday from 10-11 am. In addition, there are occassional work parties on Saturdays. First-timers are always surprised at how much fun these events are. Go to SupportGreenKirkland.org for up-to-date work party information.
It's oh-so-tempting to let your dog off leash in these little pieces of wilderness, but don't succumb. Besides the damage that dog paws can do to vulnerable plants, and the fact that it's illegal and you could be fined, it's not fair to other park users who may be scared of dogs. Remember your poop bags - dog feces contaminate water and are no fun for park workers.
Many dollars and volunteer hours have been spent installing native plants. Remember that plants grow by the inch and die by the foot, and please stay on the trails.
If you'd like a tour of the park, or to be added to the work party email list, please email me at karen@tinyisland.com.
Directions:
Crestwoods Park is located at 1818 6th Street in the Market neighborhood, north of downtown and across the street from Kirkland Junior High.
Cotton Hill Park is located at 110th Ave NE and NE 97th St in the Highlands neighborhood.
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About Karen Story
Karen Story is the volunteer steward for Cotton Hill Park, Chair of the Highlands Neighborhood Association, Chair of the Kirkland Summer Concert Series, and non-voting neighborhood representative on the board of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce. She has two sons in college, two grown step-children, and makes her living as a writer. She and her partner, Grant, are currently on a long-awaited one month road trip around the western states. Karen can be reached at karen@tinyisland.com.