The Hidden Secrets of Carillon Woods Park

  By Tia Scarce, community volunteer

On 106th Avenue between 53rd and 55th Streets lies a relatively new Kirkland park, Carillon Woods.  Just one long block off of the busy arterial 108th Avenue, this leafy green gem is a neighborhood treasure. Park visitors and adjacent property owners enjoy serene views of a mix of tall conifers and deciduous trees.  Dedicated on October 6, 2007, the park was purchased from Water District #1 with funding from a voter-approved park bond.  Public workshops guided the development of a playground, art installation, and trails through six of the 8.71 acres.

An inviting play structure greets visitors at the main entrance to the park. Paved walkways make pushing a stroller through this area easy, and wood mulch provides a soft landing from the platforms and slides, low climbing rock, and swings, all in their own rounded plots.  Continue down the path to the interpretive sign that relays the history and hydrogeology of the surrounding area.  At this point the pavement ends but informal paths meander through the woods, emerging at the streets on three sides.  A striking basalt sculpture, Gesture #1 by artist John Hoge, stands near the play areas.  Does it mimic the verticality of tree trunks and snags in the woods, or are the wavy ridges in the surface meant to evoke the waters of Carillon Creek as it flows to Lake Washington?  You decide.

Not accessible to the public are two steep acres containing the pump house and other relics of the days when spring water flowed downhill and into wooden pipes across Yarrow Bay, providing water to Yarrow Point until 2004.  The unstable slope is off limits and a tangle of vegetation obscures the ground.  Nearly impassable for people, it is perfect mountain beaver habitat.

The property was covered in invasives when Kirkland purchased it.  The Green Kirkland Partnership with Earthcorps has produced determined, steady results in vanquishing ivy and blackberry and freeing up native plants.  Early crews cut survival rings around trees and rolled back large mats of ivy.  In late October 2011 a planting crew will install more natives to further enhance the habitat and help prevent the undesirables from returning.  Because this park contains food, water, cover, and a place to raise young, the National Wildlife Federation has designated it as wildlife habitat.  Among many other species, pileated woodpeckers call this natural woodland home.  Local businesses, corporations, schools and many individuals have donated innumerable hours restoring Carillon Woods to its natural state.  The work continues; interested volunteers can get involved in Green Kirkland events by checking this PDF on the city’s website.

In May 2011, a large crowd of supporters, neighbors, council members and volunteers opened the Butterfly Life Cycle Garden, a charming little plot that provides host and food plants for butterflies throughout their lives.  The initial garden plants were funded by a neighborhood grant and a detailed sign illustrating the life cycle of a butterfly was funded by a Boeing grant through the National Wildlife Federation. The King Conservation District also donated plants from its native plant nursery.  The Kirkland Community Wildlife Habitat team provided planning and execution of the garden, and all labor in this garden has been donated.

Clearly many people have had a hand in creating a green space that the entire city can be proud of and one that serves the needs of residents, visitors, birds, birders, dog-walkers, terrestrial critters, Lake Washington aquatic life, chalk artists, native plant geeks, photographers, and one bagpiper.

Information was gathered from kirklandwa.gov, volunteer park steward Lisa McConnell, the Kirkland Community Wildlife Habitat’s Facebook page, and site visits.