O.O. Denny Park, at the western edge of Kirkland’s newly annexed Finn Hill Neighborhood, is one of Lake Washington’s greenest corners, rich in wildlife and some of the best vestiges of old growth forest in the Seattle area. This 46 acres of lakeshore, woodlands and stream were donated to Seattle nearly a century ago by a famous pioneer family in Seattle, intent on preserving this secluded forest.
Denny Creek runs down a ravine in the middle of the park from the top of Finn Hill spilling out between broad lawns and beaches into the lake. For wildlife enthusiasts there are eagles, owls, woodpeckers, squirrels, and even coyotes. Along the trails running along both sides of the creek and up the hillside, you’ll see madrona, maple and towering Douglas firs-including “Sylvia,” a 600 year-old giant that has a circumference of nearly 27 feet and was once the largest Douglas fir in King County (255 feet tall before its top snapped in 2003). I walk this park regularly with my dog-so serene-you can walk for hours and not see it all.
The park was originally the country estate of Orion Orville Denny, an influential resident of Seattle in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Denny’s named their estate “Klahanie”, which was a saying from the Chinook tribe meaning “out of doors”.
Volunteers from Finn Hill have worked hard over the years to keep the Klahanie spirit alive in this great enchanted forest. In 1916, Mr. Denny’s widow willed the property to the city of Seattle, to be used as a public park which was officially opened in 1922.
In 1968, Seattle turned over the maintenance and operation of the park to King County.
Finn Hill residents formed the Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance (DCNA) in the mid-90’s, to support upkeep of the park as well as to protect and restore other natural resources of the neighborhood, to include Big Finn Hill Park and the Juanita Woodlands, (a 40 acre parcel of forest land close to Denny Park, which is overseen by King County). The volunteers have maintained the Woodlands, park trails and worked with King County to restore the stream bed of Denny Creek. When King County had to close the park in 2001 due to budget shortfall, neighbors worked to establish the Finn Hill Park and Recreation District (FHP&RD), which has assumed the County’s maintenance responsibilities, particularly in the public areas by the beach. The FHP&RD is supervised by a five member elected commission and is funded by a tax levy that was approved by Finn Hill residents. This levy expires in 2014.
Two major annual events occur in the park near the lake each year. The “DennyFest’ community celebration is scheduled for September 18th this year. Activities include numerous bands, chili cook-off, pie baking contest, dog show and games. In December, the Christmas ship parade will stop off Denny Park for caroling to hundreds of visitors who will gather around a huge log bon fire along the shore.
If you like to work out doors and value great public parks, you can help preserve this gem. Volunteers are needed to work on trails, maintenance of the creek (it has trout and the water will support salmon), and to prevent erosion.
For information on park events and volunteer opportunities-visit the following web sites::
[box type="tick" style="rounded" border="full"]Directions: From Juanita Drive on Finn Hill, go west on Holmes Point Drive at either fire station 25 or near the Inglewood QFC and proceed down about 1-2 miles to the lake.[/box]
Ted Marx is a resident of Finn Hill and is a member of the Kirkland Park Board. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Park Board, DCNA or FHP&RD.