Arboretum trades empty ramps for new trails

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by LINDA BYRON and GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 6:42 PM

Seattle - It's long been a jewel in the heart of Seattle--so precious it once stopped a freeway from going through.  Now the Washington Park Arboretum is about to undergo a big renovation that will change it forever.

Seattle's Arboretum is already a wildlife sanctuary & living museum of plants--10,000 species. It's a place where the noise and stress of a major city fades away, and even in January the air is a potpourri of perfume. 

"It's a mixture of spicy scents like Witch Hazel and the sweet scent of Sweetbox.," said Sarah Reichard of  University of Washington.

But as much as  it's a majestic urban oasis, the Arboretum is symbolic of something else--the road and bridge infrastructure  that seems to be, so Seattle.

That's in part because of oddities like the infamous ramps to nowhere--big chunks of steel and rebar that extend off of SR 520 and deadend in the wetlands.  They were built in the 1960's for a freeway that would have gone thorugh the Arboretum into downtown Seattle. .

"One of the earliest environmental efforts in Seattle was the effort to save the Arboretum from the R.H. Thompson Freeway by stopping it in it's tracks," said Paige Miller, Executive Director of the Arboretum Foundation.

Now, with the 520 project underway, those ramps will finally be torn down and $20 million worth of improvements will take place.  They include a new trail system that will create a loop through the park, improved botanical features and a restored creek.

The money comes as a result of a collaborative effort between the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee. 

The details of the project were announced at a press conference on Thursday.

 

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