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New trail names at Seward Park

A project to upgrade the trail system comes with new signposts that will reflect the landscape and its Native American past.

Earlier this year in a series of stories on Crosscut, we floated the idea of naming many of city's unnamed features, including alleys, street ends, trails, and other urban features that are yet unnamed on maps. 

There are many reasons to do this. One is reclaiming urban spaces, like alley ways; another is recognizing more than a century's worth of life and accomplishment of Seattleites in the years since the streets were named. Yet another is to take the opportunity to include more indigenous names for natural and city features.

A naming project is currently underway at Seward Park as part of a 2009 park trails plan (available here). The park features a series of trails along its shoreline and through the old-growth forest of the upper park. It's part of an effort to make people more aware of these trails, which don't have names and are mostly unmarked, and to begin steering people away from unofficial "social" trails that have been made by bushwackers over the years. The hope is to eventually eliminate these through replanting and by directing people to designated trails. Currently, most of the trails have no signage or names, and it is often difficult to tell which are legitimate.

The plan includes naming trails after natural features, thus Huckleberry, Windfall, Lost Lake, and Licorice Fern trails. Another trail is called Erratic, not in reference to the behavior of some day hikers but in reference to "erratics," large rocks left behind by ancient glaciers. The plan also includes some new trails, including a short loop along the lake shore that takes walkers close to a scarp probably created by a shift in one of the earthquake faults that lie under the city.

Seward Park's main, mile-long trail through the woods called The Spine Trail will also get a new name. According to Paul Talbert, president of Friends of Seward Park, it will be Sqebeqsed (pronounced "skuh-BUHK-suhd"), which is what the Duwamish tribe called Seward Park, as recorded in the 19th century by the expert on local geographic names T. T. Waterman. It translates from Lushootseed as "the noses," which Talbert thinks refers to the ends of the park resembling noses when the peninsula was an island. The Duwamish have given their permission for the name to be used.

Main trails will be marked with large basalt markers, much like ones along the popular 2.4-mile Shore Loop Road, which follows the peninsula's perimeter. Smaller trails will get more modest markers, which will also give park visitors a sense of the difficulty and length of the trails. The signage is the result of volunteer efforts by Friends of Seward Park plus a matching fund grant of $19,000 from the Neighborhood Matching Fund.

Other trail improvements including benches, kiosks, landscaping, and culverts are also park of the comprehensive trail plan for Seward. Talbert says some signposts might be in by December, but "definitely by spring."

It's a nice way to kick off the park's centennial year. Seward Park was purchased by the city in 1911.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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