Ravenna Creek Daylighting Project

by Kit O'Neill


Ravenna Creek, an urban creek in northeast Seattle, exists with integrity only within Ravenna Park now, although it once drained an area nearly thirty times larger, including the Green Lake Basin. The creek was disconnected by diversion of its waters into a sewer trunkline in 1948.

Metro recognized the waste of money involved in pumping and treating the Creek's clean waters as sewage and in 1990 developed a plan to reconnect the Creek between Ravenna Park and University Slough, an arm of Union Bay, by means of an underground pipe line. In response, the community proposed reconnecting the Creek on the surface, or 'daylighting' the Creek.

Among the reasons people are interested in daylighting the Creek are that it is pure as a mountain stream according to UW entomologist Howard Whisler, judging from the quantity and types of insects found there. Resident cutthroat and rainbow trout are additional witnesses to its water quality. Another aspect arises from the history of the creek and the park which now contains it. The ravine carved by the creek has drawn people for 120 years as first a private and then a public park. It sheltered the re mnant old growth until the 1920s.

Seattle is a city of hikers and in the mountains when you find a valley you also find the water that made it. Daylighting the creek would restore the natural integrity of this watershed. This is a pilot watershed project, with opportunity and potential for reestablishing the salmon run in the city. Fish habitat would be developed. Water quality in the University Slough would improve immediately.

Adjunct commercial enterprises may find advantages from the more leisurely pace of their customers as well as from the overall increase in foot traffic that will result from the pedestrian corridor accompanying the creek. the pedestrian walkway will co nnect destinations, Ravenna Park, the Burke-Gilman trail, and University Village Shopping Center. The uniqueness of this project will draw additional customers.

The project has the support of unanimous resolutions by both Seattle City Council and King County Council and the endorsements of Mayor Norm Rice and County Executive Gary Locke as well as of numerous community and environmental organizations.


The reconnected Ravenna Creek would flow between Ravenna Park and University Slough an arm of Union Bay. The surface reconnection to Union Bay requires construction of a channel through the southern segment of the original watershed, recreating a strea mbed as an amenity through areas which have, in nearly fifty years since the disconnect, become concrete streams and asphalt parking lots.

From the Southern end of Ravenna Park, the Creek would flow along Ravenna Place NE, under 25th Ave NE at NE Blakely, surfacing along the Burke-Gilman Trail. It would then flow south through a small park, a portion of UW housing and then University Vill age Shopping Center, connecting with the north end of University Slough (at NE 45th St. near 25th Ave NE). Various routes have been proposed through University Village. The final choice will be up to the Village, subject to certain physical constraints. T he result will be a blue greenway nearly a mile long, 20-30 feet wide with a 1/4 acre pocket park at the node of the corridor and the Burke-Gilman Trail.


A grassroots group, the Ravenna Creek Alliance, was formed in 1992 to pursue the daylighting option and incorporated as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) for that purpose. The Alliance created a Master Plan in November 1994, with financial support from a Depa rtment of Neighborhoods grant for the engineering survey which forms the plans base. The plan itself is the result of pro bono time and materials contributed by a team of a dozen landscape architects and civil engineers.

The Master Plan includes an overall alignment of the daylighted route, discussion of some relevant issues, detailed solutions to local complex situations, alternates routs for the lowest third, through a regional shopping center, University Village, an d an overview of the reconstituted watershed.

Among the issues examined in the Master Plan are the water flow itself, i.e. stagnation or flooding potential, public art and continuity elements along the route, parking, maintenance, safety issues and some proposed solutions, water quality, and the p otential for a sustainable fish population.

These issues (and others) will be address more extensively in an engineering feasibility study commissioned last year by Metro, which will be based on the Mater Plan. Definitive answers to remaining questions will be a product of that study as will a d etailed cost estimate. SvR Design has been hired as a the lead consultant of a team which includes fish, stream and economic experts as well. There will be interviews of stakeholders as part of the process and a public meeting is currently scheduled for J uly. Study completion is targeted for September.