Parkland: A Forgotten History, Remembered

[Adela Ramos, professor of English literature and writing at PLUteaches a WRIT 101 Course. In part of the second unit of this course, students explore Parkland to find its wilderness, its beauty, its parks. Joel Zylstra and the professor will be collaborating as part of this unit to show students Parkland and invite them to think of it as their community, one that they have to care for. The final project, titled “Where are the parks in PARKland?” asksed that students write a piece on their favorite nature spot in Parkland, a place where the neighborhood and nature commingle, (using a wonderful text from Seattle-based writer, Lyanda Lynn Haupt) in a way that invites their audience to find these spots and take care of them. Several of these student stories will be featured over time .]


Erin Flom, Spring 2014, FYEP 101: Girls Gone Wild, Wilds of Parkland Final

Parkland: A Forgotten History, Remembered

Like any other suburb, Parkland, Washington is bustling with the sounds of traffic and construction. But though it may be hard to imagine, it wasn’t always like this. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Parkland was filled not with streets or houses but with native animals and wide-open spaces. It was what many people would describe as wild: uncultivated, in a natural state. But over the past century, Parkland has slowly been conquered by concrete and would seem to be anything but wild. This transition is not unique to Parkland. Many similar transitions have happened to other cities across America. However, this change has lead many cities, including Parkland, to forget their origins.

Parkland, as we know it today, had its start in the 1800s with westward expansion. Many pioneers arrived with the promise of land and a fresh start. Houses, farms, and schools slowly began to develop. Pacific Lutheran Academy was one such school. And just across from the academy’s campus was Garfield Street. In Richard Osness’ book, From Wilderness to Suburbia: An Illustrated History of Parkland, Washington, Osness states that “Community life centered around Garfield Street […] It was, prior to World War II, a meeting place where people could share the latest news and fellowship” (47). This demonstrates that Parkland’s sense of community alive and well.

Historically, Parkland did not only have a thriving community, but it also thrived amidst nature. In the 1890s, Osness explains, “[…] C Street was the main thoroughfare, through a prairie of blue camas, clumps of evergreens, violets and wild strawberries” (14). Throughout late 19th and early 20th century, the settlers in Parkland were surrounded by wide-open spaces, a variety of plant species, and shared the space with many wild creatures.

This is a stark difference from today. Parkland is now a thriving suburb and seems to be constantly evolving. The land is now covered with streets, houses, and stores. The great, green expansions of the past no longer exist. However, there are still small creatures like squirrels and crows that stay among us. They’re so common they tend to go unnoticed, their own calls blocked out by the sound of traffic. But these creatures and other small traces of nature are reminders of Parkland’s history. Yet these reminders are ignored because for us, nature is elsewhere. And it surely cannot be found in as urban a place as Parkland.

The naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt examines the relationship between urban developments and wilderness, similar to that of Parkland, in her book Crow Planet. Haupt references Jennifer Wolch’s concept of a zoöpolis. She describes a zoöpolis as “[…] an overlap of human and animal geographies” (166). Although it may not seem like it at first glance, this overlap does exist in Parkland. It can be seen when tree roots break through concrete, or when crows perch on telephone wires. But this relationship is hardly mutually. Haupt uses the term coexisting to describe a healthier relationship: “[…] we must live respectfully, wisely, considerately, and graciously alongside the nonhuman community […]” (173). Parkland was and still is today a zoöpolis. But even though our geographies overlap, we do not coexist: we do not allow nature to thrive with us. This is why it’s important to remember our history.

Although the great prairies of the past no longer exist, there are still small patches that can be found where nature thrives. The empty field beside Keithley Middle School is one such place. It’s flat, covered with grass and has a few, solitary trees around the edges. The rest is lined with large, rough brambles. However, a fence surrounds the field, officially making it unusable. These factors make the field go unnoticed, even by those who walk past it everyday. And though it’s unrefined now, I think it would make a great zoöpolis.

I envision this space to mostly be used as a central meeting place for Keithley Middle School, Washington High School and Pacific Lutheran University students. Although each campus is within walking distance of the other, it’s easy to feel disconnected. That’s why this space could be so important. With the potential of a community garden, students from each school could simultaneously learn to grow food and build bonds between the schools. Not only by learning new things, but sharing knowledge can bring students together as well. By having outdoor concerts together it would allow the older students to impart their experiences and knowledge about music. This could similarly be done with theatre or athletic programs. Even other connections between the schools could be created there in other, not yet imagined programs. These programs could easily strengthen community ties not only through the students but their families as well. With the potential of outdoor performances, it would bring parents, siblings and other community members together for the joy of music, for example.

But to have this space be a true zoöpolis, it would have to be a safe place for animals to go as well. That’s why I would propose to not change the field too much. Rather, it should promote the growth of the environment. Adding a bird feeder or having students plant native plant species could accomplish this. This could be another activity to not only help teach students about various species of plants and birds but it would also give each student a first hand experience with nature.

Overall, this space can be a reminder of Parkland’s forgotten history: of open spaces, of green fields. By having an open and welcoming space to experience nature it allows us to respect the nature that surrounds us in all of Parkland and accept it as part of the community. And as Garfield Street was once the center of the community, maybe this field could serve a similar purpose. By uniting the students of the various schools in outdoor activities, it can create lasting bonds between the schools that can persist through generations. And in turn, generations will learn to appreciate and protect nature.


Works Cited

Haupt, Lyanda Lynn. Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.

Osness, Richard. From Wilderness to Suburbia: An Illustrated History of Parkland, Washington. N.P., 1976. Print.





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