Letter from TreePAC and Cass Turnbull

This letter was sent to city officials. We have received permission to post it here also. TreePAC is a political non-profit created to protect and advocate for Seattle’s urban forest.

TreePAC is against the proposed expansion of the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. It is important for us to stop thinking of green space as free land to be used for other things. As with most environmental damage, the cumulative effect of many small, seemingly insignificant losses–each taking having a good justification–eventually adds up to serious and sometimes irreversible problems.

Seattle is losing trees and greenspace on private property at an alarming rate because of the building boom. Concrete covers land where trees once stood and where trees will never grow again.  At the same time the Parks District indicates that it will neither be adding more green space to mitigate the environmental losses, nor to meet the increasing needs of 200,000 new residents. In this equation we seem to have forgotten that all these people need green space and large trees as are found in Volunteer Park, a City and National Landmark designed by John C. Olmsted.

The proposed expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) threatens the integrity of Volunteer Park.  Previous additions to the SAAM encroached upon the land and are an architectural mismatch to the natural beauty of the park.  Volunteer Park’s stately trees and lawns are irreplaceable.  Even those trees not directly in the path of building expansion are threatened by construction activities.

The Seattle Protect Our Parks Ordinance #118477 states “An Ordinance requiring the preservation of all lands and facilities held now or in the future by the City of Seattle for park and recreation purposes; stipulating that such lands and facilities may only be changed from park use after a public hearing and the enactment of an ordinance finding that such action is necessary, and providing for simultaneous exchange of land or facilities of equal or better value.”

Public engagement in this project has been all but non-existent.

TreePAC does endorse the much needed improvements to the existing SAAM building that voters approved in 2008.  But if more space is needed, then a new building should be located within the foot print of a preexisting building that has been torn down, elsewhere.  In our view, this should be our policy to protect all our public greenspaces from encroachment.

We are asking the Mayor and City Council to act on behalf of the public good and the public trust by halting the expansion plans and permit applications until Seattle Citizens have been fully informed and engaged in decisions concerning conversion of valuable Volunteer Park property. Once public green space is gone, it is gone for good.

Cass Turnbull
TreePAC President & Board members

TreePAC is a political non-profit created to protect and advocate for Seattle’s urban forest.

Welcome to ProtectVolunteerPark.org


Updated: to reflect that the latest architectural drawings (presented on September 10) no longer show the circled tree removed.

Welcome! The photo above shows why this blog exists. This landscape is the east side of Volunteer Park. Notice the tree circled in yellow. This and other Some trees are planned to be removed and replaced with this:


I don’t remember anyone asking the community if we are willing to give up part of Volunteer Park for this purpose. In fact, the whole expansion plan has been handled quietly and was little known before August 24, when some of the park’s neighbors acquired a document recently presented to the Landmarks Preservation Board, from which the above image is taken.

This blog is intended to help inform the public and add to a constructive conversation around this issue. But it also has an advocacy purpose, as a home for those of us who think the answer to the unasked question should be: No, we are not willing to have part of Volunteer Park converted to this purpose.

More information and advocacy are to come! Please feel free to comment. If you would like to author a post on the blog, please email me, Jonathan Mark, at jhmark@xenops.com. And whatever your position about this issue, thank you for being here and caring about the park and the community.