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Richmond Beach Attitude

A profile of Richmond Beach

The phrase, “Reduce, reuse, recycle”.  Everyone’s heard it, but it applies to more than newspapers and light bulbs.  “Use what you have” means you don’t throw something away if it can still be used. Happily, Richmond Beach, our oldest neighborhood, exemplifies this.

First claimed in 1872, it was a suburb from the very beginning- a retreat from the bustle of Seattle. CW Smith platted a resort community there in 1890, named for Richmond, England by Smith, in anticipation of the coming of the Great Northern Railroad and in 1891 the GNR was built through and a station established. Railroads directly and indirectly encouraged development, so the Great Northern, the Seattle Lakeshore and Eastern (up the side of Lk Washington), and the Seattle Interurban all pushed the building of homes and vacation cottages.  Many houses from the 1920s are still there, in the company of those of the 1950s and later.

Once the trees were cleared it was discovered the land was very good for berries. I'll attest to this, as I have friends in Richmond Beach who make the best jams all from their garden. In fact, Richmond Beach was known for decades for its strawberries, and the Strawberry Festival is still going as part of the Richmond Beach Celebration (Saturday, May 14, 2011)! What was good for berries was also good for many other plants. In 1958 Dr. Kruckeberg, of the University of Washington, and his wife Mareen started a garden. It is now owned by the city and is famous for its exotics, including four Champion Trees, and for its excellent collection of native plants. For all gardeners interested in refilling their land with natives the annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale and Open House is coming up from Thursday, May 5 through Sun., May 8, 2011.

Richmond Beach Saltwater Park- the only park in Shoreline with true saltwater shoreline- was a sand and gravel mine. The tailings from the operation formed the big, sandy beach, which is now returning to nature. It is diversely populated by horse clams, cockles, and various other invertebrates.  Now the Richmond Beach Community Association runs an Earth Day event to keep the beach clean.    

You might not recognize it now, but industry was part of the Beach from way back. They’ve had a mine, a brick kiln, sawmills, farms, shipbuilding and shipbreaking operations over the years. Back in 1909 the great Seattle fireboat “Duwamish”- the most powerful fireboat in the world for 94 years!- was built by Richmond Beach Shipbuilding, and though retired is still around and is a National Historic Landmark.

Richmond Beach still has much of the character of a small town because there is only one main route in or out: NW Richmond Beach Road. While that helps with its distinctiveness it’s not so great in icy or snowy weather. It’s also an issue in the current drive to add Point Wells to the city and build a few thousand condos, a marina, and businesses. All those people would have to use the road, too.

I’m all in favor of the idea of recycling a petroleum tank farm into a new neighborhood, but have questions about how it is to be done. I sympathize with the neighborhood’s resistance to the impacts, but Shoreline is a City, and is ethically bound, in my opinion, to densify well. We must add no more residents out in unincorporated areas -sprawl is the enemy!- and that means the incorporated cities must all step up and accept without complaint at least their fair share of incoming citizens.   

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