West Central Park at the crossroads of Olympia’s Westside brims with flowers, fruits, unique gardens, a chess table, bocce courts. In summer it offers a farmers’ market, art and music fairs, movies, outdoor dances and other events. How did this extraordinary oasis come about? Not from the city, nor any of the typical developers. Instead, it was made possible through the organized work of neighborhood residents capped by the generosity of Alicia Elliott. Alicia bought the lot and turned it over to the community. It’s being created entirely through the work of volunteers – and it shows. Stroll through the park and take note of the innovative pervious surface the Park Board chose for all driveways and parking areas. Rain gardens that suck up water that used to cover the sidewalks. Fanciful path lighting. Ripe tomatoes, zucchini and gourds. Pear and apple trees. To volunteer for the Board or to help on Sunday work parties, go to www.aparkforus.org.
The back story
In 2011, the City approved a plan for a convenience store on the site—the third in a 2-block stretch. Residents organized and mounted a fight to demonstrate how the City ignored its own rules when it approved the store. It cost $8000, testimony and argument before the City’s Hearing Examiner and an appeal to Superior Court. Judge Lisa Sutton found for the community — the City had failed to abide by its own Municipal Code. Alicia Elliott’s action then sealed the deal: the community became the developer and the park is ours to build and enjoy.