Yesler Swamp Trek Stop

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $65,000

Letter of Intent:

Our team is proposing a $65,000 construction project on the western shoreline of the Yesler Swamp lagoon to offer UW students and other visitors a unique wildlife observation platform.  The viewing platform will be called the “Yesler Swamp Trek Stop” (YSTS) and will offer a permanent birdwatching post to rest, reflect, and interact with the different species that reside in riparian ecosystems around Lake Washington.  This project fits very well into our project team’s academic goals because we are students committed to environmental sustainability and restoration.  Our team has been hosting volunteer restoration events and documenting them on this website ( since October of 2013.

The main outcomes and goals of this project are:

  • Build a bird blind structure with an extremely low environmental footprint that adheres to green building specifications.
  • Provide a unique and identifying landmark for the Yesler Swamp.
  • Provide an avenue for the public to engage with the swamp and its biodiversity through interpretive signs and educational/sustainable design elements.
  • Provide an exceptional view of the swamp lagoon, Lake Washington, and Mt. Rainier.
  • Provide an outdoor classroom for groups visiting the UW Center for Urban Horticulture.
  • Build a stronger connection between the Yesler Swamp and the well established Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA).
  • Raise awareness about the Yesler Swamp and the opportunities it presents for students and the greater Seattle community to engage with nature--not only passively, but actively.

The success of our project will be measured by:

Number of volunteers (both students and others), number of visitors to the YSTS, Sustainability Score Rating, and Green Building Specifications.

These measurements will be tracked through sign-in sheets at work events and a permanent sign-in sheet at the viewing platform for guests to write on.  The sustainability score will be assessed during the projects design/build phase and during the construction phase. 

Background Story:

The Yesler Swamp is slowly transforming from a neglected and degraded wasteland into a restored green space and prospering ecosystem in the heart of Seattle. Once home to Henry Yesler’s timber mill and later a garbage dump; the Yesler Swamp is now an environmental treasure in Seattle.  It provides a sanctuary where people can trade in the cacophony of urban life for the tittering of hundreds of birds; an urban oasis where people both young and old can be fascinated by the natural world.

The Yesler Swamp Trek Stop will border the western edge of the swamp and the eastern end of the UW Center for Urban Horticulture, south east of the botany greenhouses.  There will also be a wooden boardwalk twenty yards away, providing a permanent loop trail through the swamp.  The nonprofit organization, The Friends of Yesler Swamp, has raised enough funds to construct the first phase of the boardwalk adjacent to the proposed location for the trek stop.  Upon completion, this boardwalk will be donated to the UW.  Our team’s collaboration with the Friends of Yesler Swamp and their boardwalk endeavor will help establish the Yesler Swamp as an attractive destination for UW students and the surrounding neighborhoods.  UW students have been restoring the swamp every year since 2000, which demonstrates that the site holds a place in students’ hearts. Our project team also has strong history of educational tours and events at the Yesler Swamp that we consistently document on our website: 

Our proposed project meets the requirements and preferences of the CSF in the following ways:

Environmental Impact

Upon completion, the YSTS will mix environmental and long term sustainable design elements. In doing so, the YSTS will be easily maintained and blend in with the surrounding environment.  We plan to build the YSTS out of reclaimed materials from a local vendor to lessen the University’s environmental impact. Possible businesses include Second Use Building Materials and Salvage, and the RE Store. These establishments salvage reusable materials from buildings that are going to be demolished and offer discounts to community projects.  Beyond the physical building of the observation station, this project creates a more sustainable campus because it gives people a way to invest in and enhance their appreciation for the natural world.  We hope to expand the possibilities for students to encounter wildlife at the UW campus, while simultaneously demonstrating the importance of the Yesler Swamp and its preservation.

Student Leadership and Involvement

Our project will incorporate student leadership and involvement during the design and construction phases through collaboration with the faculty and students in the College of Built Environments. One specific class we are considering working with is a design-build class taught by Steve Badanes to mix environmental and long term sustainable design elements. Ideally, our team would like to work with architecture and/or landscape architecture students to come up with a sustainable, ecological, and innovative shoreline viewing station.  We intend to involve talented students who care about environmental stewardship and advancing campus infrastructure.  As the project progresses from the design phase and into the construction implementation phase, we will incorporate a larger array of students who have the necessary skills and expertise. This project will cultivate an aware and engaged campus community because students involved in the process will feel a sense of ownership and pride in the swamp.  In addition, it will create future opportunities for students to engage with the natural landscape surrounding the UW.  

Education, Outreach, and Behavior

Education, Outreach, and Behavior for building the YSTS is to foster an environmentally conscious culture. In the beginning, our main goal will be to enlighten the student body about the various ecosystems that inhabit the land. This will take the form of posting fliers all around Seattle and holding informational sessions about volunteer opportunities on campus, at local high schools, and community colleges.  We also want to engage our classmates by participating in UW events such as Dawg Dayz, Martin Luther King Day, and Earth Day.  

Our project team will seek input from everybody who is passionate about sustainable design and wants to be involved in the development of the YSTS.  The other component of cultivating awareness involves our local community. By canvassing local neighborhoods and publishing an article in the local paper, we want to bring awareness to the weekly work parties that the Community, Environment, and Planning Program and the Friends of Yesler Swamp are currently hosting, and encourage Seattle residents to be actively engaged in the Yesler Swamp restoration process.  This financial investment will foster environmental stewardship for future generations.

Feasibility, Accountability, and Sustainability

The YSTS will be durable by design and require minimal maintenance to ensure its long term sustainability.  Additional facilities and grounds maintenance will be conducted by the Friends of Yesler Swamp and the work crews responsible for the boardwalk trail system through a matching funds program.  Fred Hoyt of the UW Center for Urban Horticulture fully supports the YSTS and has requested that we include and update him throughout this entire grant proposal process.  Both Fred Hoyt and the Friends of Yesler Swamp will be assisting our grant writing team with technical and experiential knowledge.  We’ve listed our anticipated stakeholder groups and partners below:

Expected Project Stakeholder(s) Include:

  • Fred Hoyt: Associate Director of UW Botanic Gardens.
  • Environmental Science and Resource Management Department at UW: Professors who might be interested in using the observation station for their research and/or class visits.
  • College of Built Environments at UW: Faculty and students who are willing to help design and construct the observation station.  Our current plan is to contact Steve Badanes about facilitating a design/build workshop for the YSTS.
  • Friends of Yesler Swamp Non-profit: Team members Tyler and Carolyn have a well established relationship with this organization as active board members.  Their mentorship is crucial to us because of their professional experience and their success with the boardwalk project.
  • Anna Stock, Property Rights Manager in the UW Real Estate office: To integrate the Yesler Swamp boardwalk project and the YSTS into one cohesive real estate asset to the University.
  • Kristine Kenney, University Landscape Architect: To collaborate on how the YSTS can contribute to the landscaping goals of the University.
  • Amy Van Dyke, Director, Physical Planning & Space Management at the Bothell Campus (Sarah Simonds Green Conservatory): To discuss the similarities between the UW Bothell wetland conservatory and the Yesler Swamp. 
  • Department of Planning and Development: To approve the wetland and building permits necessary to start construction at the swamp.
  • Martha Moritz: Primary contact for the Kincaid Ravine Restoration Project, an approved CSF project that has similar goals to our proposed project.

Expected Project Budget:

Anticipated Budget: Total Cost = $65,000

  1. Materials, labor, and maintenance expenses = $50,000
    1. (Site preparation and restoration): (Erosion and sediment control): (Drainage infrastructure): (Structural foundation support): (Wood materials): (Hardware): (Long term facilities and grounds upkeep)
  2. Permit and Licensing Fees = $15,000
    1. Following the Environmentally Critical Areas Code (Seattle Dept. of Planning & Development): Defined in SMC 25.09.020: ~$7500 (*Friends of Yesler Swamp*)
    2. Shoreline survey fees: $250/hour~$4000 (*DPD website*)
      1. Water table and lake survey (*Geotechnical Report)
      2. Erosion control/soil grading plan
    3. Engineering, legal, and administration fees: ~$1000
    4. Insurance contracts: ~$1200/year?
  3. Design/Build Course Fees = 0$
    1. Studio where students design and build projects for local nonprofits. It is funded by the Department of Neighborhoods, local businesses, and the Howard S. Wright Endowment Fund.
Primary Contact First & Last Name: Tyler Licata