West Seattle residents in the Murray neighborhood are on a mission to find a permanent place for what started out as temporary art: plywood panels painted by the community with help from the Nature Consortium and Urban Artworks to express their hope for a cleaner Puget Sound. After the panels served as site screens for three years, they could have become construction debris – garbage— if the neighborhood had not stepped in.
The idea for the Murray CSO Control Project “Painting Party” was hatched in 2012 to meet two goals: express the connection a neighborhood felt to a project designed to protect waters off their beach park, and reduce nuisance graffiti during construction.
Connecting people to sewer systems that are mostly out of sight, out of mind is a priority for King County Wastewater Treatment Division’s (WTD) project teams. Our project teams know that upcoming capital improvement projects open a window for neighbors to connect the project to universal values: protecting public health and water quality.
In West Seattle, the Murray project team began working with the community in 2009 when we were considering project alternatives achieve combined sewer overflow (CSO) control . The County’s Murray Pump Station at Lowman Beach Park needed to meet state standards for limiting discharges of untreated stormwater and wastewater to one event per year on average. The team estimated that one million gallons of storage in an underground tank would be needed to meet state standards.
King County’s work with the community increased beginning in fall 2011, with kick off of the design phase. Neighbors and park users worked with local designers, environmentalists and community advocates to help the King County project team design a facility with common themes that reflect the community’s values for a safe, reliable facility that would protect the beach and Puget Sound. The resulting design met the community’s goals to create a more natural feel, encourage views of Puget Sound, and create the appearance of continuous space between Lowman Beach Park and the facility site.
After design was complete, it was time to do the hard work of building the facility, a multi-year undertaking.
Before construction, the project team hosted a beach party in August 2012. People were invited to Lowman Beach Park to paint the plywood boards that would screen construction fencing. The Nature Consortium, with Urban Artworks, developed initial sketches for many of the art board designs and provided guidance for the community during the paint party. The theme connected people to the outcome of the CSO control project: helping to protect Puget Sound.
Besides connecting people to the project, construction fencing with community artwork serves an important purpose as a graffiti deterrent. When construction fencing is plain, or painted a single color, it becomes a tagging target. Besides being a nuisance, graffiti triggers a City of Seattle ordinance requiring removal. For busy construction crews, precious time can be lost cleaning up graffiti.
The Murray art boards served their purpose during a major project that resident Tod Rodman says people will not soon forget. “The boards were part of the community’s memory of that project,” he said.
In 2016, Rodman and several other community members inquired about saving the boards and finding a new home for them instead of throwing them away. King County community relations and off-site operations staff worked together to find a temporary storage location for the boards after major construction was complete. Now the plywood art boards that decorated the construction fence for nearly three years are available to the community for reuse.
Rodman says the boards need a little cleaning, coating, and sealing after years of service in the glaring sun and blustery winter weather. He is hoping the community adopts them for public display, or that they become an exhibit at one of our area museums.
“They are like folk art,” says Rodman. “These art boards illustrate our community’s connection to the Puget Sound, and our hope for its future.”
If you or your community group are interested in giving one or more art boards a new life, please contact Kelly Foley at email@example.com or 206-477-8621 by no later than Friday, April 14.
See details of some art boards, below.