Chapter 4 Today’s Parks, Arts, and Recreation Experience

OPARD currently provides a wealth of parks, arts, and recreation experiences: One can hike the Watershed Trail, keep cool in the Heritage Park Fountain, or take in views of the Olympics at Percival Landing. Olympians can enjoy skateboarding at Yauger Park, show off the masterpiece they just created in ceramics class, or learn a new language. From listening to your child’s memories of summer camp to meeting your friends at Arts Walk – this is today’s Parks, Arts & Recreation Experience!

Planning for the future starts with a good understanding of where we are today. This chapter provides a snapshot of the current programs and facilities that comprise the Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation Department and sets the stage for subsequent chapters that outline future facilities and programs. Like our department itself, this chapter is divided into sections on parks, arts and recreation.

Neighborhood Parks, Community Parks and Open Space

Reflecting the community’s need for solitude, social gathering, space for play, and connections to nature, Olympia’s system of parks offers a variety of scenic northwest landscapes as well as active and passive recreation facilities. From forest trails to fountains, waterfront access to skate courts, Olympia’s park system is full of fun, beauty, and diversity. In the random survey conducted for this plan, 95% of residents had visited a park in the past 12 months.

The City of Olympia owns 1,015 acres of park land. This plan utilizes three park land classifications: Neighborhood Parks, Community Parks, and Open Space. Many of Olympia’s parks serve the functions of multiple classifications. Yauger Park, for instance, serves as a Neighborhood Park for nearby residents, as a Community Park for the larger community, and as open space for wildlife.

“Neighborhood Park” Classification Definition

Neighborhood Parks are a combination playground and open area designed primarily for non-supervised, non-organized recreation activities. They are generally small in size. Typically, facilities found in a Neighborhood Park include a children’s playground, picnic areas, a restroom, and open grass areas for passive and active use. Amenities may also include trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, skate courts, public art, and community gardens.

“Community Park” Classification Definition

Community Parks are parks that are specifically designed to serve a large portion of the community. There are two types of Community Parks: athletic field complexes and sites with unique uses. Athletic field complexes can range in size from 15-80 acres with the optimum size being 30-40 acres. They are designed for organized activities and sports, although individual and family activities are also encouraged. Athletic field complexes serve a large portion of the community, and as a result, they require more in terms of support facilities such as parking, restrooms, picnic shelters, etc. Olympia’s three existing athletic field complexes are LBA Park, Yauger Park and Stevens Field. Special-use oriented Community Parks may have a waterfront focus, a garden focus, a water feature, etc. Some examples include Heritage Park Fountain, Yashiro Japanese Garden and Percival Landing.

“Open Space” Classification Definition

Open Space is defined as primarily undeveloped land that is set aside to protect the special natural character of Olympia’s landscape. They provide an opportunity for the community to experience and connect with the flora, fauna, and natural habitats in Olympia. They also provide important natural infrastructure that helps care for our water and air. Open Space may include, but is not limited to, wetlands; wetland buffers; creek, stream or river corridors and aquatic habitat; marine shorelines; forested or upland wildlife areas; ravines, bluffs, or other geologically hazardous areas; prairies/meadows; and undeveloped areas within existing parks. The level and intensity of allowed public use is evaluated based on potential resource impacts. Trail development to allow public access is typical except in cases where wildlife conservation is the primary function. Less sensitive sites can be appropriate for more active recreational activities such as running, mountain biking or disc golf. Parking and trailhead facilities such as restrooms, information kiosks and environmental education facilities are also appropriate.

Figure 4.1 identifies Olympia’s existing Neighborhood Park, Community Park, and Open Space inventory. Note that some parcels serve multiple uses and are classified accordingly.

Figure 4.1
City of Olympia Existing Park and Open space Sites

Park Name

Park Classification

Date Acquired or Leased

Total Acres


8th Ave





Artesian Commons










Bigelow Springs

Open Space




Burri Park (IUMP)





Chambers Lake

Open Space/Neighborhood/Community




Cooper Crest

Open Space




Decatur Woods





East Bay Waterfront





Edison St. Parcel

Open Space/Neighborhood




Evergreen Park Drive (IUMP)





Friendly Grove

Open Space/Neighborhood




Garfield Nature Trail

Open Space




Grass Lake Nature Park

Open Space/Neighborhood




Harrison Avenue Parcel

Open Space/Community




Harry Fain’s Legion





Heritage Park Fountain





Isthmus Parcels





Kettle View















Log Cabin Road Park





Madison Scenic





Margaret McKenny





McGrath Woods (IUMP)





McRostie Parcel

Open Space




Mission Creek

Open Space/Neighborhood




Olympia Center





Olympia Woodland Trail

Open Space




Olympic Park





Percival Landing





Priest Point

Open Space/Neighborhood/Community




South Capital Lots

Open Space




Springwood Dr Parcel (Zabels)

Open Space




Stevens Field











Open Space




Ward Lake






Open Space




West Bay

Open Space/Neighborhood/Community




Wildwood Glen Parcel

Open Space









Yashiro Japanese Garden










Yelm Highway Parcel








Within the boundary of Olympia and its Urban Growth Area are several parks and areas with recreational value that are managed by jurisdictions other than the City of Olympia. Since these areas provide recreational use to area residents, they are inventoried for planning purposes in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2
Other Jurisdictions’ Parks within Olympia and Olympia’s Urban Growth Area




Capitol Campus



Centennial Park



Chambers Lake Access



Chehalis Western Trail


Thurston County owned

East Bay Plaza



Heritage Park



I-5 Trail Corridor



Marathon Park



Port of Olympia Trail



Port Plaza



Sylvester Park



Ward Lake Fishing Access






Park Maintenance

Staff takes great pride in maintaining Olympia’s park system. Parks Maintenance is responsible for keeping parks safe, clean, and beautiful. Under a joint use agreement with the Olympia School District (OSD), Park Maintenance staff also maintains 36 fields at 17 schools. Support is also provided on an as-needed basis to other City departments on projects in areas such as tree trimming and removal, irrigation, electrical, and landscaping. Figure 4.3 illustrates what proportion of the maintenance effort is spent on each park maintenance category.

View Park Maintenance Hours by Activity Oct 2014 - Sept 2015

Asset Management Program

In 2014, OPARD began utilizing VueWorks asset management software to track park infrastructure more efficiently. The goal of the program is to consolidate and improve infrastructure maintenance by implementing a system for tracking condition, maintenance scheduling, and maintenance cost budgeting.

OPARD Maintenance Staff Iralena Emerson-Beckman landscaping Percival Landing

Capital Asset Management Program (CAMP)

Homeowners recognize that annual maintenance is necessary to protect the investment they have made in their homes. Similarly, capital improvements in park facilities need to be maintained. Aging facilities require replacement of roofs, antiquated equipment, and utilities. Driveways, parking areas, sport courts, and trails require resurfacing to maintain safety and accessibility. CAMP is designed to monitor the condition of park capital assets, identify and prioritize needed major repairs or replacements, and cost and schedule these projects. If this maintenance in not performed, park facilities might have to be closed or removed to safeguard the public.

Priest Point Park Kitchen Shelter #4

Having a sustainable, predictable maintenance fund for parks is as important as building new facilities. It is critical that future maintenance requirements are identified and funded concurrently with new construction. In this way, the community is assured uninterrupted access to its public recreation facilities and the City can avoid unanticipated large maintenance costs. OPARD staff updates and reprioritizes the list of CAMP projects annually based on current conditions. Currently the backlog of CAMP projects is approximately $4 million (not including Percival Landing).

Natural Resource Management

The Parks, Arts & Recreation Department is responsible for managing 1015 acres of park land, which includes 16 miles of trails, 810 acres of open space, and over four miles of waterfront. These properties are rich with wildlife and thousands of trees that absorb carbon dioxide, enhancing Olympia’s air quality. These sites protect some of the city’s most important streams, wetlands, riparian areas, marine shorelines, mature forests, and ecological functions. We are charged with the dual tasks of preserving the delicate balance between active and passive recreation uses while being sensitive to the needs of the living infrastructure. The Park Stewardship program provides volunteer opportunities for environmental restoration projects such as tree planting and invasive plant removal. OPARD has been working closely with the recently-formed Environmental Services division of the Public Works Department in the natural resource management of several park properties. The Department intends to pursue grants to implement future restoration and habitat work on park properties in partnership with other city departments and local organizations. Green construction, environmental restoration, and efficient utility systems are all standard park development practices.

Integrated Pest Management & Pesticide Free Parks

The City Council adopted an Integrated Pest Management Plan for park facilities in 2006. Since its implementation, the Department has reduced reliance on chemicals once thought to be critical to maintaining parks. At present, the Department uses limited amounts of glyphosate (Round-Up) and synthetic fertilizers on some parks while six neighborhood parks are now designated “Pesticide Free” with no herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers used at all. The Department will explore the feasibility of making more parks “Pesticide Free.” The City also works closely with the Thurston County Noxious Weed Program to eradicate noxious weeds, some of which must be removed under county mandate.

Volunteers strike up conversation while brushing trails at Watershed Park

Street Trees

The City of Olympia has a long tradition of urban forestry. Olympia has been a "Tree City USA" for 21 years, as well as receiving five National Arbor Day Foundation Growth Awards for outstanding urban forestry initiatives between 1995 and 2006. Olympia’s Urban Forestry Program also received the Association of Washington Cities’ Certificate of Excellence in 2007 for its "Healthy Urban Forests for Everyone!" outreach program. OPARD maintains Olympia’s approximately 2,000 street trees. This involves pruning, watering, and mulching. The City is proposing to prepare a new street tree inventory and include tree maintenance in OPARD’s Asset Management Program. (See Map-4-1 Parks, School Fields and Street Trees Maintained by Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation.)

School Field Maintenance Agreement

Under a joint use agreement with the Olympia School District, the City operates a turf maintenance program consisting of mowing, irrigation, overseeding, and top dressing at 36 school fields. (See p. 52 for a detailed description of this agreement).

Park Stewardship Program

The Park Stewardship program combines Volunteers in Parks, Park Ranger, and environmental education components. The program is designed to connect individuals with nature through volunteering, safe and secure parks, and environmental education to increase community ownership and stewardship of local parks.

Volunteers in Parks

Approximately 6,500 volunteer hours are contributed annually to improve Olympia’s parks. The Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program includes staff-led volunteer work parties, Park Steward, and the Adopt-a-Park programs. At staff-led work parties, volunteers maintain, restore and beautify their parks several days per week. Park Stewards work independently within a park of their choosing. And finally, the Adopt-a-Park program encourages local neighborhood organizations, schools, service clubs, businesses, and other community groups to “adopt” a particular park.

View Parks, School Fields, and Street Trees Maintained by Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation.

Park Ranger

The Park Ranger Program provides visitor and resource protection in Olympia’s parks. A uniformed presence in City parks encourages positive use, while discouraging vandalism, theft, illegal camping, and other negative behaviors. The Ranger patrols all OPARD properties on foot or via patrol vehicle. Regular patrols are conducted twice a week focusing on properties reported to the Ranger as showing evidence of a potential issue or known to host negative behavior in the past. Enforcement of park regulations is achieved through education and a strong relationship with the Olympia Police Department.

Park Ranger, Sylvana, with a park user and dog

Environmental Education

The Environmental Education Program reaches out to local classrooms and hosts school and community groups in parks offering stewardship and learning opportunities. Curriculum focuses on natural and cultural resources, specifically the interaction between plants, animals, and water. In addition to education through the school system, Park Stewardship also offers opportunities to combine education with recreation during the summer season through activities such as Junior Ranger Adventures, Backyard Campout, and Kids Canopy Climb.

Staff and volunteers preparing for Kids Canopy climb event


Interpretation enriches the park experience by giving park users a greater understanding of the natural and cultural resources in our parks. The Park Ranger has been trained as a certified interpretive guide and provides interpretation through the environmental education program offerings, volunteer events, and signage.

Olympia’s Downtown Parks

Heritage Fountain Park with Capital in the background

OPARD manages four parks in the heart of downtown Olympia: Heritage Park Fountain, Percival Landing, Artesian Commons, and the undeveloped Isthmus Properties. (West Bay Park and trail, while not downtown, has the potential to provide a key connection to Downtown and will be considered in this section as well. Heritage Park and Sylvester Park, while important downtown parks, are owned by the State and are therefore not included in this section of the plan.)

Olympia’s downtown parks have unique challenges and opportunities that differ significantly from parks in other areas of the community. With 5000 new residents expected downtown during the next 20 years, these parks will be essential in meeting the recreation needs of downtown residents. These parks are also utilized by downtown employees during the day. They can be significant tourist draws. Olympia’s downtown parks have the potential to provide a key component of Olympia’s downtown renewal effort.

At the time of this plan’s writing, the City was in the midst of creating a Downtown Strategy. This project will identify actions our community will take over a 5-6 year period that will have the greatest strategic impact toward implementing our downtown vision. Once the Downtown Strategy is complete, OPARD will develop a plan for downtown parks that will align with the strategy. The following section gives a description of our existing downtown parks along with their challenges and opportunities.


In the foreground of our majestic State Capitol building, the Heritage Park Fountain is a favorite place to keep cool on a warm summer day. This parcel was purchased in 1996 with a grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. The centerpiece to the park is the interactive fountain which entices children of all ages to run through the circular array of water jets. The fountain was made possible by a family donation. In the spring, the park offers a place to pause among the flowering cherry trees.


•    The mechanical system for the Fountain is now nearly 20 years old. While well-maintained, its aging systems are subject to frequent mechanical breakdowns.

•    The fountain has a relatively small water reservoir and treatment system. This necessitates two daily shut-downs during warm months to ensure the fountain water meets health standards.

Significance for the Plan

OPARD supports redevelopment and the continual removal of blight on the Isthmus. The city purchased the GHB building in 1995 and the Little Da Nang restaurant in 2007 for the purpose of expanding the Fountain park and preserving views. The City now owns two of the three parcels adjacent to the Fountain. This area is being considered as part of the City’s Community Renewal Area process. The Downtown Strategy and Community Renewal Area process will inform OPARD’s future decisions on how these parcels integrate with the existing fountain area. OPARD will likely have a significant role in this area based on previous investments.

The plan proposes two “sprayground” water play features in other parks which can reduce the stress placed on the fountain.


The “Isthmus” is the 4-acre area on the peninsula between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet. In 2013 OPARD purchased two properties with vacant buildings on the Isthmus totaling 2.3 acres: the former County Health Department at 529 4th Ave W. and the former Thurston County Housing Authority building at 505 4th Ave W. The City has demolished both buildings. The remaining vacant structures on the isthmus are the 9-story Capitol Center Building and its one-story Annex. The random sample survey for this plan showed strong public support for demolishing the Capitol Center Building.


•    The Isthmus area contains environmental contamination that could make development of this area costly.

Significance for the Plan

The Community Renewal Area process, Downtown Strategy and future City-led focus area planning will inform OPARD’s level of involvement in the Isthmus area. OPARD supports redevelopment and the continual removal of blight and will likely have a significant role in the Isthmus area based on previous investments and strong community support for expanded parks in this area.


Built in three phases beginning in 1978, this timbered boardwalk is reminiscent of early Olympia life where the bustling Percival Dock was host to the transport of goods and people. 30+ years later, the wooden creosote pilings and other wood framing and planks are succumbing to decay and marine organisms. After substantial public input, a new design for Phase 1 was completed. The Phase I project was completed in 2011 and included the replacement of about 700 feet of boardwalk, the construction of the Harbor House restroom/multi-use space, and extensive shoreline restoration. The project won several awards and the design has set the foundation for future phases.

Harbor House on Percival Landing


•    According to the 2014 Condition Analysis Percival Landing and Floats conducted by a marine engineering consulting firm, timber structures in the marine environment typically have a useful service life of around 20 to 30 years. The remaining timber portions of the oldest section of Percival Landing (Section A) are 36 years old, placing them at or beyond the normal service life.

•    Maintaining the existing structure required $350,000 in immediate repairs in 2015 and is estimated to cost $700,000 over the next 5 years. These maintenance costs are expected grow exponentially until the existing structure is replaced or taken out of service.

•    Replacing the remaining sections of boardwalk far exceeds existing funding sources and will need to be reevaluated moving forward.

Significance for the Plan

The 700 foot section of the Landing refurbished in 2011 gives a hint of the opportunity presented by the remainder of the boardwalk. While already a very popular destination for locals and tourists, replacing the rest of the boardwalk would create an opportunity for Percival Landing to be an integral part of a first class waterfront.

Already home to several large community festivals including Harbor Days and the Wooden Boat Festival, replacing the remaining sections of the landing would likely make Percival Landing a draw for more community events, creating community and increasing Olympia’s tourism potential.

Restoring the remaining shoreline in conjunction with future phases of Percival Landing reconstruction will provide an opportunity to improve water quality and shoreline habitat in Budd Inlet and strengthen Olympian’s connection to the marine environment.

As the southern terminus of Puget Sound, a restored Percival Landing can play a key role in attracting the boating community and many other visitors to Olympia, strengthening the local economy.


Artesian Commons is an urban courtyard that incorporates a free-flowing artesian well, spaces for two mobile food vendors and a multi-purpose space that includes a small canopy for scheduled events. Located at 415 4th Ave SE, the .2 acre Artesian Commons had its grand opening as a City park on May 3, 2014. Many use the artesian well as their primary source of drinking water.

Artesian Commons Park Event


•    Artesian Commons has frequently been the site of criminal activity including violence, vandalism, and illegal drug use. These problems were present before the area became a park, and park development did not reduce these problems. When Olympia residents were asked in a recent random survey if there were any parks in which they did not feel safe, Artesian Commons was the most cited park.

•    With a very high number of park users in a small space, Artesian Commons may very well be the most intensively used park in Olympia in terms of use per square foot. This makes this space challenging for park maintenance staff to keep clean.

Significance for the Plan

•    Artesian Commons is an urban plaza on one of Olympia’s busiest downtown streets with a free-flowing artesian well, space for mobile food vendors, and a performance stage area. The vision for this park is that it becomes safe, clean, and welcoming to all. When this vision is reached, this park has the potential to become a great public amenity in Downtown Olympia that honors the historic value of our artesian wells.

•    In recognition that this is a unique urban park that operates differently than other parks, an Artesian Leadership Committee (ALC) was formed in April of 2015. The intent of this group is to provide opportunities for a broad group of community stakeholders to have a voice in the daily operation and management of the Artesian Commons Park. The ALC and the Artesian Action Teams have been working hard to bring new events, programs, park improvements, safety/security policies and public outreach efforts to our urban park.


The City of Olympia has acquired over 17 acres on the west side of West Bay for a shoreline park and trail. This spectacular site provides outstanding views to the State Capitol, Budd Inlet and Olympic peaks. A Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Water Access Grant and an Aquatic Lands Enhancement Grant helped to fund acquisition, development and shoreline enhancement. A partnership with local Rotary Clubs resulted in a developed overlook, hand held boat launch and other Phase 1 improvements.


•    Developing the remaining portion of West Bay Park, particularly a trail connection to Deschutes Parkway, will likely be expensive. While a preferred trail alignment has not been determined, a shoreline and/or over-water trail would likely cost several million dollars. Road frontage improvements are also expected to cost several million dollars.

•    As a former industrial site, portions of West Bay Park have environmental contamination that will have to be cleaned up prior to being open to the public. The City continues to conduct on-going monitoring of the soils and groundwater on this site and has been working closely with the Department of Ecology in this effort.

•    The recently adopted Shoreline Master Program (SMP) will guide future park development concepts.

Significance for the Plan

•    Once developed, West Bay Park and Trail has the potential to be a vital link for pedestrians and bicyclists between West Olympia and Downtown. A resident who lives in West Olympia could walk through the forested ravine of the Garfield Nature Trail, cross West Bay Drive into West Bay Park, and then walk along a shoreline trail, crossing under the bridge into Downtown. The importance of this connection was cited by several participants during neighborhood meetings for this plan.

•    With over 4,000 feet of marine shoreline, West Bay Park has the potential to become a major destination. When the park and shoreline are cleaned up, restored and made accessible, it be a great opportunity for people to experience and learn about the marine environment right in their own community.

•    The City, Port of Olympia and Squaxin Island Tribe are currently working with a consultant to conduct an environmental restoration assessment of West Bay which includes West Bay Park and Trail in the study area. The goal of the study is to understand the ecology and habitat restoration opportunities along the shoreline. The study will influence the design of future phases of West Bay Park and Trail.

There are over 110 acres of undeveloped, forested habitat property on the hillside above West Bay Drive. The City has been working closely with stakeholders to identify priority parcels for conservation in this area. In addition to habitat preservation and restoration, some of the parcels in this area could provide important public access links to the waterfront. Conservation may take the form of acquisition, conservation easements or land donations.

West Bay Park

Habitat in Olympia’s Park and Open Space System

Olympia’s Parks and Open Spaces contain a wide variety of habitat including wetlands, streams, critical area buffers, marine and lake shorelines, and mature forests. West Bay Park, Percival Landing and Priest Point Park provide critical habitat on Budd Inlet for fish and other marine wildlife. Grass Lake Nature Park contains the headwaters of Green Cove Creek and one of the most environmentally intact wetland and stream systems in northern Thurston County. The lower reaches of the creek support Coho and chum salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. Chambers Lake Park includes freshwater wetland and shoreline habitat while Watershed Park contains the springs and wetlands forming the headwaters of Moxlie Creek surrounded by mature forests. The remaining parks and open spaces include some large upland areas with native vegetation and mature forests and many smaller forested habitats scattered across the city. Each of these natural areas provides habitat for a variety of species. These natural areas also play an important role serving as natural infrastructure that helps care for our water and air. Table 4.4 lists an inventory of wildlife observed in Olympia’s parks by location.

Table 4.4
Partial Inventory of Observed Wildlife

Grass Lake Nature Park2


Common loon

Greater yellowlegs

American crow

White-crowned sparrow

Pied-billed grebe

California quail

Steller’s jay

Red-winged blackbird

Double-crested cormorant

Ring-necked pheasant

Black-capped chickadee

Brown-headed cowbird

Wood duck

Ruffed grouse

Chestnut-backed chickadee

Audubon’s warbler

Northern pintail

Cooper’s hawk


Myrtle warbler

American widgeon

Sharp-shinned hawk

Red-breasted nuthatch

Black-throated gray warbler

Northern shoveler

Northern harrier

Brown creeper

Yellow warbler

Green-winged teal

Red-tailed hawk

Bewick’s wren

Townsend’s warbler

Cinnamon teal

Bald eagle

Winter wren

Common yellowthroat

Blue-winged teal


Swainson’s thrush

McGillivray’s Warbler


Great-horned owl

Varied thrush

Orange-crowned warbler


Northern saw-whet owl

Townsend’s solitaire

Wilson’s warbler

Ring-necked duck

Turkey vulture

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Western tanager


Belted kingfisher

Golden-crowned kinglet

Pine siskin

Barrow’s goldeneye

Band-tailed pigeon

American robin

American goldfinch

Canada goose

Rufous hummingbird

European starling

House finch

Hooded merganser

Northern flicker

Cedar waxwing

Purple finch

Ruddy duck

Pileated woodpecker

Warbling vireo

Evening grosbeak

Great blue heron

Downy woodpecker

Hutton’s vireo

House sparrow

Green-backed heron

Hairy woodpecker

Solitary vireo

Song sparrow

Great egret

Red-breasted sapsucker

Black-headed grosbeak

Barn swallow

American bittern

Western wood-pewee

Dark-eyed junco

Tree swallow


Western flycatcher

Rufous-sided towhee


Common snipe

Violet-green swallow

Golden-crowned sparrow



Mountain beaver

Northern flying squirrel


Red fox


Striped skunk

Mule deer


Red-back vole

Oregon vole

Trowbridge shrew


Deer mouse

Forest deer mouse

Douglas squirrel


Priest Point Park3


Bald eagle

Screech owl

Greater yellowlegs

Great blue heron


Northern flicker

Western sandpiper

Green-backed heron


Downy woodpecker

Least sandpiper

Pileated woodpecker

Barrow’s Goldeneye

Black-capped chickadee


Pigeon guillemot


Chestnut-backed chickadee


Band-tailed pigeon

Ruddy duck

Red-breasted nuthatch



Bonaparte gull


Glaucous-winged gull



Brown creeper






Little brown bat

Northern flying squirrel


Coast mole

Shrew mole

Douglas squirrel

River otter





Pile perch


Coho Salmon

Surf Smelt

Dog fish


Chum Salmon


Starry flounder


Cutthroat Trout



Rough skinned newts

Red-legged frogs




Acorn barnacles

Polycheate worms

Tube building worms


Bay mussels

Four species of clams



Shore crabs

Two species of shrimp



Watershed Park





Downy woodpecker

Winter wren

Spotted towhee

Red-breasted nuthatch

Northern flicker

Bewick’s wren

Golden-crowned kinglet

Dark-eyed junco

Steller’s jay

Brown creeper

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Great Horned owl

Chestnut-backed chickadee

Swainson’s thrush

Pine siskin

Barred owl

Black-capped chickadee

Varied thrush



View Potential Wildlife Habitat

Arts and Events

From its inception, the City of Olympia’s Arts Program has endeavored to support and promote our arts community, representing great artistic diversity with one voice. Olympia is now home to nearly 2,500 individual artists and almost 100 arts organizations and venues. Resident artists are active in music, literary, performance, and visual arts. They are both nationally known and emerging artists and include a world touring conductor, a MacArthur “Genius” grant-winning poet, an international opera star, and a best-selling novelist. Olympia hosts award-winning theater, ground-breaking independent rock (“indie”) music performances, the Procession of the Species, and a strong visual and performing arts community that ranges from emerging artists to those with nationwide representation.

Both the Olympia Arts Program and the Olympia Arts Commission, a nine-member advisory board appointed by the City Council, have been working on behalf of the arts in our community for over 25 years. Because there are no other municipal programs of this type in neighboring jurisdictions, many of the City’s programs benefit the arts regionally, while serving as a model for communities throughout Washington State.

Arts and Events staff and programming is funded by the City’s General Fund. In addition, to develop the city’s public art collection, the City has a policy of setting aside one dollar per person and 1% of City construction projects with budgets over $500,000 that are visible and useable by the public to purchase public art. With a small staff and limited operating expenses, the program works creatively to fund various public services. Community partnerships, volunteers, and in-kind support help to stretch dollars while allowing active participation on issues as diverse as social services, economics, infrastructure, revitalization, neighborhood and community identity, environment, and urban design amenities.

The City of Olympia’s Arts and Events Program has sought to expand the community’s understanding of the arts, sponsor community gatherings, and bring art into our everyday lives. From temporary artwork to multi-faceted art tours, community events to public art, the City strives to create a diverse collection of images and experiences to engage, inform, and enlighten.

Arts Walk

The City’s Arts Walk program, which is just passing the 25 year mark, has grown to become one of the largest public events in the community. It is an expression of civic spirit and a source of community pride. It has also become a tourist draw for Olympia, with an estimated 30,000 local and regional visitors each year. In 2013 and 2014, Olympia’s Arts Walk was voted “Best Art Event” by readers of the regional “Weekly Volcano.” This successful partnership of local artists and the Olympia downtown business community highlights the work of over 400 visual, performing, and literary artists at more than 100 venues. It includes youth and adult artists, and hands-on activities and demonstrations. Arts Walk is held on the fourth Friday and Saturday in April and the first Friday and Saturday in October. The spring event includes the Procession of the Species Celebration, produced by Earthbound Productions.

Arts Walk Performer

Public Art

OPARD’s Arts Program, with a collection of 100 individual artworks, encourages the best work from our community and introduces art from outside the area, both enhancing the City and enriching the dialogue and understanding of art. Community participation at all levels of the public art process work to ensure that the City’s collection reflects the people, unique character, and culture of our community. Works are acquired through a variety of methods including commissioned works, incorporating art into infrastructure through design teams, temporary works and direct purchases.

Future projects are identified by the Arts Commission through their annual Municipal Art Plan Municipal Art Plan, the annual budget and spending plan for the Municipal Art Fund, that provides direction and accountability for the use of public resources in support of the arts. Proposed projects are considered that meet the following goals:

•    Contribute to broad distribution of public art throughout Olympia. Commissioners will consider the relative representation of art among City neighborhoods, and seek to distribute public art broadly throughout the community.

•    Provide for diverse forms of art within the public collection. While every piece in the collection may not resonate with every citizen, a wide range of style, media, subjects and viewpoints will offer perspective and interest for everyone.

•    Bring new ideas, innovation, or thinking to the community.

•    Achieve a balanced city collection that includes a strong local base but also has regional and national reach.

•    Maintainable and safe.

•    Well-suited to chosen site or venue.

Kids voting on Percival Plinth Project

The City’s Public Art Collection is accessible year-round, creating opportunities for both community dialogue and quiet contemplation. Public art creates a distinctive identity for the City in our capital projects that trigger the 1% for Arts ordinance. Ongoing projects include the Percival Plinth Project, a loaned sculpture exhibition that includes a purchase prize of one piece based on public vote. Annually, the winning sculpture is moved to City Hall for a temporary display of one year before moving to permanent installation in the community. Most recently, the Traffic Box Mural Wrap Project piloted an expanded online vote that received significant public input and response to select 20 designs to be reproduced on signal boxes in downtown and West Olympia.

Education and Outreach

The assortment of public art along the waterfront has become the focus of a multi-faceted education program that expands public understanding and appreciation of the City’s public art collection:

•    Guided school and community tours are offered by appointment to introduce citizens to the public art collection.

•    QR barcodes are posted near each piece of temporary waterfront public art and at several historic interpretative sites. Visitors can scan the barcodes with their smartphones to find information about art and waterfront history.

•    Information on the public art collection is made available through the City’s website, and through the mobile storytelling platform, STQRY.

The Arts and Events program sends out weekly Arts Digest e-mails that serve as a virtual clearinghouse for information on community arts and regional opportunities for local artists.

Community Partnerships for Creative Solutions in Parks & Arts

The City’s Arts and Events Program has reached beyond providing basic arts programs and services to become an active community partner on many fronts. City staff is regularly called upon to work with art and non-art organizations in order to address various issues and join in the implementation of ideas, programs, and policies. Following are some examples of these partnerships in action:

•    Percival Landing Historic Interpretation, encompassing two pavilions, three telescope sites and a changeable display chronicling Olympia’s industrial, cultural, environmental and land use history.

•    Organizing legislative visits for Arts Day on the Capitol Campus, participating with arts communities statewide in encouraging ongoing support for the arts by state government.

•    Research, design and fabrication coordination of three historic interpretation panels for the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, in conjunction with the structure’s façade repair completed in 2014.

•    Participation on the HUB Junction project at the intersection of the Olympia and Lacey Woodland Trails and the Chehalis Western Trail.

•    Collaboration with the Visitor and Convention Bureau to tell the story of Olympia’s public art and interesting places through the STQRY mobile storytelling platform.

•    Contributed to the discussion of art and economy as a member of the City’s Comprehensive Plan Writing Team.

•    Interpretive display on the geology that formed the kettle basins around Kettle View Park, in partnership with citizens and the State Department of Natural Resources.

•    Assisting the Olympia Artspace Alliance in their efforts to build affordable housing for artists in a mixed use facility in downtown Olympia.


•    In addition to this Parks Plan, and the Municipal Art Plan, the current Comprehensive Plan identifies 10 specific goals for the arts throughout the document. Some of these directions are a shift in emphasis, others are new programs.

•    The public art collection is aging, calling for greater maintenance and conservation efforts

Significance for the Plan:

With a staff of 1.25FTE, these projects are on top of a currently extensive work plan and will be addressed incrementally, as time and staffing allow. More aggressive pursuit of these directives can only happen with increased program staffing.


OPARD’s recreation programs promote physical and mental well-being, bring citizens together in a positive, supportive, and fun atmosphere creating memorable experiences for individuals and families. The Department offers traditional programs such as sports leagues, youth camps and clinics, and special interest classes that have all remained popular over the years. OPARD also responds to emerging recreational needs, recently adding community gardening and urban park programming. Each year approximately 400 teams participate in OPARD’s sports leagues, over 4,000 citizens take a leisure recreation class, and over 1,500 youth participate in one of our camp programs. Several studies cite a strong correlation between participation in recreational programs and a reduction in both health care costs and crime4. Whether an adult is taking a Jazzercise class at The Olympia Center to stay fit or a teen is building self-esteem at a Leader-In-Training camp, it is easy to see how OPARD’s recreational offerings provide a nurturing environment for Olympia’s residents. Youth, adults, and seniors who feel nurtured gain a sense of belonging, make great contributions, and invest in their communities.

Youth Programs

The Youth Recreation Program provides a safe, positive environment for Olympia’s youth by offering a variety of quality recreational activities and self-esteem building experiences. These opportunities include summer and school break day camps for elementary aged youth, 6 to 11 years old, with a Leader-In-Training option for youth 12 to 14 years old, seasonal outdoor adventure camps and trips, and special events such as Middle School Activity Nights.

Recreational opportunities focus on the development of positive, meaningful, and supportive relationships between staff, youth, school administrators, teachers, custodial staff, parents, and youth service agencies. Physical and emotional safety for both participants and staff is emphasized.

OPARD’s youth camp programs and trips offer a diverse array of recreational opportunities that allow youth to explore, learn, and develop social, physical, and problem-solving skills. Components include outdoor adventure skills, environmental stewardship, sports and field games, fitness and dance, arts, crafts, cooking, leadership development and community service. Field trips and special guests are also regularly scheduled.

The Summer Kids in Parks Program (SKIPP) is a free, recreational drop-in program for kids aged 6 to 12, based at strategic locations in Olympia. SKIPP runs for eight weeks during the summer concurrently with the summer lunch program. This program, in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture and Olympia School District, offers neighborhood children an opportunity for a free, nutritious meal. After the meal, SKIPP engages children in recreational play. The summer lunch program then provides an afternoon snack before the children go home.

Teen Programs

Teen-based activities include fee-based recreation programming for 12 to 17 year olds through teen trips, camps and classes. The fun includes summer four-day/three-night trips to Camp Cascades in Yelm and outdoor-based overnight excursions. “Especially for Teens” summer day camps travel to different locations daily including Wild Waves, Experience Music Project, Pacific Science Center, Ape Caves, Ocean Shores, Westport, various professional sporting events and many more.

Athletic Programs

OPARD provides a safe, organized, and challenging environment by offering a variety of leagues, tournaments, and classes. These opportunities include adult soccer, volleyball and basketball, fitness classes, and youth clinics and camps. In addition, the Department manages scheduling of athletic field use by various City and Olympia School District (OSD) programs.

Adult leagues are mainly for participants between the ages of 18 and 50. Youth sports camps and clinics are appropriate for 6 to 11-year olds.

Athletic and fitness programs provide opportunities for fitness, competition, social interaction, and wellness. Youth participants have opportunities to associate with positive adult role models in supervised activities where they learn and practice skills, appropriate behavior, and build supportive relationships. Local leagues and fitness classes can provide economic benefits to the community in at least two ways. First, participants may support local businesses that provide equipment and supplies related to their chosen activity. Second, once the recreation has brought them together, participants often extend the social experience by grabbing a bite to eat together, further supporting local businesses. Above all, athletic and fitness programs promote an active community and can provide the inspiration for citizens to get up and get moving.

The Department’s athletic field allocation management provides a fair and manageable system for efficiently utilizing both City and OSD fields creating opportunities for diverse user groups to access the fields.

Leisure Recreation Classes

Lifelong learning and recreational activities are taught through a variety of classes. Most leisure and recreation classes are conducted at The Olympia Center. The offerings appeal to people of many interests, skill levels, and talents. Classes are available to youth, adults, and families and include art, dance, music, photography, languages, cooking, preschool, and other specialty classes. These opportunities introduce participants to new recreational activities as well as promoting balance, relaxation, and creative outlets for participants.

All segments of the population are served through recreation classes. Youth, teens, adults, families, and seniors have many opportunities to choose from. Promoting healthy lifestyles through positive and creative recreational opportunities benefits the entire community. Seniors engage in uplifting social interaction, vital to physical and emotional health, while practicing or learning new recreational skills. Youth and teens have opportunities to try new activities in a positive and supportive atmosphere while learning appropriate social skills. Adults enjoy continuing education opportunities, learning skills that empower them to become more self-sufficient, environmentally conscious, and physically and creatively active.

Outdoor Adventure Programs

Olympia and the surrounding area provide a tremendous number of outdoor recreation resources. OPARD provides opportunities to experience land and water activities including sailing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and beach exploring.

Recreation staff leading kayaking tour

Seniors and adults can enjoy weekend activities where they get outdoors, share positive social interaction, and engage in physical activities. These activities provide a chance to explore and participate in a variety of outdoor settings – city, county, state, and national parks, wildlife refuge areas, and rivers, bays, and lakes – all offering pristine natural environments for relaxing and invigorating experiences. Increased environmental and wildlife habitat awareness is one benefit of participating in these activities. Outdoor recreation enthusiasts who are educated and aware of their impact on wetlands, waterways, and trails contribute a great deal to protecting, preserving and enhancing outdoor resources.

Youth and teens explore a variety of outdoor skill development and educational opportunities through the Department’s Outdoor Adventure Program. Camp activities include theme camps, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, sailing, kayaking or beach exploration and play, or a variety of combined activities such as hiking, sea kayaking, and rock climbing. Older youth have fun opportunities in camps like Aqua Terra Camp and Camp Cascadia Camps. Some skills that are gained during these camps include instruction in outdoor trip logistics; map and compass, outdoor cooking, leave no trace ethics, and trip planning. Team building and leadership skill development enhances the camp activities. Mentoring and educating future outdoor stewards helps ensure that local resources will be available for generations to come.

Families can enjoy sea kayak tours and classes, as well as river raft trips. These trips and classes offer unique and exciting experiences that strengthen and bond families. In addition, they offer informal educational opportunities, social interaction, and exploration of the outstanding outdoor resources available to all.

Recreation for Seniors

OPARD partners with Senior Services for South Sound (SSSS) to provide recreation for Olympia’s senior population. OPARD rents space to SSSS for senior programming at the Olympia Center at a subsidized rate. While SSSS provides many outstanding programs for seniors, OPARD recognizes the opportunity to engage a growing population of active seniors in mainstream recreation programs. One way to do this may be cooperative programming that is cross-marketed by both agencies. Another option is to target marketing of general program offerings to seniors that are most likely to take advantage of those types of services. OPARD will continue to partner with SSSS to make sure that there are ample opportunities senior recreation as this segment of our population grows.

Aerobic Class Participants

Specialized Recreation

OPARD partners with Thurston County Parks and Recreation to provide programs to meet recreational needs of the special-needs citizens in the Olympia/Thurston County area. These programs are designed to give persons with developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in events and activities within the community and surrounding area. Most are suitable for people 16 and older and include trips, dances, bingo, movie and pizza nights. Olympia recognizes the value of these services being offered on a regional scale and will continue to support this multi-jurisdictional partnership when funding is available.

The Fun Fund

The Fun Fund is OPARD’s way of ensuring that fun, enriching recreation experiences are available to all residents regardless of income level. The program is funded by private donations and community fundraising. Funding levels and eligibility policies are subject to available funding and are designed to touch as many eligible individuals and families as possible.

The Olympia Center

The Olympia Center is a 56,000 square foot community center with two fully-equipped certified commercial kitchens, a large event room with stage and private entrance, nine meeting rooms, a gymnasium, ceramics room, free parking and amenities which include: sound systems, tables, chairs, coffee services and a variety of audio visual equipment. It is home to OPARD and Senior Services for South Sound and is a major hub of community activity.

Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation hosts the majority of their fitness and enrichment classes at this location. Senior Services for South Sound also schedules over 4,000 hours of activities each year. Between these two agencies, citizens from newborns to 90 year-olds are served through active and passive classes, social interaction, and community events. In addition, families and community groups access rental space for a variety of needs.

OPARD’s commitment to maintain the facility, provide sound management and marketing, and build on the foundation of customer service will ensure that The Olympia Center continues to be enjoyed by the community well into the future.

Programming in Parks

Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation continues to explore opportunities to increase programming within our own parks system. Since 2010, the City has implemented Community Gardening in two parks, facilitated community access at The Artesian Commons, and increased programming in other parks through partnerships with community groups. The Summer Kids in Parks Program (SKIPP) is a good example of programming in parks. SKIPP is a free, recreational drop-in program for kids aged 6 to 12 based out of Woodruff and Lions Parks (see p.48). Benefits of increased programming in parks include:

•    Customer Convenience – This model takes the program to the customer saving time, reducing traffic congestion and eliminating parking concerns in some cases.

•    Crime Prevention – Programming desired behavior in parks can replace unwanted behavior.

•    Reduced Environmental Impact – Taking the program to neighborhoods reduces fuel usage.

•    Personal and Family Wellness – As we encourage families to visit their parks, many get additional exercise by walking or bicycling from their homes, actively play with their neighbors, and create or enhance social connections.

•    Increased Ownership – Program participants and surrounding neighbors may be encouraged to take an active role in maintenance projects/ park improvements.

School District Partnerships

OPARD partners with the Olympia School District #111 in many areas. A primary example of this is the “Interlocal Agreement for Shared Use of Playfields and Recreation Facilities.” This relationship has been in existence for over forty-five years and continues to evolve as the resources available to each agency change. The intent of this agreement is to provide positive educational and recreational opportunities to the community in the most efficient and effective manner possible. In return for maintenance and scheduling services provided by the City, the School District provides community access to school district fields and prioritizes City access to indoor facilities. Highlights of the agreement include:

•    OPARD manages athletic field scheduling for both City and School District fields. This results in a fair and manageable system for field use that provides access for the variety of user groups in the community.

•    OPARD maintains both City and School District Fields. OPARD provides regular mowing, preventive maintenance and demand maintenance throughout the growing season on all fields accessed by the community. While the City contributes most of the human resources and equipment required for these tasks, the School District provides supplies such as fertilizer.

•    The City is given priority use (after School District programs and events) in School District facilities. This use enables the City to provide popular programs such as the Middle School Activity Nights, School Break Camps, and Adult Athletics such as basketball and volleyball.

In addition to the programs described above, City and School District staff communicate frequently to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. As this plan moves toward implementation, OPARD staff will work closely with School District staff to explore opportunities for collaboration. An example of this could be partnering on upgrading natural turf school district fields to synthetic turf fields to increase use by both the schools and the community.