A. Introduction

Parks and other open spaces make an important, distinct contribution to the landscape and quality of life in Kirkland. Imagine Kirkland without its distinctive waterfront parks and other parks and open spaces dotted throughout the City. Over the past several decades, Kirkland has had the vision to aggressively pursue land acquisition and park development for the public’s enjoyment. An outstanding mosaic of parks and facilities has evolved.

The Kirkland Parks and Community Services Department manages the City’s recreation programs; park planning, acquisition, development and maintenance; community services; and the Green Kirkland Partnership. The Department’s mission is to support a healthy and sustainable community by providing high quality parks and recreation services, ensuring a collaborative community response to basic human needs, and protecting our natural areas.

Specifically, the City aims to:

♦    Preserve and maintain parklands and open spaces to create safe places for people to visit.

♦    Conserve and sustain natural areas for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations.

♦    Provide comprehensive year-round recreation opportunities to enhance physical, mental and social well-being.

♦    Establish partnerships to ensure a comprehensive system of programs, facilities and services are available to meet the recreation and human service needs of the Kirkland community.


Kirkland’s diverse park system includes over 588 acres of parkland and open spaces, including community and neighborhood parks and natural areas. In addition, other public parks and open spaces, such as Big Finn Hill Park and school partnership sites, add another 366 acres of diverse parkland. The City’s 12.8 miles of trails and park paths connect people to parks, neighborhoods and other community destinations. The City also offers a diverse array of recreation, sports, fitness, arts, music and self-improvement classes and programs for all ages.

Kirkland is fortunate to have a number of large parks owned by other public agencies that are within, or adjacent to, the City limits. These parks help meet local recreation needs and contribute significantly to the overall quality and diversity of parks and recreation in Kirkland. These sites include Saint Edward State Park, Bridle Trails State Park, Totem Lake Park, Big Finn Hill Park, O.O. Denny Park and a number of school facilities with sport fields and indoor gymnasiums.

Kirkland is a stable and maturing community with many families and children. As the City responds to the needs of its new residents and the operating demands of its existing facilities, new investments in parks and recreation will be necessary to meet the needs of the community, support youth development, provide options for residents to lead healthy, active lives and foster greater social and community connections.

Waterfront Parks

Kirkland’s waterfront parks (both City and non-City owned) are a distinctive part of the City’s park system. They bring identity and character to the park system and contribute significantly to Kirkland’s charm and quality of life. The City’s waterfront parks stretch from the Yarrow Bay Wetlands on the south, to O.O. Denny Park on the north, providing Kirkland residents year-round waterfront access. Kirkland’s waterfront parks provide citizens a diversity of waterfront experiences for different tastes and preferences. Citizens can enjoy the passive and natural surroundings of Juanita Bay and Kiwanis Park as well as the more active swimming and sunbathing areas of Houghton and Marsh Parks. These parks truly identify Kirkland as a waterfront community.

The high visibility and use of Kirkland’s waterfront parks require high levels of maintenance, periodic renovation, and security. Swimming beaches, docks, recreational moorage facilities, boat ramps, and shoreline walkways, where issues of liability are very important, must be kept safe and in good condition for the public’s enjoyment and use.

Natural Park Areas

The natural park areas, such as Juanita Bay Park, Yarrow Bay Wetlands, Heronfield Wetlands, Totem Lake Parks, and Watershed Park, provide residents with important natural open space and critical urban wildlife habitat. They are part of providing a balanced park system for citizens. Passive recreation uses such as walking, bird watching, interpretive educational programs and signage, and non-motorized trail systems are appropriate for these sites.

Community Parks

Community parks are usually 15 to 30 acres in size and are generally defined as larger, diverse recreation areas serving both formalized active recreation needs as well as recreation use benefiting the neighborhood surrounding the site. Community parks are where the majority of active recreation occurs. Community parks often include recreation facilities such as sport fields and/or community centers.

Neighborhood Parks

Neighborhood parks serve both limited active and passive recreation needs of a residential neighborhood and are usually no more than 15 acres and no less than 0.5 acres in size.

Relationship to Other Elements

The Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Element supports the Community Character Element by establishing policies to ensure continued provision of the parks and open space amenities that help establish Kirkland’s character. The Element functions in concert with the Natural Environment Element by establishing policies for the acquisition, development, and preservation of City-owned natural areas. The Land Use Element is supported through policies to ensure continued provision of facilities and services to support anticipated growth. In addition, this Element establishes policies for the coordination of funding and level of service requirements set forth in the Capital Facilities Element. Finally, this Element works in tandem with the Shoreline Area Chapter by establishing policies for the acquisition, development, and preservation of City-owned shoreline recreation, open space, and natural areas.

Relationship to Park, Recreation, and Open Space Comprehensive Plan

The Park, Recreation, and Open Space Comprehensive (PROS) Plan is the City’s long-range functional plan for Kirkland’s parks, open spaces, and recreational uses. The Plan is prepared by the Department of Parks and Community Services and the Kirkland Park Board for City Council review and adoption. To remain eligible for certain State and County grant funding, the City is required to update the Plan every six years. The Plan was updated in 2015. That Plan is closely related to the Parks Element of the City Comprehensive Plan. The Park Board has relied heavily on the City Comprehensive Plan and, in turn, this Element relies heavily on the work of the Park Board in establishing goals and policies.