Bradner Gardens Park exists today as the result of the vision of a group of determined citizens.
In 1971, the City of Seattle purchased land for the 1.6 acre park with $71,000 of Forward Thrust funds. It was one of 19 parcels purchased around the city for neighborhood parks. Bradner was not immediately developed into a park. Instead the land was leased to the Seattle School District for the John Muir Middle School Annex until 1975. From 1975 to 1993, buildings on the site served the Central Youth and Family Service.
The Seattle P-Patch Program established a community garden on the site in 1987 to provide gardening space for Mien immigrants from Laos. Neighborhood residents from the diverse Mt. Baker community joined them in gardening. Basketball hoops, built when the school occupied the site, and the p-patch provided an ad hoc community gathering place.
With the completion of I-90 through the neighborhood, long-vacant land suddenly became desirable for development, especially housing. In 1994, community residents of the South Atlantic Community Association (SASCA) became aware of a City plan to build housing on the Bradner site instead of the park for which it was purchased in 1971.
Community residents applied for and received a Small and Simple Grant of $4500 to hire a landscape architect to develop a concept plan. Barker Landscape Architects and SASCA hosted two design charettes for neighbors and users of the site to brainstorm ideas for what the park should look like. They developed the concept plan in 1995 that included demonstration gardens, a basketball court, pavilion, entry arbors, play area and accessible gravel paths.
This plan was met with skepticism and a two-year battle with city hall ensued. Unable to convince the mayor to preserve this open space for a park, several citizens drafted an initiative that became Initiative #42 Protect Our Parks. It stated that land that was owned by the City for park use could not be sold, traded or used for non-park use unless it was replaced with like kind in the same neighborhood. Initiative #42 became a City of Seattle ordinance #118477 in 1997. It saved Bradner from non-park development and has helped other neighborhoods around the city fight unnecessary encroachments to parkland.
Friends of Bradner Gardens Park applied to public agencies for grants to build the park. Construction began in 1998. The last stage of construction, renovation of the utility building, was completed in 2003. It was a Pro-Park Levy project with assistance from the Friends of Bradner Gardens Park. The building provides an ADA restroom, garden tool storage and a small meeting space, and serves as a model for sustainable design and building practices.
The horticultural design and stewardship of the park was originally provided by a coalition of the P-patch Program, Seattle Tilth, the WSU King County Master Gardener Program, the Washington Native Plant Society, and many individuals and families in the Mount Baker neighborhood. While the makeup of the coalition has changed over the years, the Friends of Bradner Gardens Park would like to salute the founding organizations and people who built this park. An astounding 40,000 hours of volunteer labor went into the realization of this uniquely beautiful oasis in the city of Seattle.