Riverview Park Ecosystem Restoration

J.A. Brennan recently completed multiple illustrative graphics, which were used in the project ground-breaking ceremony, and in other public outreach and informational efforts.

J.A. Brennan is a member of the consultant team that worked with the City of Kent and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to design a Habitat Enhancement Channel at Riverview Park.  This newly created side channel is part of a pilot project by the Corps to restore side channel and low-flow environments along the Green River for the benefit of spawning salmon and steelhead.  Previously, J.A. Brennan developed the master plan for the park.  For this project we were able to provide valuable insights to the project with our site experience and park design expertise, which helped coordinate the City’s park plans with Corps habitat objectives.

J.A. Brennan developed contract documents for trail design, planting and irrigation of approximately four acres of restoration area, including native aquatic, riparian and upland environments.  Wooded trails and a new 200-foot long bridge, will provide public access to this restoration project, and educational signage and viewpoints will further enhance the visitor’s experience and provide information about the Green River ecosystem.

Construction of the new side channel at Riverview Park in Kent is underway! The new side channel will offer rearing habitat for endangered salmon species including Chinook, steelhead and bull trout. The side channel is a partnership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers , the city of Kent, the Water Resource Inventory Area 9 (WRIA 9) Ecosystem Forum, the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the King Conservation District.

Japan Trip Part 1: Tokyo Observations

By Mike Perfetti

This spring I spent about 10 incredible days in the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan.  In Japan, I found a complex story of a culture and landscape – a country full of contrasts and contradictions evident in its landscape, culture, and history.  The island of Honshu is home to the world’s largest city, Tokyo.  This first installment of my trip journal is about Tokyo–where my trip started and ended–an incredibly immense web of buildings, tracks and roads that has unalterably reshaped my perspective on cities.

Tokyo’s metropolitan area population is the largest in the world at astounding 32,450,000!1 The population density of 10,491 people per square mile is nearly 20 times as dense as that of my hometown, Seattle, at 543 people/square mile2.  Tokyo is a bustling, if not overwhelming city connected by a complex array of trains and subways; Cars are present of course, but the design of Tokyo makes owning and storing a car inconvenient and expensive.  In Tokyo, there are 308 cars per 1,000 people3, compared with Seattle, which has about 743 cars per 1,000 people.4

The immensity of Tokyois well-known.  But how livable is Tokyo?  Monocle’s 2011 “Most Livable Cities Index” compared 25 cities looking at criteria such as safety, international connectivity, climate/sunshine, quality of architecture, public transportation, tolerance, environmental issues and access to nature, urban design, business conditions, and medical care.  Tokyo placed 9th; Seattle placed 25th.5

My own experience tells me that Tokyo is an active, exciting and convenient city.  Goods and retail aren’t confined only to business districts; seemingly every street has a convenient store, izakaya (pub), and market.  Tokyoites, by nature of the city’s density, deal with conflict and intrusions of personal space constantly.  It was interesting to see how Tokyoites are unwary to such encounters; they display an amazing tolerance for such things – a matter of survival and sanity I would suppose.  Road rage is seemingly absent.   The Japanese people are incredibly polite and share a culture of collectivism. .

In some ways, Seattle cannot be compared to Tokyo; but, to me there is a lesson for us as we develop into a bigger and denser City — that it can be done on a scale beyond what we’ll ever see here, and can be done well.   We’ll have to consider our dependence on cars and our notion of personal territory to make this work.

As much as anything, though, my observations of Tokyo have reinforced my conviction that public open spaces, parks and access to nature are essential to creating healthy and livable cities.  Tokyo is beginning to embrace waterfronts as open space, and historic temples and the occasional park provide essential open spaces for people.  In Seattle, we have a unique appreciation and relationship with our sublime landscape; environmental stewardship and community are vital components of our culture, and our commitment to parks and open space is strong, giving our city amazing potential to become one of the great cities of the world.



1 Wikipedia, “List of metropolitan areas by population”

2 Wikipedia, “Seattle Metropolitan Area”

3WEC “Energy for Megacities” Study”: Tokyo case study by Paula Restrepo Cadavid, revised by Pierre-Noel Giraud 07/09/2010

4 Wikipedia, “World’s most livable cities”

5Metro Areas Ranked by Vehicles Per 1,000 Residents (construction, school)”

Roundup of Interesting Websites and News

Cultural Landscapes: 86 properties on the World Heritage List have been included as cultural landscapes.

Michelle Obama’s new book: American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America

Check out the City of Tacoma’s list of non-toxic cleaning concoctions

Dinner in the Sky, an over the top way to celebrate a site! As mentioned in Landscape Architecture Magazine

Ranking Environmental Performance

Cleaning up possible invasive species attached to tsunami debris 

Have a pre-summer Family Fun Day this Sunday on the waterfront

Updates on the Seattle Ferris Wheel, gondolas now attached! http://www.pier57ferriswheel.com/

Bike to Work Final Stats

Bike to Work month has come to a close and JAB is proud to have had 50% of its staff members riding.  Few firms reach such a high level of participation!  Together we logged 545 miles (not counting all the miles we forgot to record), saved approx. 542 lbs of CO2, and burned 26,714 calories.  Time to bake more banana bread!  Together we braved the rain and rode on 60% of our work days which ranks us in the top half of Architecture and Engineering teams and far better than the 42% overall average.  Thanks to everyone for playing along.  Who is up for Run to Work month in June?

Recreational Beaches: The Great Pea Gravel Debate

Sandy swimming beach: the preferred solution

Most beachgoers prefer a sandy beach for swimming and enjoying the shoreline.  But – as happens so often in our seawalled and bulkheaded environs –sand washes away with the current or wave action.

Due to the dynamic nature of shorelines, most swimming areas require continual maintenance to keep them in the shape that the swimming public demands.  When developing a new swimming beach or restoring an old one the first thought is usually: sand, bring in more sand!

To look at the situation with foresight, though, requires studying site conditions.  Where did the sand go?  Is a bulkhead or seawall impacting erosion?  Often wind and wave analyses are required.

In many cases, replenishing with sand is not a sustainable solution.  Sand blows away.  Sand drifts away.  Looking at the long-term picture and saving owner expense requires considering, and often implementing, a less-favored solution, replenishing or filling with pea gravel, which is a more stable material.  Many revitalized swimming and hand-carry boat launch beaches in high wave environments use pea gravel.

Even pea gravel will require ongoing maintenance / replenishment, but will save money over the long-term, with considerably more infrequent replenishment required than sand.

The compromise: 

Testing for comfort
Comfort.  Warm sand ala Waikiki is the expectation when one thinks swimming beach.  But even Waikiki Beach requires continual replenishment.  Rounded pea gravel ranks lower in comfort.


The other benefits of pea gravel: improved fish and wildlife habitat.  Gravel provides spawning substrate for fish.  This is something that appeals to the agencies and assists in the likelihood of permit approval.

What does creating a sustainable beach involve?

Selecting pea gravel: evaluating color, size, and shape

One consideration in the selection of beach material is the beach’s slope and the available land to place the preferred material.  Coastal engineers study wind and wave action and build models that predict how material will move along the shore.  The size and shape of potential materials are run through the model, allowing for scenarios that analyze different size materials, allowing designers to study costs and benefits of the materials.  Examining the models allows designers to create a final design that minimizes maintenance costs and maximizes user comfort.  Though pea gravel is more expensive initially, it is more likely to stay in place, and cost less in maintenance dollars over the long-term, resulting in a cost-effective, sustainable design solution.

Aesthetics: How to make it beautiful? 

Logs and shoreline plantings at Juanita Beach Park

Landscape architects help select materials and design upland and nearshore plantings that are required by permitting agencies.  Agencies typically require use of native plantings, and often, the placement of woody debris.  With thoughtful design, these plantings and materials can create an attractive shoreline environment that blends wildlife habitat with aesthetics and public enjoyment.

How to keep materials in place?

In many high-energy wave action environments, gravel berms, or rock sills made with larger materials help keep pea gravel in place.  The placement of these structures must not negatively impact neighboring properties.

Bulkheads/seawalls contribute to the erosion of native material or sand waterward of the structure.  Over time, as the sand and other native materials wash away, walls are undercut and fail.  Solutions involve removing the walls or burying existing walls and creating gentle berms that extend the beach upland.

The great debate of sand versus pea gravel will no doubt continue.  Long-term sustainability, costs/benefit analysis, and improved habitat value make the decision to use pea-gravel the most practical in many situations.