On the Road to the WASLA Conference


Jim is excited to be leading a panel discussion of our Beebe Springs Natural Area project at the 2017 WASLA conference in Spokane, WA. The theme of the conference this year is Where History Meets Nature. Jim, Dennis Beich (Ecosystems NW), Chuck Lennox (Lennox Insites), and Carla Talich (BHC Consultants) will be discussing Exploring Earthquakes, Springs, Dams, and a River Restored: Designing a New Wildlife Area on the Columbia River at Beebe Springs.

If you see Jim, Drew, or Tanja please say hi!

Also check out the range of exciting sessions happening over the course of the day:  http://www.wasla.org/2017-wasla-conference


Beebe_horse sculpture



Increase Public Outreach Success with an Online Survey

jabrennan blog

SurveyMonkey is an easy to use tool that helped our project reach a lot of interested people. While the public meetings had 30-50 attendees, the online poll gathered over 1,000 responses in just 6 weeks!

Jim Brennan discussing Wayne Golf Course vision as part of public outreach

J.A. Brennan and our colleagues at MAKERS and Tetra Tech recently had the opportunity to work on a fantastic project with the City of Bothell. The Wayne Golf Course Open Space stretches across 86 acres and has been called “one of the last large, private undeveloped acreages anywhere in the central Puget Sound metropolitan area.” The property features over half a mile of Sammamish River frontage, a historic apple orchard, and acres of woods in close proximity to Blyth Park and the Burke Gilman and Tolt River trails.

Our office helped the City of Bothell and partners King County, OneBothell, Forterra, and the State of Washington conduct a community visioning process for the Wayne Golf Course from April through June, 2016. Public outreach was a key component to the visioning process as we met with stakeholders, neighbors, and the greater community to ask, “What is your vision for this place?”

Setting up for Success

In addition to in-person public meetings, we collected feedback through a short online survey using SurveyMonkey.com. The five-question poll asked the public for feedback on potential program activities and services that could be developed at the Wayne Golf Course property. When the survey closed after 6 weeks, there were 1,067 responses. Links to the survey were promoted through OneBothell’s Facebook page, Forterra’s newsletter, the City of Bothell’s Facebook page, and the City’s Bothell Bridge newsletter mailed to every resident of Bothell each month. A graphic summary of the number of responses received each day shows spikes of activity that correspond with the online postings in May and the newsletter mailing in June.


Responses by Day on SurveyMonkey.com

Analyzing Results

The survey introduction provided background information about the property ownership and funding strategy. The public was reminded that acquisition of the Wayne Golf Course is a unique opportunity for Bothell and the region for potential salmon recovery, open space preservation, site restoration, trails, and recreation. As you can see in the summary graphics, most survey respondents spend time in parks on a weekly basis.  While there, the most popular activities include: enjoying nature, spending time with family/friends, and simple relaxation.

Lessons Learned

You can check out the vision plan on the City’s website and consider utilizing an online survey with your next open space planning and design project. The survey was an easy way to expand the exposure of the project and solicit more diverse community input. We were able to create the survey in 5 hours including a draft and final survey. We shared the survey results in the public meeting to help voice some concerns that were not present at the public meeting. The depth of response is expected to help with grant proposal success.

Bike to Work Month Summary

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We had fun riding with the rest of Seattle’s bicyclists in May to complete the Bike to Work Commute Challenge.

Our team of five completed a total of 637.2 miles through the month.  Bikers rode to Pioneer Square from White Center, the Central District, Ravenna, Wallingford, and Greenwood.

Thanks to the JAB Slugs for all your efforts AND for logging your miles.  Thanks also to the Cascade Bicycle Club for organizing this event in the Seattle Area.

We’ll keep biking on.

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Planting Design for Shoreline Environments

by Mike Perfetti

Juanita Beach Park
Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland, WA

Working on the design of waterfront projects is both rewarding and challenging.  Waterfront projects present a special set of opportunities and challenges to designers and project proponents in achieving project goals and also ensuring that the project is improving the adjacent shoreline and aquatic environment.

Plants are an important component of any shoreline project, as plant material provides erosion control, habitat, shade, and aesthetic functions.  Regulations at national, regional and local levels require that project proponents include vegetation along the shoreline and ensure plant establishment success.

Changing water levels in Lake Washington require appropriate plant selection.   As well, plants and habitat features must be firmly anchored in the substrate to avoid loss.
Changing water levels in Lake Washington require appropriate plant selection. As well, plants and habitat features must be firmly anchored in the substrate to avoid loss.

Here are some considerations for planting along shorelines in our region:

Herring's House lagoon 2008
Native grasses and sedges thrive in the intertidal zone at Herring’s House Park in Seattle.

Native plants: Natives provide a ton of ecological benefit, are generally easier to establish and maintain than non-native plants, need less water and soil amendments and additives, and are required to some extent by regulators.

Taylor Dock and Upland Park, Bellingham, WA

Ornamental plants: Further away from the shoreline, it is ok to introduce ornamental plants.

Riverview Park
Side channel at Riverview Park, Kent, WA

Site hydraulics and hydrology:  Lake, river and marine water fluctuations have a dramatic effect on shoreline vegetation.  A plant such as Hardstem bulrush (Scirpus acutus) is resilient and can thrive in saturated ground and up to 3’ of water, which makes it a great choice for fresh water marshes and occasionally brackish water situations.  But many plants have a narrower threshold for the amount of inundation or drying they tolerate.  Having a good understanding of high, mean, low and extreme water levels and periods of inundation is critical for plant selection.  And on dammed fresh water systems, water fluctuations can be extreme and infrequent.  Water may be released at dams for emergency situations.  Water level data is often available from dam managers.

For the slopes at Leschi Marina we specified livestaking to help ensure plant establishment

Steep slope considerations:  Steep shoreline banks can be fragile, susceptible to erosional water forces and fluctuating levels of saturation.  Many times we see steep banks that are covered with undesirable, non-native species and weeds.  The roots of the undesirable plants may be serving to stabilize the soil; removing them may subject the site to an unacceptable amount of erosion.  Sometimes, accessing these banks to install plants can be very difficult (we have been involved in where crews installed plants by top roping from above).  One solution to this problem is to install live stakes (cuttings) of appropriate plants and install into the bank, while also employing select cutting / removal of the non-native plants.  In time, the invasive plants may be ‘shaded out’ by the growth of the live stakes or trees, without the benefits of erosion control being lost.  There are many bioengineering solutions to shoreline problems like this.

Water quality:  The use of fertilizer, herbicides and compost amendment should be considered on sites where water quality is an issue.

Cultural and historic resources:  Cultural and historic resources often factor into a project. Leaving a resource intact may limit the extent of plantable area, and the degree to which soil tilling and excavation for planting may be done.

Restoration Plan
Diversity in plant selection and considering future plant growth helps ensure view corridors and access remain open.

Water views and access:  Accessing water is a basic human desire.  It is important to provide design that benefits people and wildlife.  Plants can be located to protect or buffer a critical area and opened to allow views or touchpoints to the water, all in a way that is site appropriate.

In the end, we want successful multi-beneficial projects and we want to satisfy permit requirements.  Often, a project will be obligated to show around 90% survivability over a 5 year time period or so.

Don Morse Park
Protecting newly planted areas with fencing, signage, and other structures helps with survivability issues.

Having a landscape architect on the team to develop good planting design and appropriate shoreline access will help ensure a project’s success.

Behind the Scenes at JAB: The CoLAB

IMGP5271psEvery other Friday afternoon the JAB team spends dedicated time analyzing and discussing one topic of relevance to the practice.  The issue of the day can involve solving a design problem, theorizing, critiquing, brainstorming, or sketching design ideas.

Recent discussion topics include

  • Designing new details for fences and gates
  • Developing a site opportunities and constraints map for a marketing effort
  • Developing a concept for a focal point
  • Choosing a park signage theme
  • Looking at case study parks in Chicago
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Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the ‘Bean;’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park

The coLAB session is our chance to get all the brain power of the firm in one room for workshop.  Eighty-eight years of combined experience drilling into one issue results in some amazing aesthetic design and creative problem solving!

Entry signage concept for Tacoma's Swan Creek Park
Entry signage concept for Tacoma’s Swan Creek Park

This time is a chance to hear everyone’s voice on a topic/project.  Voices from outside a project’s regular team can provide interesting insight, maybe even shift and shape solutions in new directions.

We use CoLAB to keep us up-to-date with what is going on in the profession and in the office.  It takes discipline and commitment to set aside this dedicated time.  But the results have shown the time to be productive, inspiring, and fun!

Evolution of Project Photography

by Chris Nack

The Button
The Button

Keeping the image library organized and up-to-date is time consuming for a design firm.  We found something image-related to smile about when we found this relic, with its original box, in the back of our old storage cabinet.

Then: $26.99 Fred Meyer price tag

Today: $6.99 on ebay

As the pre-digital version of instant-photo gratification, The Button performed for us when we desperately needed a real-time photo.  From the early days through the 1990s, the majority of our project images were collected as slides and organized in binders.  We still have the binders and are on the verge of converting some of that collection to digital format.

From the Slide Era:


The slide library awaits selection for digitizing.  Too bad we can’t locate our slide projector.  We’re looking forward to a day of bending over the light table!

Negatives and Prints


What will we do with these?

Scan the prints? Scan the negatives?

Most likely: After we pick out our favorite images for scanning we will accept that we have not opened a box in seven years and let the rest go.

A Digital World

Today site photos come back from the field via phone camera, DSLR camera, and compact digital camera; we have a camera for every occasion.  Keeping digital images organized is no easier!  There are more photos than we had in those simpler days of The Button’s reign.