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Industrial Habitat
In the two years since it opened, Herring’s House Park has proven that if you put salmon first, people will follow.
By Clair Enlow

Herring’s House Park introduces 7.8 acres of green, including 1.8 acres of new intertidal basin, to the brownfields and backwashes of Seattle’s old industrial shoreline. Tidal mud flats and gravel beaches reach from the bay into an upland scrub meadow scattered with salmonberry, Nootka rose, and salal. Cedar nags stand like reminders of a wilder past, guarding young native fir, spruce, and pine trees. Eagles, ospreys, and herons establish nesting sites.

Ian Edelstein

Once you find this intense pocket of Northwest natural history, it’s hard not to get lost in the scenery. Mount Rainier seems close at hand. Freight cranes and city skyline loom in the distance, eons away. It’s as if the sawmills and the ships and all the rest had never spoiled this place at the base of Elliott Bay, where the Duwamish, once a river, is now a “waterway.” “Herring’s House” is a geographic name for a Native American seasonal settlement near the site. But there are no more buildings on this little stretch of shore. Instead, science and scenery are brought together for a purpose—to bring back this section of wildness on the overdeveloped Duwamish, along with a salmon habitat that will help the city reach its goals of restoring salmon runs in the river and its tributaries.

J. A. Brennan Associates, with offices in Seattle and Taipei, has shaped shoreline environments on both sides of the ocean. Landscape architect Jim Brennan, ASLA, project manager for Herring’s House Park, explains that the park was designed around the precise conditions preferred by copepods and other tiny organisms that hover in shallow waters, just above the mud. They are fed upon by juvenile salmon, entering a food chain that includes the eagle and the heron. “It’s kind of a bug farm,” says Brennan about Herring’s House Park.

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