Port of Seattle – Incredible Parks Want Incredible Names

The Port of Seattle implemented a community engagement project to re-name six Port-owned shoreline mitigation parks, which were previously named after industrial purposes. The project purpose was to deepen Port partnerships to encourage action for shoreline habitat restoration and promote its vision of an “inclusive green economy”. For decades, the Port has engaged with the Duwamish River’s contamination cleanup efforts, established multiple shoreline habitat mitigation sites, recently passed a policy that commits to partnering with near-Port environmental justice communities, and is launching river-based carbon banking as a viable “triple bottom line” enterprise. In this community engagement project, the Port sought to create new connections and strengthen existing relationships with communities, industries, and Tribal organizations to accelerate these efforts.

After eight months of a racial equity-centered process, thousands of community members and an expert panel selected new park names that now reflect the cultural, ecological, and historic significance of each site. Since the close of the re-naming effort and the resulting outpour of public support, the Port has partnered with small businesses to use shoreline areas as “learning labs” for youth environmental education and “green careers” skills training and is convening a strategic planning process to find new ways to harness its park assets for additional eco-innovations.

The project successfully connected Port-owned parks along Seattle’s only river to its community roots while raising awareness and support for the Port’s environmental efforts. This unique project meets IAPH evaluation criteria because it: exemplifies the integration of multiple sustainability factors; serves as a platform to demonstrate the Port’s qualitative and quantitative impacts from its river-based environmental efforts; champions a solid business case for an “inclusive green economy”; pioneers an unprecedented form of equitable engagement with multicultural and Tribal stakeholders; and finally, models racial equity best practices for port agencies to replicate in their public engagement efforts.