Kids envision garden, playground at well

Artesian: They taste the water, brainstorm ideas for further renovation

MATT BATCHELDOR; Staff writerDecember 1, 2011 

OLYMPIA — Students from Lincoln Elementary descended on the artesian well Wednesday afternoon to learn more about the downtown landmark, which is undergoing a renovation, and to make suggestions on how to further improve it.

The field trip had a dual purpose: for the children to learn something and for the city to get more feedback on how to improve the well area. The well, which has consisted of an old pipe rising out of a parking lot near Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street for years, is getting a facelift.

Rich Hoey, the city’s interim public works director, met the children and gave them a quick tutorial on the well. It’s more than 100 years old, he said, originally designed for the old train station that is now occupied by Olympic Outfitters. The water is under pressure, so it bubbles up from the earth, just as a child’s juicebox will well up if air is blown into it.

Questions abounded from the children, who sometimes talked over each other in their excitement.

Is the water safe for drinking? Yes. Are you going to make it “all cement-y”? Yes.

The city has started a $65,000 project to beautify the well, including “cement-y” pavement, solar lighting, a community message board, a raised area to fill bottles and a new drain.

Hoey said construction on the well should be finished by the end of the year, and art will be attached to it by spring.

Each of the children had a chance to taste the water as it came out of the pipe. Then time came for suggestions from the children on how to improve the well.

“A teeter-totter,” shouted one. “Monkey bars,” another said. Another suggested a small bathroom. No port-a-potties.

Trees, another said, so that they could be climbed.

One suggestion, for a community garden, was something the city hadn’t thought of, said Ruthie Snyder, the city’s downtown code enforcement officer. Park benches were another suggestion.

“I also think it would be kind of nice to get rid of the parking lot and put like a park here,” said Sasha Star Friese, 10, a fifth-grader at Lincoln. She’s no stranger to the well, where she enjoys the water.

“It tastes really clean and it tastes like it’s natural,” she said.

Nathaniel McMullen, 10, another fifth-grader, suggested a stand that sells flowers.

He likes the water, too. “I think it’s cold and fresh,” he said.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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