Olympia’s newest downtown park officially opened Saturday at the historic artesian well.
Measuring 0.2 acres, the Artesian Commons occupies a once-blighted parking lot at 415 Fourth Ave. The site’s makeover includes fresh paint and patio seating.
“It’s night-and-day better than what it was,” said Paul Simmons, the city’s parks director, echoing a common sentiment Saturday morning.
At the grand opening festivities, city staff served lemonade made with water from the well, where a steady stream of people filled their jugs and bottles. The popular Artesian Rumble Arkestra performed several spirited tunes after city dignitaries cut the ribbon. Some attendees danced to the band’s organic grooves, while other people played chess and checkers beneath a canopy.
The park can accommodate up to three food trucks, with California Tacos setting up shop first. Coming soon will be a vendor that sells pretzels and cheese, Simmons said, adding that the city is recruiting a third vendor.
The Olympia Downtown Ambassador Program and Clean Team spruced up the site early Saturday – and painted a wall that will display a mural some day. Eastside Club Tavern staff also cleaned surrounding sidewalks and picked up trash. Going forward, the ambassadors will regularly patrol the new park and check for litter, program manager Rob Richards said.
“This has potential to be a real neighborhood park,” said Richards, who lives downtown.
In 2010, the city bought the artesian well with hopes of turning it into an attractive public gathering spot. The project required a multipronged effort that included public workshops with multiple stakeholders. Construction started in March and cost about $142,000, according to the city.
Olympia City Council Members Jim Cooper, Julie Hankins and Steve Langer spoke to the crowd about the site’s history. Langer also emphasized the ongoing struggle to create a safe and welcoming downtown for residents and visitors.
“This is one of those parks that’s essential to making downtown a destination where people want to come and enjoy themselves,” Langer said, “and get really wonderful water that Olympia is famous for.”
The city reports that vehicle access to the artesian well on Jefferson Street will be closed about two weeks starting May 5. The Fifth Avenue entrance will remain open while contractors complete work on the city’s fleet vehicle parking area.
Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869