The West Bay Sidewalk Project mixes public art and pedestrian safety along Olympia’s waterfront.
After years in the making, the project was officially dedicated Friday afternoon. The new stretch of sidewalk — about 1,500 feet — completes the connection between Harrison Avenue and the Smyth Landing condos near Schneider Hill Road.
Pedestrians no longer need to navigate treacherous sidewalk-free sections along the road’s western edge, which at one time had little to no shoulder available.
The project also incorporates art with “Walking on Land by Water.” Designed by local artist Carolyn Law, the sidewalk features “sparkle crete” that glistens and twinkles in the sunlight. The sidewalk and retention walls are inscribed with poems by award-winning writer Lucia Perillo, who lives just up the hill.
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The poems deliver concise but profound statements about nature, such as “In a single blade of grass you can see the whole wind” and “Ducks just trust the fog they fly into.” The poems originated from haiku-style works by Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa, which Perillo then crafted to suit the Olympia project, she said.
The project is a welcome addition for nearby residents, including Wim and Rae Verhoef, who enjoy taking walks in their neighborhood. Aside from the safety element, the couple appreciates the aesthetics.
“The poetry is thoughtful and insightful,” Wim Verhoef said. “It makes you think.”
The project has been years in the making. In 2005, the Thurston Regional Planning Council released its West Bay Drive Corridor Study, which noted that traffic along this major collector road could reach 9,700 vehicles a day by 2025. West Bay Drive was originally designed to serve the logging industry.
Although slated for completion last fall, the project was delayed because of complications with nearby wetlands and steep slopes. Project manager Jim Rioux said there was a backlog in the stormwater filtration devices that were eventually installed.
The city will monitor the site for five years while finishing some additional landscaping and tree planting. The total construction price for the project was estimated at about $2.1 million, Rioux said.
At Friday’s dedication, the project was praised by local dignitaries. Marygrace Jennings of the Olympia Arts Commission called the sidewalk “an unfolding experience” with simple poems that convey a complex meaning about nature and life.
“It’s our new treasure,” Jennings said.