Music, food and entertainment bring artesian well to life in Olympia

Until recently, there was a place where Michelle Moore didn’t want her kids to hang out: the artesian well in downtown Olympia.

“This was where they could not be,” said Moore, 47, of Olympia.

But this spring, the once-blighted parking lot underwent a $142,000 makeover, and downtown groups are hoping the 0.2-acre space — now known as the Artesian Commons — will become a destination for families.

On Saturday, the Downtown Ambassadors program and Capital Recovery Center hosted the second of a series of events called Play at the Well.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered for the activities, which included food, games, music and improvisational theater by Olympia’s Heartsparkle Players. The nonprofit Together also had a booth with information and activities about substance-abuse prevention, and radio station Mixx 96.1 gave away water bottles.

“Essentially, the goal is to get kids and families down here and engaged,” said Rob Richards with Downtown Ambassadors. “It’s the first — maybe the only real — urban park in downtown Olympia.”

Many of the activities — such as bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and water toys — were available for kids.. A portable basketball hoop was set up, and within a few minutes some of the teens who were standing against the wall at the park were shooting hoops, said Brian Wilson, a downtown liaison with the city of Olympia.

“When you have a variety of activities … you really start to see positive behavior happen,” he said.

Bob McKenzieSullivan said he’s lived in the Olympia area for 35 years and had never been to the well until Saturday.

“The water tasted good,” he said. “People have talked about it for years. I just never knew where it was.”

Moore brought her 9-year-old son and a niece and nephew. She said she was impressed by the space’s transformation, and hopes that groups will continue use it for community events.

“It feels safe,” Moore said. “… It’s a lot nicer.”