Our Legacy

Over the years more than 150 proposals for all or pieces of the park for other uses have been voiced. Discovery Park has held to its vision of few intrusions, with those necessary for park enjoyment to be relegated only to the periphery of the park, preserving the primary land use as a natural setting. The Friends of Discovery Park has actively fought to stay the course on the original land-use plans.
Over nearly 50 years, our organization has grown and evolved through three names—Fort Lawton Citizens Advisory Committee, Friends of Fort Lawton Park, and Friends of Discovery Park.
In 1970 the City of Seattle passed a resolution reaffirming their determination to establish a public park at Fort Lawton. The Mayor, Wes Uhlman, created the Fort Lawton Citizens Advisory Committee with Donald Voorhees, a prominent Seattle Lawyer, as chairman and prominent Seattlites, like future Governor Dixie Lee Ray as members. The Committee’s purpose was to participate with the Board of Park Commissioners, the Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent and (the mayor) in the development of the Fort Lawton design plan being developed by landscape architect Daniel Urban Kiley and Partners. The Committee was supported by twenty-two different social and activist organizations including the League of Women Voters, the Seattle Audubon Society, the Seattle Planning and Redevelopment Council, and the Sierra Club. With the backing of both of Washington’s senators, Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson, State Congressman Thomas Pelly, and Congressmen Brock Adams and Lloyd Meeds, (the majority of the congressional delegation from Western Washington), the Citizens Committee began a letter-writing campaign to save fort land for the city.

Friends of Discovery Park has played a pivotal role in providing and restoring the largest and greenest park in the Seattle region. Because of its longevity, its regional scope, and its inspired leadership, generations of visitors have experienced the natural beauty of Puget Sound.

Speaking before the Seattle City Council in 1974, then a US District Judge, Donald S. Voorhees recommended that an organization such as the Friends of Central Park in New York be formed to support Seattle’s Discovery Park. Voorhees told Council members that it was important to monitor the actions proposed for the Park and to defend the principles and philosophy found in the 1974 Discovery Park Master Plan.
Having led the Citizens for Fort Lawton Park (CFLP) in a successful effort to secure Fort Lawton from the US Government for a park in 1968, Voorhees’ experience and credibility led to the establishment of a supporting organization six years later.
As a result of Voorhees’ address to the City Council, members of the CFLP met December 4, 1974, to form the Friends of Discovery Park. Charter Board Members elected at that meeting were: Bob Kildall, President, Gerry Lamphier, Frankie Piper, Mike Ruby, Robert Sotnik, Bernie Whitebear, and Thomas O. Wimmer.
Our purpose is defined in our by-laws:

The purposes of this corporation (FRIENDS OF DISCOVERY PARK) shall be to defend the integrity of Discovery Park; to create and protect there an open space of quiet and tranquility, a sanctuary where the works of man are minimized, appearing to be affected primarily by the forces of nature, a place which emphasizes its natural environment, broad vista and unspoiled shorelines; and to promote the development of the park according to a master plan responsive to these goals.

More than 1,500 Seattle individuals are members of the Friends.
Most all of the members live outside the Magnolia community. The Friends have been in the forefront of nearly 100 issues where the integrity of the plan for the Park was in jeopardy.
In 1989, the Friends asked the City to create the Discovery Park Memorial Fund and raised more than $34,800 for the Discovery Park’s new Visitor Center, dedicated in 1998. To protect the nesting Great Blue Herons and other natural qualities of the Kiwanis Ravine, the Friends obtained $775,000 in State, Metropolitan King County, Shoreline Park Improvement Funds and Metro mitigation funds to purchase property in the ravine, which is adjacent to Discovery Park. This purchase protected a wildlife corridor through the ravine. Read more about our work and projects..
The group also gives financial support to the Discovery Park day camp programs and to other Park programs. While the Friends work closely with the park staff, the group stays independent of the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department by deliberate choice. It values its freedom to defend the Park by opposing or creating initiatives and referendum, to oppose issues considered harmful to the Park when the City has not or cannot take political action, or when there is concern for a City action deemed contrary to the Master Plan, and to lobby State, County and City governments.
After nearly five decades, Friends of Discovery Park remains instrumental in preserving open space and protecting the quality of life in the Puget Sound Region through smart planning and conservation.


Help us champion the park that makes the Seattle area special.

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