Take a fall stroll on Greenwood’s Stay Healthy Street

Take a fall stroll on Greenwood’s Stay Healthy Street
By mattc

Fall colors a walk down Greenwood’s Stay Healthy Street. First Avenue Northwest, from NW 73rd to NW 100th, was named the first permanent Stay Healthy street in northwest Seattle. Photo by Chardell Paine.

By Connie McDougall

Where can you find a one-eared rabbit, a smoke tree, hard cider, and a Buddhist monastery all in a single Greenwood walk? That would be along a stretch of First Avenue Northwest, selected by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) as the first permanent Stay Healthy Street in northwest Seattle.

In April 2020, SDOT upgraded 26 miles of existing neighborhood greenways to Stay Healthy Streets. Greenways are residential streets with enhanced safety features, such as speed bumps, that limit the number and speed of vehicles passing through. The new initiative blocked through-traffic altogether, while still allowing local access, deliveries, waste pickup, and emergency vehicles. People could stroll in the streets, making socially distanced recreation easier during restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greenwood’s Stay Healthy Street runs along First Avenue Northwest, from Northwest 73rd to Northwest 100th.

Street closed sign in middle of road.

Street closed signs on the Greenwood Stay Healthy Street limit traffic. Photo by Chardell Paine.

Walking or biking the length of it makes for a day-trip adventure with quirky discoveries along the way. Before setting off, pop into neighborhood icon, Ken’s Market at Northwest 73rd and Greenwood Avenue North for some provisions, then head west a block to join fellow strollers taking advantage of this quiet urban trail.

One pit stop to consider is Yonder Cider at 7800 First Ave. NW, a local cidery selling its brew out of a converted garage. Kate Dinsmore works the counter and sells the hard stuff to passersby. “I think it’s wonderful,” she says about the road being made a permanent Stay Healthy Street. “It’s become my running route because it feels safer. And it’s lovely to meet people who just stop and talk.”

Woman smiling behind the counter of a cidery with cider around her.Kate Dinsmore sells Yonder Cider to passersby.

A little farther north, up pops up the bright yellow Sakya Buddhist Monastery on the corner of First Northwest and Northwest 83rd. It’s like being dropped into Katmandu, with a white stupa overlooking the street, a meditative side garden with Buddha sculptures, and prayer wheels. Elaine Womack wanders past the temple, saying she appreciates the less busy street as a way to get around on her electric bike. “I don’t worry as much about cars.” The slower pace is also better suited to sight-seeing, “I discover more than I would otherwise,” she says.

Walking farther north, past Fred Meyer, the city gives way to a more rural feel with lots of trees and no sidewalks. Out of nowhere, a large patch of green appears, Sandel Park, with a well-appointed playground for kids, basketball court, vast expanse of grass, and sheltering, shady trees. Walking the route, NancyEllen Regier says she enjoys its easy-going ambiance. “It feels like a community, with families, kids in strollers. It’s easy to talk to strangers.”

Graph showing respondents in favor of making Greenwood's Stay Healthy Street permanent.

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) online survey results regarding the Greenwood Stay Healthy Street. Chart by SDOT.

Most people apparently agree with her. In a 2021 SDOT survey, more than 80 percent of respondents said they favored making First Avenue Northwest a permanent Stay Healthy Street in the neighborhood. But not everyone is a fan.

John Read, who lives on a corner of the street, is vehemently against it. “People don’t pick up their dog poop and kids are playing ball in the middle of the street. My wife’s home office faces the street and the noise just never stops,” he says. “It’s not necessary and a waste of money.” Although Seattle resident Jane Irwin likes the idea of Stay Healthy Streets, she is concerned about people becoming complacent to existing traffic, especially children. In spite of signs that read “Street Closed. Local Access Only,” she’s noticed that cars still cut through. “And garbage trucks, delivery trucks, local cars can drive there while kids play and ride bikes. The kids dart out in the street as if it’s a park, and it’s not. That worries me.”

Rabbit-shaped garden art.

This one-eared rabbit sculpture is part of a yard filled with garden art creatures. Photo by Connie McDougall. 

Heading north toward the end at Northwest 100th, garden art and lush landscaping provide an entertaining backdrop to the hike. One front yard features a variety of animal sculptures including a charming one-eared rabbit. Another home has a red smoke tree, with its fuzzy foliage. At the very end of the street, a woman tending her garden says it’s been a welcome reprieve having less traffic during the pandemic, making way for walkers and bikers. “It’s drawn my neighbors closer together and that’s been wonderful.”

SDOT continues to invite comments about how to enhance and improve Greenwood’s Stay Healthy Street. Email SDOT at [email protected]. For more information and updates, visit stayhealthystreets.org.