Courtesy photo
A Magnolia Girl Scout troop helping plant flowers in the new entrance way at Capehart Forest.
Courtesy photo A Magnolia Girl Scout troop helping plant flowers in the new entrance way at Capehart Forest.
It took a few decades and a lot of tree saplings, but the latest part of Discovery Park is open for visitors.

Capehart Forest, which has been under restoration since the early 2000s, is now open to the public with new hiking trails, sidewalks and more. The 30-acre section of the park used to be filled with more than 60 military homes owned by the Navy before it was purchased for $13 million by the City of Seattle in 2010, according to Friends of Discovery Park president Philip Vogelzang.

“It’s been an ongoing process, but this was the biggest chunk we needed to become part of the park,” Vogelzang said. “It was stated in 1974 that it needed to become part of the park, but the Navy had a mortgage on it, so they had to buy it.”

Vogelzang said a conversation about purchasing the parcel from the Navy started in 2001.

“We had a $5.8 million fund from a settlement case … and that money was slated for improvements of the park,” he said.

Vogelzang and a few other Friends of Discovery Park members created a council that focused on purchasing Capehart and other improvement projects. The group sent out letters to city officials, Magnolia leaders and many local groups to gather support for the project. Many groups sent letters in support of purchasing the site to Sen. Patty Murray.
“The first million dollars we put down as good-faith money to purchase Capehart,” Vogelzang said. “Patty Murray helped put all the money together and helped get the parcel purchased from the Navy.”
Friends of Discovery Park spent another $1 million to demolish the homes and tear up the pavement, power lines and other remnants of the neighborhood.

Friends of Discovery Park member David Hutchinson then went to work designing the park space. Hutchinson led the work on planting more than 10,000 native trees and shrubs in the area with a few other volunteers.

Vogelzang worked to get a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant for around $100,000 in 2018, and a local family donated another large sum of money to tear down the fencing and rebuild the fence line, and create a new trail system and sidewalk.

The Lindsey Brown Trail is 1,600 feet long and the Willow Trail is 500 feet.

“Lindsay Brown was a local resident who wanted to see this part of the park happen,” Vogelzang said. “She worked with us, but she passed away a few years later, so then her husband donated some money in her name. We named the trail after her in memorial.”

The best part of the improvements is the wildlife has returned, Vogelzang said.

“It’s been fun to watch that. Volunteers were worried that residents wouldn’t stay on the trail and scare the wildlife,” he said, “but so far our visitors have stayed on the sidewalks.”

The last touches to the park were created by a local Magnolia Girl Scout troop, which planted perennials along the new entrance and helped finish the fence line near the southeast portion of Capehart.

“We rebuilt the whole entrance; it was pretty fun,” Vogelzang said. “These kids even pitched in their cookie money. They donated $400 to the plant fund and we planted some beautiful irises … all these beautiful flower plants.”

The spot used to be a triangle piece of concrete, the last bit of the old military home site.

Friends of Discovery Park is celebrating the opening of Capehart Forest at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11. Volunteers, Friends of Discovery Park board members and city officials will present a few words and officially open the park.

The trails have been open since April 1, but Vogelzang said the celebration on May 11 is a way to honor the volunteers who put in the work to create a beautiful new space.

“The mayor may or may not be there,” Vogelzang said.

There will be an official ribbon cutting and refreshments for visitors.