Parks historian recalls legacy of Edmonds’ waterfront parks during Saturday tour

Bill Phillips was a member of the Edmonds Parks Board from 1960 to 1979. During these years he played key roles in acquiring waterfront property from private interests and turning these into public spaces for future generations of Edmonds citizens. (Photos by Larry Vogel)

On Saturday morning, former high school science teacher and Edmonds Parks Board member Bill Phillips led a group of more than a dozen interested citizens on a tour of Edmonds’ waterfront parks, a legacy he played a key role in shaping during his 20 years on the Parks Board during the 1960s and ’70s.

Phillips talks with Keeley O'Connell, preservation ecologist who is working with various interests and stakeholders to restore the Edmonds Marsh as salmon habitat.
Phillips talks with Keeley O’Connell, preservation ecologist who is working with various interests and stakeholders to restore the Edmonds Marsh as salmon habitat.

Along the way, the 92-year-old Phillips regaled the group with stories of how the land that is now Brackett’s Landing was formerly home to a shingle mill, and how he and others worked with the shingle mill interests to acquire the land for a park.

“We first named it Sunset Park,” said Phillips, “but it was changed to recognize it as the place where Edmonds founder George Brackett first stepped out of his canoe. Personally, I wish we’d kept the name as Sunset Park.”

Phillips leads the group past Olympic Beach. "Our original name for this park was Dayton Beach," he told the group, "but it was re-named Olympic Beach in the early 1980s."
Phillips leads the group past Olympic Beach. “Our original name for this park was Dayton Beach,” he told the group, “but it was re-named Olympic Beach in the early 1980s.”

As the group moved along the waterfront beaches and marina, Phillips kept up a running commentary of how the waterfront evolved from an unbroken row of smokestacks and mills to the mix of park, public and marina space of today, and the key roles played by various former mayors, councilmembers and regular citizens without whom it wouldn’t have happened.

Phillips and former EWHS science teacher John Cooke.
Phillips and former EWHS science teacher John Cooke.

Phillips was joined by fellow former Edmonds-Woodway science teacher John Cooke, who used these parks extensively as an outdoor classroom with his biology students. The more his students learned about Edmonds’ shoreline and marsh areas, the more they wanted to do something to help preserve this for future generations. This gave rise to the current Students Saving Salmon group, which is playing an active role in the efforts now underway to re-open the Edmonds Marsh and its tributary creeks to spawning salmon (see My Edmonds News article here).

 

  1. So good to see pictures of John Cooke and Bill Phillips. Both great educators. Steve Pennington, EHS ’67

  2. Thank you so much for reporting this wonderful event. Yes, Bill Phillips is an amazing man and so considerate and always ready to volunteer his valuable time for any cause that would improve the lives of Edmonds residents! Thanks for sharing Bill.
    Rick and Kiki Bennett EHS’ 77

  3. Bill Phillips was my Chemistry teacher in the early 60s. I loved all the experiments and lab work we got to do in class. I didn’t stun with grades in that class, but it was one that i really enjoyed! Thank you!!!! Mr. Phillips . . . I’m glad you are still around to tell the tale!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing … Bill Philips is great person and has a special place in my heartheart. Class 76

  5. We need more Bill Phillips and John Cookes.. Can you imagine if our education system was filled with people like Bill and John? Bill’s enthusiasm inspired me as a student to dive in. Get involved and enjoy learning. Science was not my passion or direction in life, but Mr Cooke inspired and encouraged me to learn and to this day I use some science knowledge he taught to figure things out.
    Rock On EHS Educators. Your work is making a difference.

  6. Nice hat Dad! Go Huskies!
    I can’t imagine growing up in Edmonds with out access to the beach. While you were hard at work, Mom was able to take us to the waterfront to enjoy and learn about the Puget Sound.
    We needed a place to learn how to swim, so while we were at the beach, you were pushing to get a public swimming pool! Soon after we were swimming in warm water in Yost Park! EHS ’78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.