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September 4, 2011

David Berger

by ebmeier

David Berger“I am inspired by a moral aesthetic toward improving things in the world and my family has a tradition to do volunteer work. My grandmother was always a big volunteer in her community. She always said, Service is the price you pay for the air you breathe.


Activities:

Project leadership toward outcomes, park advocacy, native plant steward, arts advocacy.

Projects:

Mount Baker Ridge Viewpoint Park, Bradner P-Patch community garden.

Why I Volunteer:

I feel an obligation to the greater society, you want to make a contribution back to the society that has nurtured you. Also, building community — volunteer work helps with that. In community, there is a sense of coming together, in an old fashioned way. It is rewarding as well as has pains.

It is rewarding to see things that are important getting achieved. You meet people in the trenches and achieve these things together and that is fun. It can be small, but it is positive. In dark times, light a match.

If you want to get involved in your community, just go to a meeting for any project and hold on! I would say, stay close to home because your commitment will stay happier if you do so. You will be able to sustain it over time. There is plenty going on in every neighborhood with parks, social justice, and mentoring. There are multiple opportunities to take advantage of anybody’s skill set or interests.

Inspirations:

I am inspired by a moral aesthetic toward improving things in the world and my family has a tradition to do volunteer work. My grandmother was always a big volunteer in her community. She always said, “Service is the price you pay for the air you breathe.” I don’t think capitalism pulls it all together as far as a well-rounded society. And you probably wouldn’t want to look to Government, per se, for everything either. So, both the conservative free market thing and the liberal government thing have their place and their problems. I think there is certainly room for citizen initiative — non governmental organizations.

His Story:

I am currently working with the Mount Baker Ridge Viewpoint Project that is a park project in a neighborhood commercial district directly on top of the I-90 tunnel. In 1999, myself and others got this idea that this should be a park. We were not the first to think that this land should be a park — it is a logical thing for the neighborhood. That is what makes the City’s Neighborhood Matching Fund such a wonderful structure. Neighbors, foot soldiers on the ground, can think about some of the things that are needed and give that fine grained analysis, apply for money and make it happen, if you are lucky. In 1999, the land was owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. It was right in the heart of this small, neighborhood commercial district. And, it’s got a fabulous view, to the west it overlooks downtown, Elliott Bay, the mountains and stretches from Beacon Hill to Queen Anne. People come there to watch the sunset, the moonrise, and the fireworks.

We started writing petitions for Washington State Department of Transportation and began a review process on the property and at the same time, talked with the City of Seattle to buy the property. We persevered and in the end, the ProParks Opportunity Fund expressed interest in the project. In January 2003, a 5000+ sq ft. piece of land was set aside and purchased by the city for the park. In 2004, we applied for grants to begin the design process. We had four community meetings that were well attended. At the end of that, we had a wonderful design that we were very happy with and we then developed a collaboration with the community and the Seattle Parks Department. Since then, we have been fundraising. We have raised about $400K and we need to raise about $200K more. It is expensive because it is on a steep slope and it is environmentally sensitive.

There are a lot of people working on this project. When ordinary citizens come together, they can make a big difference. I am so proud of everybody that has helped; it has been a group effort. The group who put on our auction last year, is still tired. But we raised $30,000 and it is excellent that a community group did this in its first year. You can’t do it without a group of people.

Parks and open space is important and an issue I am personally involved in. Parks and gardens contribute to livability and they represent a social or civilization aspiration. I am enthralled by the hanging gardens of Babylon. Gardens to me are a significant achievement of civilization. It is part of what makes us human or humane. That is part of what interests me. The way Seattle has developed, we have a decentralized park in every neighborhood. People feel pressured, they see open space leaving, and they feel compelled and interested in considering parks.

In the case of the Mount Baker Viewpoint Park, I hope others feel the same way, that this park was the right thing to do with this piece of property. It was clearly the highest and best invested use. Not another, cheap, million dollar house that would block the view forever. I think it was like a moral sense, or an aesthetic sense. Those are both important motivations for me. You look at some things and there is a right and a wrong. And if you feel powerfully, you know which is right. I felt powerfully enough to be inspired to work to make it happen. I think other people shared that. You look at it, you go there and you see — yes, this is right. Because of that, we got a lot of support. We showed people the pictures and the plans and the situation made sense. I think that is part of the reason it was a success.

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