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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

April 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

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North Aurora seniors lobby for sidewalks

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

richardone042710m.jpg

April, 27, 8:04 a.m. [Click on sketch to view larger]

You may remember Richard Dyksterhuis. I sketched the retired school principal last year during a clean-up work party along Aurora Avenue.

Dyksterhuis, 83, has been gathering community support and contacting city officials numerous times to call attention to the lack of sidewalks on his street near Bitter Lake. "Between 800 and 1,200 low income elderly live in the Linden Avenue area," said Dyksterhuis, who wants to make it into a complete neighborhood street where his peers can walk or use their wheelchairs safely.

"There's a lot of old guys down there. I want to see something done in my lifetime," said Dyksterhuis. "When you are in your 80s, there's not much time to wait."

The stretch of Linden Avenue North near Bitter Lake runs parallel to Aurora Avenue in northwest Seattle between 128th and 145th streets. It is part of what Dyksterhuis likes to call LOST Northwest, the Lesser Outer Seattle Territories -- the portion of Seattle from 85th Street to 145th Street that was annexed by the city in the 1950s.

After coffee and a sketch, I walked along Aurora Avenue with Dyksterhuis as I did last year.

Everything looks pretty much the same. "We've been annexed to Seattle since 1954 and it's unchanged," said Dyksterhuis pointing to the lack of sidewalks. At 130th Street he would like to see a pedestrian-controlled traffic light installed so people can have a direct east to west connection. Senior citizens on wheelchairs are now forced to go south, east and back north again to get to the other side of Aurora Avenue. "It's what I call the senior shuffle," said Dyksterhuis.

At the same intersection, opportunity for change has opened since two car dealerships have gone out of business and the big lots have been put up for sale. "I want you to find a developer with a heart, compassion, sense of beauty and commitment to social change," said Dyksterhuis, who envisions a residential complex with 18-story apartment towers on both corners, and European-style plazas with small businesses. "It would help transform Aurora Avenue North."

lindenavesidewalk042810m.jpg

April, 28, 7:56 a.m. [Click on sketch to view larger]

Back to Linden Avenue, Dyksterhuis has some improvements to talk about. A 100-foot stretch of gravel and potholes has been asphalted and a line painted on the pavement to mark the path for pedestrians. Further north, bewteen 143rd and 145th streets, an 8-foot-wide sidewalk was built last fall, three years after Dyksterhuis and other neighborhood activists got Mayor Nickels to pay a visit and the project was included in the city's budget.

"It's s hard to get politicians' attention," said Dyksterhuis, who got neighbors to sign a petition, wrote emails and did follow up calls to draw attention to the 3/4 mile-stretch of Linden Avenue that falls within city limits.

"You got to get them to walk the street. you don't really get it until you get them to walk the street," he said. Seniors and people on wheelchairs can now access the post office and shopping areas safely using the new sidewalk.

"It's slow progress, but it's progress," said Dyksterhuis, who plans to hire a band when the street is complete to do a big celebration. "We'll dance and walk and skip and jump," he said.

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