Rotary View Point Park stands as one of West Seattle Rotary’s most visible community projects. Even today, the Totem Pole serves as our club symbol and a great focal point for all of West Seattle to enjoy.
Located at the intersection of SW Alaska and 35th Ave SW, the park overlooks the West Seattle Golf Course and offers sweeping views of Downtown Seattle, the Cascades and Elliott Bay.
Dominating the park is an eighteen foot totem pole, carved in 1976 by Robin Young, a Native American artist who learned his craft from Northwest carvers. Traditional Northwest Native symbols on pole include the “Thunderbird”, the “Whale”, the “Beaver”, and the “Raven”.
Rotary View Point Park was once just another piece of city-owned property, overgrown by weeds and a depository for discarded cans and refuse. In the early 1970’s, voices of protest were heard by Norm Beers, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce Executive and longtime Rotarian. He challenged our club to do something about it.
Rotarians stepped up, and during the ensuing years plans began to unfold, resulting in one of the most colorful view points in the city.
The View Point Park project was completed and formally presented to the City of Seattle in August 1976, before a large assemblage of civic dignitaries and community citizens.
Over the next 30 years, the pole was maintained by club members and park staff. About 1982 the pole required some paint and refurbishing which was done by a local volunteer. Ten years later Parks removed the totem pole to refurbish & fortify the base. While it was down Rotarian Jack Henderson rebuilt and attached all missing and broken parts. Jack (and his wife, Pat) repainted the entire pole before it was again put in place at a special ceremony on the 24th of Nov. 1992.
TOTEM POLE THEFT & RESTORATION
In late 2009, the totem pole went missing from the park! After some detective work by WS Rotarians, including Ken Wise and Duane Ruud, police recovered the pole in Oregon and returned it to Seattle. The pole sat for six months while legal issues were sorted out.
Prosecutors settled with the individual responsible for the theft in late spring of 2010, including funds directed to West Seattle Rotary to restore the pole and return it to the park. Artech, a northwest based art restoration firm completed a full cleaning, repainting and installation under the direction of our club.
On a sunny evening in August of 2010, a hundred community members and local Rotarians gathered for a re-dedication celebration. Leaders of the Duwamish tribe and members of the Haida Tribe participated with song, drumming and stories. Rotary Past President Amy Lee Derenthal, shared the story of our club’s efforts to find, restore and reinstall the Totem Pole. She also spoke of Rotary’s Four Way Test, our guide to make something right & fair for all concerned, even in this difficult situation.
(A thorough history of the 2009-2010 events can be found by searching “Totem Pole” at the West Seattle Blog.)
THE PARK TODAY
Our club continues to work with Seattle Parks, keeping the pole and the park maintained.
Sadly, Ken Wise (longtime Rotarian who helped with the original project and finding the missing pole) passed away shortly after the pole was re-installed in 2010. The Wise family installed a new picnic table at the park in Ken’s honor the following year.
We hope you stop by, look over the amazing artisanship of the Totem Pole, have a picnic at Ken’s table, and see how West Seattle Rotary continues to build community through service.