Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Lake Dirt Jumps: Urban Surface in Flux

Tera Hatfield

The jumps in Lower Woodland Park rise and bleed back into the earth with no clear edge within the dirt lot—their size and length are amorphous and change at various points of the year, almost like drifting sand dunes. These jumps were built illegally on underutilized park land ten to fifteen years ago and are the result of a minority group’s efforts to create a fluid, informal and adaptive urban space. Despite the city’s efforts to bulldoze the illegal construction, the jumps were rebuilt again and again by tenacious bikers. The city finally condoned the construction, but does not contribute to the funding or upkeep of the area.

Today, the jumps occupy a linear patch of land sandwiched between permanent, and formally programmed turf fields. Heavy winter rain reveals infrastructural artifacts of the urban landscape hidden within the body cavities of the jumps—concrete blockades, traffic cones, railroad ties, boulders and cords of wood. The jumps are a sculpted surface, an informal physical assemblage of the discarded and fragmented urban context. As a process landscape continually in flux, the jumps are always ready for visual and physical reinterpretation. One early morning, I observed young children absorbed in a fantasy that appropriated the fluctuating terrain in their play, possibly scrambling up the backs of dinosaurs and over the splintered hull of an upturned and sinking pirate ship.

The jumps are located west of the turf soccer fields that border Green Lake Way Avenue N. and south of the tennis courts and new skatepark complex.

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