Dottie Harper Park

421 SW 146th Street

Dottie Harper Park, adjacent to the Burien Community Center, is a 3.5 acre wooded park with mature second-growth firs, cedars, hemlocks, and native hardwoods. Sword ferns, salal, snowberry, oceanspray, red elderberry, Oregon grape, and other native species dominate the undergrowth. The park also features a remodeled playground, picnic space, amphitheater, and walking trails. Within walking distance of hundreds of apartments and single-family homes, the park provides a quiet place for strolling, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.

Park History

Dottie Harper Park lies on land once homesteaded by Homer Crosby, who came to the Highline area in 1907. Dottie Harper was a community activist, member of the Washington State Arts Commission, King County Arts Commission, and Historic Preservation Board, co-chairman of the Seahurst Park Committee, chairman of the Burien Bi-centennial Committee, City of Burien Councilmember and Chairman of the Burien Arts Committee. 

As a young woman, Dottie attended a missionary school in Shanghai and high school and college in California. She excelled in arts and crafts at San Diego State College, receiving so many requests to design and sew clothing that she went into business for herself.

Harper and her husband Paul settled near Lake Burien in 1949. She advocated for the to creation of more small parks, helping to get a park bond passed which funded Moshier Park. She led the fight to save Miller Creek from Highway 509 construction, helped found Highline Community College and the community’s first arts gallery.

On March 10, 1994 the deed for Burien Park, as it was known, was given to the city of Burien by King County. In 1995 the Burien City Council, recognizing Dottie Harper as “a guiding light in promoting parks, arts, recreation, and cultural programs passed an ordinance officially designating the 4.5-acre parcel as Dottie Harper Park.

Burien Park was officially renamed Dottie Harper Park in a ceremony on July 1, 1995 at the Burien Arts Gallery.

Adding Art to the Park

In the early 1970s, the landscape architect planning King County Park #10 asked Northwest artist and sculptor Richard Beyer to design playground equipment and a sculpture. Beyer is the creator of more than 75 commissioned sculptures throughout the world. His work “Waiting for the Interurban" in Fremont, is probably Seattle's most popular piece of public art. Beyer’s works in stone, bronze, aluminum, brick, and wood adorn and enliven many public places, including four bas-relief panels in Des Moines City Hall, and the bronze sculpture titled “The Big Catch” in Des Moines City Park.

Beyer’s main piece in Dottie Harper Park is a large cedar old growth stump from Snohomish County, signifying the Northwest's vanishing virgin forests. Beyer cleaned it and, adding more cedar pieces, carved life-sized figures encircling its base, in the artist’s words “dancing to bring it back to life.”

A unique drinking fountain was also made by running plumbing through a huge granite boulder with a sculpted frog adorning the spigot. Small buffalo made of laminated hardwood and mounted on pipes stand nearby, ready for children to ride. There was also a mathematical game with pebbles in carved cups in a cedar log. As of 1999, all of the pieces except the stump were deteriorated or in need of refurbishing. The cedar stump remained intact and “polished” from more than 25 years of children climbing on it.

Other artists use the park to create and display outdoor exhibits in conjunction with the Burien Arts-A-Glow Festival and other local events.

Former home of The Burien Arts Gallery

The Burien Arts Gallery had at one time been located in the blue house in Dottie Harper Park. It was a gathering point for the arts of the greater Burien area. The gallery promoted dance, painting, sculpting, ceramics, weaving, ballet, creative activities for children, acting, singing, youth and adult symphony, literary arts, book reviews, poetry, flower arranging, and local history and nature exhibits.

The all-volunteer non-profit organization known as the Burien Arts Association had used the gallery to primarily display and sell the works of local artists. The basement of the main building and the adjoining building (formerly a garage) were used as classrooms and workshops. The annual Strawberry Festival, which once took place in Dottie Harper Park, started as one of their small fundraisers and grew over the years to attract thousands of visitors, providing entertainment, refreshments, and interaction with local artists and vendors.

After 35 years, the Burien Arts Gallery relocated to downtown Burien. For more about the gallery and the Burien Arts Association, visit their website

The blue house is now managed by the Burien PaRCS department and is available to small nonprofit groups for meeting rentals.

Updated April 2, 2020