The beautiful Mapes Creek flows through several parks in South Seattle — including Kubota Garden — before it flows into Lake Washington, where it provides shoreline habitat for migrating salmon. But about half the restored creek is hidden underground in pipes, and this half happens to reside in low-income neighborhoods.
Since he landed in the Rainer Beach neighborhood four years ago, Seattle photographer Edward Landreth has documented the disparity in access to one of South Seattle’s hidden natural gems, as recounted in the short film, “The Silent Creek.”
“If you don’t have money, you don’t have a voice,” Landreth contends in the film.
At Lake Washington Apartments, for example, a housing community densely populated by East African immigrants, nobody can see the creek, and the ground above has trash and graffiti. And since the rainwater doesn’t flow into the pipe, it gathers in ditches at the surface where mosquitos breed.
Landreth hopes Mapes Creek can be brought to the surface in these areas so that all in the neighborhood can enjoy it. To show contrast between the experiences at different creek access points, he snaps photos of people along different parts of the creek: those at the park enjoying it in its natural form, and those who are avoiding the more hazardous sections of the creek where it flows through the pipes.
Though he doesn’t have any immediate plans to showcase his photography, he does to share his photos in an essay format with as many neighborhood stakeholders as possible in the next couple of months to draw attention to issue of creek access.
“Then by the time Earth Day comes around on April 22nd, when the city takes its next step with the Equity & Environment Initiative, the Mapes Creek essay will be fresh in people’s minds and available for reference, advocacy, and inspiration in bringing more attention and dollars from the city to Rainier Beach,” Landreth explained.