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Recently restored Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland has rich history | Our Parks

Juanita Beach bathhouse and dance hall, seen in the late 1920s. The structures visible at far left are located at Shady Beach. - Courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society
Juanita Beach bathhouse and dance hall, seen in the late 1920s. The structures visible at far left are located at Shady Beach.
— image credit: Courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society

Juanita Beach is likely the most historic property owned by the City of Kirkland, yet today, despite its deep roots, it has an all new feel and look.

Kids during the 1920-30’s used to find arrowheads and spear points at what is now the north end of the park, which suggests native habitation from pre-history. Prior to 1916, Lake Washington was nine feet deeper and the land south of Juanita Drive was submerged.

In 1870, a 19-year-old logger named Martin Hubbard staked his 160-acre homestead claim on Juanita Bay and built his crude cabin on the site of Juanita Village development.

In 1877, Dorr and Eliza Forbes of Iowa came to Juanita Bay’s shore with their children and later purchased some of Hubbard’s claim for use as their home and a shingle mill on Juanita Creek. Their original house from the mid-1880s burned, but their second home, built in 1905, still stands on the park property, adjacent to the baseball field.

Lake Washington’s 1916 lowering revealed considerable land on shallow Juanita Bay. Unlike most of the lake shore, instead of smelly goo, Juanita Bay’s northern shore was sandy, thanks to millennia of deposits courtesy of Juanita Creek and its tributaries.

Forbes’ adult son, Leslie “Les” and his wife Alicia decided to turn the property into a privately operated bathing beach, so in 1921 Les Forbes’ Juanita Beach was born.

The original Juanita Beach was a small piece of the Forbes property at the east edge of today’s park, later two other private beaches were created to the west, Sandy and Shady beaches, though they were later consolidated and operated as Shady Beach.

The 1920-40’s were a busy time for the beaches at Juanita. Summers brought throngs of bathers from Seattle and outlying areas. Bath houses, dance halls, concessions, rental cabins and other amenities contributed to Juanita as a summer resort community. In 1956 Juanita and Shady beaches were sold to King County and the entire property was renamed Juanita Beach Park.

By the 1990’s the park had fallen into disrepair and was overpopulated with waterfowl, whose feces had created serious water quality concerns. King County transferred the property to the City of Kirkland in 2002 and that began a new, positive chapter in the Juanita Beach story.

Over the next few years a master plan for the park was developed and extensive renovations began, with the park reopening in 2011. It boasts 21.94 acres and about 1000 lineal feet of Lake Washington waterfront.

Current features include: swimming beach, picnic tables, kids’ playground, public dock, fishing area, beach volleyball, restrooms/changing rooms-closed in the winter, lighted tennis courts, little league ball fields, a new Juanita Creek nature area, open lawn areas, horseshoe pits and the historic Forbes House. The new Juanita Neighborhood Association is currently working with the city to place several historic signs in the park to inform visitors of its amazing past.

Directions

The park is located at 9703 N.E. Juanita Drive and is handicapped accessible. From I-405 north, take Exit 20A. Go west on N.E. 116th Street. At 100th Avenue N.E. continue west on Juanita Drive. Turn left at 97th N.E. into Juanita Beach Park.

From I-405 south, take Exit 20. Go west on N.E. 124th Street. Turn left on 100th Avenue N.E. Turn right on Juanita Drive. Turn left at 97th N.E. into Juanita Beach Park.

Matthew McCauley is a third-generation Kirklander and author of "A Look To The Past: Kirkland." He is also a Kirkland Heritage Society board member.

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