By Zoe Harris
During the early twentieth century, Seattle residents would take the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet to enjoy long summer days sunbathing in Burien’s Three Tree Point. On our walk together, Burien native and president of WABI Burien, Maureen Hoffmann highlights these once vacation cabins, now dwarfed by their newer neighbors, and laments that today her hometown is often dismissed by outsiders. As we stroll along the Indian Trail, passing views of Vashon Island and the Olympics, it is easy to see why travelers once flocked to this beautiful area.
Maureen has one foot in the Northwest and one in Italy: she wears hiking boots and a yellow rain slicker paired with a black beret and stylish neck scarf. Her roots run deep in Burien. We walk by the street leading to her childhood home and she is on a first name basis with nearly every person we see. Yet her love of walking developed while living car-free in Milan. Maureen’s sense of permanence, coupled with her international perspective, were driving forces in the creation of WABI Burien.
WABI Burien is both an advocacy and event based organization and has also recently worked to support the economic vitality of downtown Burien. Since the organization’s inception, Maureen has organized a Walk-n-Talk the first Sunday of each month. Because this past Sunday’s walk coincided with the Seahawks game, she connected with local businesses so walkers had a place afterward to eat and watch the Super Bowl. After hearing Maureen’s proposal, local restaurant The Greek House decided to open for the day and even put together a special menu! Maureen has also connected with local businesses through the installation of bike racks and now starts her walks in the Burien town square, knowing that foot traffic supports the local economy.
We walk out her front door, cross the street and turn into a narrow, unmarked path that takes us along the backside of waterfront homes. Neighbors are charged with maintaining the path, so each ten feet has a different feel. The experience reminds me of “the right to roam” in England. For Maureen, inclusivity is paramount — she has encountered resistance to leading walks here from neighbors wishing to maintain more privacy, yet continues to share this wonderful trail with others.
Maureen was visibly giddy when we began our walk and even more so as we neared the end. “I just love this feeling [of walking],” she explains and “want to put it in a bottle to give to people.” For now, she is content organizing walks so that other people can experience this feeling too.