On the northern tip of Mercer Island and in the middle of Seattle's Lake Washington lies 77-acre Luther Burbank Park.
With a wealth and diversity of amenities, Luther Burbank Park features four tennis courts, a massive concrete playground, two designated dog off-leash parks (one for large dogs and one for small dogs), a designated swimming area and beach, a boat dock and marina, native freshwater wetlands, and acres of well-maintained waterfront lawn that is perfect for a picnic or an evening sunset at Calkins Point.
The land was originally homesteaded by Charles C. Calkins (hence Calkins Point) in 1887, but by 1901 the land was sold to what would eventually be known as the Parental School, a boarding school for kids in need of parental care. Run by Willis Rand, the school was based on a program of farm work and study, where "an hour was spent every day by the boys making an effort to 'get back to the soil.'" The brick dormitory that now houses the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department Administration offices was constructed in 1929, and two years later the school's name was changed to Luther Burbank School after the world-renowned horticulturist from Santa Rosa, California. Burbank was famed for his experiments in plant breeding, hybridization, and grafting, all efforts to improve the quality of plants and in turn to improve the world food supply. Over his career, Burbank introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants. The State of Washington acquired the site in 1957, and the school was moved to Preston, Washington, where it eventually closed in 1966. The land was then purchased by King County in 1969 and officially operated and maintained by the City of Mercer Island until 2003.
Note: Lifeguards are on duty at the swimming area between late June and Labor Day, seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., though dates may vary slightly depending on seasonal weather. The group picnic areas and amphitheater can be reserved by calling the City of Mercer Island at 206.275.7873. The park is also located adjacent to the Mercer Island Community and Event Center.