Monday, September 19, 2011
More waterfront access for Madison Park?
City rethinking longstanding approach
Longtime Madison Parkers can remember a time when the "Swingset Park" at E. Lynn St. and 43rd Avenue E. was a lovely, sand-filled beach providing year-round access to Lake Washington. Somewhere along the way, however, the City decided to replace the sand with riprap and ultimately concluded that topping the whole thing off with a chain-link fence was a wonderful idea. What was once a favorite neighborhood beach became, instead, a waterfront park without water access. In fact, according to the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation, it is the only piece of park shoreline in the entire City that is not accessible to the water.
Why this was allowed to happen is not obvious, and the Parks Department has been unable to provide us with an explanation. What we did learn today, however, is that the City is seriously looking at reversing course and seeking a way to provide public access to Lake Washington at the E. Lynn site. According to Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter, a "briefing paper" has been prepared on the subject, which will soon be presented to a meeting of the Parks Board.
The catalyst for all of this, apparently, is a "citizen request" made by an open-spaces activist, Patrick Doherty, who wrote an interesting opinion piece concerning our little park on the Daily Journal of Commerce's "SeattleScape" blog in August ("Why is the City Fencing Off the Shoreline in Madison Park?"). Doherty states in his posting that he was told that the residents of Madison Park do not want the beach restored (though who told him that is unclear). "Well, excuse me," he exclaims, "but Lake Washington shoreline is a precious, very finite commodity and public ownership and use of any part of that commodity is not the sole province of the nearby neighbors."
A reader of this blog sent us the link to Doherty's opinion piece when it appeared last month and suggested that we look into the matter. The Parks Department did not at that time respond to our request for comment. Today we learned, however, that SeattlePI.com is working on a story about the City's possible new stance regarding the E. Lynn Park. As noted, the Parks Department has now acknowledged as much.
Some MPB readers may recall that several years ago the neighborhood activist group, Historic Madison Park, raised the same issue that Doherty has now claimed as his own: Give Us Our Waterfront Access! But the group's numerous suggestions for potential "improvements" to Madison Park were met with reactions ranging from outrage to indifference. The stiff opposition of many in the Madison Park "establishment" to HMP's ambitions ultimately was the death knell for the group, which ultimately gave up its efforts and disbanded out of frustration, anger, and recrimination. Or at least that's the way we remember it.
At any rate, that inside-Madison Park group was ineffective in getting what Doherty has apparently accomplished from the outside: a City review of a decision that was made decades ago and may not be the appropriate one for today's Madison Park.
We have been promised that when the 'briefing paper" is slated for a Parks Board agenda, it will be made available to us. Hopefully, it will not only make recommendations concerning the E. Lynn park but will also include the history of the site and the rationale for closing it off to public access.
This just in: The Parks Department staff will be asking the Madison Park Community Council for some time at its October 3 meeting to discuss the "Madison Park North Beach" fence removal, according to Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter. The Board of Park Commissioners will be briefed by staff on the issue at its November 3 meeting, and a public hearing will also be held. The Board is expected to discuss the issue at its December 8 meeting and then make a recommendation to the Superintendent. Apparently the issue at hand is simply removing the fence, not restoring the beach, however.
More to follow.
[Upper photo courtesy of Windermere Real Estate, used without permission. Satellite photo from GoogleEarth.]