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 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.]


  1. How an update to a brand new posting while it is still brand new? Anyway, the lore I have heard is that the fence was put up due to some safety issues with people desperately wanting to not only look at the water, but swim in it, and the tall, jagged rockery. In other words, it was an anti-stupidity measure.

    UPDATE: Stupidity has not declined since the fence was put up.

  2. This is wonderful news. You recall correctly the Historic MP positive efforts to make this obvious change. The argument about safety was always bogus and is often used by Madison Park Old Gasbaggers (MPOGs) that don't want Anything to change ever in MP (like having a 'dangerous' bike path for instance). There are numerous places for stupid people to enter Lake WA and drown, including the Park Beach as we longtime residents recall.
    I urge folks who favor the new open beach plan to attend the October 3rd MPCC meeting and to speak up and to actively lobby the Parks Dept Board. Otherwise the MPOGs may prevail again; they are likely to be up and arms about this 'dangerous plan' and will need to be put in their place.

  3. In a word: YAYYYY!

  4. This is much ado about nothing. The fence needs to be replaced and it would be cheaper for them not to replace it. Don't get all romantic about sandy beaches. The City has no money and the most you're going to get out of this is a better view of the underside of the new 520 bridge. Enjoy.

  5. Since the city has no money, why don't they sell the park property so it can be replaced by more Condos? Even better, why not take the money to expand the current Madison Park beach area north to the currently unused East Madison Street end? So what do the MPOGs think about these ideas? The MPOGs status quo will eventually change in Madison Park whether they like it or not!

  6. It is confirmed that a Parks rep will attend the MPCC Oct. 3 meeting.
    So yayers and nayers are both welcome to attend and let your thoughts be heard.

  7. Why don't they rent the park out to rich venture capitalists like they did with that park on 39th?

  8. If they open up the park. I hope they fix the parking spots. Need to create more to handle the summer parking nightmare.

  9. I have lived in the Park for many years and have always liked that this Park is used more for residents of the neighborhood and locals, than further down at the Beach. Summer in the Park creates enough problems for the residents with crowds, crime and parking. I think it should be kept to what it is...a nice meeting place for neighbors away from the chaos. As homeowners, we pay outrageous taxes to live down would be nice to have some advantages because of that.

  10. This is great news. It's public shoreline and should be accessible. It's not a private park, "Anonymous" @ 9/22 11:54 a.m.

  11. You know what's sad? There are 10 comments prior to this one. One is Gail's, so she doesn't count. Of the nine others, only two of you will go to the meeting to actually contribute anything productive on this issue.

    The rest of you believe that you have already made your contribution to making the community a better place by typing your feelings about what you think about the outcome you imagine in your head. In other words, you have done nothing real for the community you obviously value so much. Is that what you strive for? Nothingness? We're going to need more from you.


  12. I am assuming the "eden" you describe was prior to 1951 because that is when the City took possession of the land from the county.

    They found the conditions so poor, a virtual underwater garbage dump, that they knew it could never be a beach. I think the sewer pump station and outfall came later to further muddy the water (get it?), but by that time, they had declared the land a playground, not a beach, put up a fence like they do around many playgrounds, and life went on.

    The reason it looks like a fenced-off beach is because it is really a playground next to the water and not a beach at all. You can't have kids playing on the playground falling into the lake, hence the fence. Hey, that rhymes!

  13. I got it! If the old Post-Intelligencer neon globe's not going to be a part of the new/old MOHAI in south Lake Union, move it to the North Madison Park shoreline, run an outlet for it so it can be plugged in offshore from the park so it'll be lit all the time, day or night, so that the kiddos of any age who'll likely want to climb on it can climb and 'cute to zitherines after the fence is torn down. That is, those who want can "get on the globe" (if they don't cut their ankle on the sharp rocks on the shoreline since there's no city funds to remove the rocks) can get their rocks off on cutting themselves! Yeah! That's the ticket!

  14. I've been here for years and have witnessed the goings on at that odd park.

    Moms and Dads and their children playing, neighbors meeting neighbors, dogs chasing frisbees, coaches coaching, students studying, readers reading, sunbathers bathing, walkers walking. It's a great little place here on 43rd Ave E. Say goodbye to it now.

    Go to the meeting if you want. The park next door as it exists is gone.

  15. You speak glowingly about the little park and the goings-on there, but I have to question how important it really is to you if you are so quick to just write it off without even trying to have a say in what, if anything happens. You like the park. Go and have some say in what happens.

    Rest assured that nothing dramatic is going to happen to the park. It would cost millions of dollars to fashion an accessible beach at this location and shoreline development of any kind is almost impossible due to regulation. The city will not compromise on safety. Trust me that those who have visions of wading and swimming here are going to end up far more disappointed than those who want the fence left in place.

  16. Yay..finally beach access. All you rich uptight people who feel the need to protect something that is everyones to enjoy need to get a reality check or move somewhere else. THE FENCE IS COMING DOWN !!!

  17. I'm just sitting on a fence about this. Just can't decide.

  18. You don't read carefully, do you? There is no beach and taking down the fence only moderately increases access.

    But, if you want to scale the rockery and drop into several feet of water and swim around in the sewer outfall, enjoy!!


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