Thursday, November 3, 2011
Is this fence coming down?
Decision could come quickly
Tonight's the night when the staff of the Parks Department makes its recommendation to the Board of Park Commissioners that the fence at "Madison Park North Beach" be removed and public access to Lake Washington restored. Background on the site, known to most of us as either the Dog Park or Swingset Park, is contained in a briefing memo posted online last Friday. The memo also provides the rationale for the recommended change: "Removing the fence at North Beach would expand the opportunities available to the surrounding neighborhood to access the Lake Washington shoreline consistent with State and local policies."
Those residents of the "surrounding neighborhood" who live closest to Swingset Park, however, are the adjacent condo owners; and they don't seem to be particularly happy about the new "opportunities" that the fence removal might create for them. Apart from the safety-of-children issue, their apparent principal concerns are parking disruption and the noise and crowding that may result from increased park usage. It is rumored (and was reported today as a fact by The Seattle Times) that residents have chartered a bus to bring Madison Parkers to tonight's hearing. Local opposition to the fence's removal has been successful in the past, according to the briefing memo, which states that in 2003 a proposal to take the fence down was "shelved due to the volume of negative comments received."
Since the Parks Department staff acknowledges that the reason for the fence when erected was the safety of children, we asked what has changed since that time. According to spokesperson Dewey Potter, what's different now is a change in public attitudes. "Public awareness and interest in public spaces being open to the public is not the same as it was in 1945," she told us. The policy of providing maximum access to the the Lake Washington shoreline is what's driving the process this time.
Critics and proponents will have an opportunity to weigh in at tonight's meeting, which is being held in Park Board Room of the Parks Administration Building at Dexter Park (100 Dexter Avenue N.). The meeting begins at 7 pm. Information is available here.
Although the briefing memo states that the Parks Board will again deliberate the issue at a meeting in December, Potter told us that the Board could vote in favor at tonight's meeting. In that case, the Acting Superintendent, Christopher Williams, could agree to the recommendation and order that the fence be removed immediately, she says.