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.


  1. I hate that people think that a playground is a good place for their dog to crap. I can't let my daughter run around or play there. It's sad that the nearby owners feel such entitlement to a public area.

    Their dogs show what their feelings are about allowing the general public to use a local park.

    Open up the park to the water, but make the safety improvements to the lakefront. Make a separate dog park off to the sides so kids don't have to dodge dog poop on their way to the water.

  2. I say tear the fence down, sooner the better! Many of the people who are raising 'safety' issues are doing so because they don't want any change, particularly anything that will attract more outsiders to Madison Park. Secretly (or not) they think 'Oh, if only Madison Park could break away from Seattle and be its own town, put up a fence, and charge admission to its parks, or just keep people out!' For me, the more people and diversity, the merrier.

  3. I'm with you, Anonymous 4:21! I hope you'll be at the meeting tonight (although I don't think the rest of us are invited on the chartered bus).
    You said it all: The more people and diversity, the merrier.

  4. It's time that parking permits be granted to residents of Madison Park if this park is to be opened without the fence. It will cost money to remove the fence and to create a beach (which is truly what they want but are not telling). They always have money for themselves (our money, not theirs) and for their political projects.

  5. Tear the fence down. Public park, public shore, public access.

  6. Benjamin: Occupy Madison Park! Why not? No need to earn anything if you can take it from others. Any considerations for local residents and children? Don't think you care.

  7. It appears that the time has arrived for the 1% who control Madison Park to consider making Madison Park a gated community. This would enable the control of who enters and who leaves.

    If this doesn't work may I suggest that we close our Madison Park beach, install rocks and a fence since this would keep out the undesirables that the 1% don't want in the park.

    Think of it, no noise, plenty of parking and only the people we want using our businesses. Maybe we should also consider not having bus service into Madison Park either, thus keeping out more undesirables.

    These suggestions are not in jest and are in line with a previous Blog “Lesser Madison Park”

    So if you’re part of the 99% who don’t run Madison Park, speak up or don’t complain when Lesser Madison Park becomes reality, if it isn’t already! Remember that the 1% bused people opposed to any changes to the recent hearing on removing the North Beach fence.

  8. Well, the bus needs to come down to McGilvra Blvd at least, so my maid and nanny can get to work.

  9. Here is a picture of the attendees at the recent Parks Department meeting about the North Beach fence removal:

    So are these the 1% who are attempting to represent Madison Park?

  10. Check out Madison Park from the north, pre-SR520 (“Evergreen Floating Bridge”), June 1938, at It’s when the area which is now Madison Park North park land, was Seattle’s “little Everglades;” full of mosquitoes, rats and other water-born bugs. Note the upper-left portion of this pre-SR520 bridge photo of Madison Park, depicted from the north and just below the old Seattle-Kirkland ferry boat; the comma-shaped cove, with land just a smidgen of what's now Mad. Pk. N. (back then, Seattle's version of “Swamp Thing”).

    Persons from the neighborhood when they were kids some 60 years ago say the Madison Pk. N. area was swamp until the land was purchased by the developer of the mid-rise being built about 40 yrs. ago on what's now the southern border of Madison Pk. N. The land was also made fit for a park, in part by adding lots of fill (soil, fish heads and other crap) to the new park, and by piling boulders, called rip rap, on the new waterline of the land. The rip rap was installed in an effort to keep the new park from flooding, and to allow grass to grow.

    Coincidentally, around that time, there was a young child who drowned in the lake. So there was concern about this new park not being an easy place for drownings, given the installation of the rip rap (the boulders) The rip rap was seen as potentially a challenge for swimmers; perhaps another kid would drown. To make the park safe, the fence was added since Madison Park North wouldn't have a simple beach like the other waterfront park in Madison Park. The rip rap was installed to help prevent flooding in the park, too.

    SO: if the rip rap is damaged, the park could be harmed. And if the fence is removed, the rip rap could be harmed. And there's concern of human life being harmed, too.

    If the city had the money (and it appears it doesn't), there are better ways to develop the park with an open beach. Perhaps there are ways to develop a better beach with volunteers, (e.g. Conservation Corp, Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts) directed by the Park & Rec. dept. staff who'd know how to do a better shoreline rather than simply removing the fence so the park would be a safer place to swim. And the park could also be safe for non-motorized, single & double-person water craft, e.g. paddle boarders and sea kayakers (currently barred from using Madison Park when a lifeguard is present).

    A great University of Minnesota site on best practices for managing shorelines is at It’d be best if the shoreline wasn’t disrupted by any thing or creature harming the rip rap (“natural resources speak” for large rocks placed along the shore to deter erosion). That is, the rip rap shouldn’t be harmed UNTIL the city has the resources available, either through city revenues or through in-kind donations by a group or company, to renovate Madison Park North so it's not flood-prone, has less risk of life, and can be supervised so that it's not a problem for the adjacent neighbors trying to live as comfortably as you and I would want to if we had a park next door to us.

  11. Wow. For a bit more reason why the fence and the stone border (what the city now deems "rip rap") was installed in the 1940s by the city (what was then called the "north shorelands area") before it became Madison Park North, go to

    There you'll find one of the many incredible diary entries by Don Sherwood, who was a city parks engineer for a large part of the 20th century.

    In this entry about Madison Park's park history, he wrote in 1963:
    "With the concurrence of the community, play apparatus was installed in the north shorelands area, with lawn space available for children's games, protected from the lake by the still-present

    And his drawings depict the north shorelands area, including the rocks (rip rap) and the fence, designed for children's protection.

  12. "Occupy Madison Park! Why not? No need to earn anything if you can take it from others. Any considerations for local residents and children? Don't think you care. "

    Hey, "Anonymous," a couple of things:

    1) I grew up in the neighborhood. I don't live there anymore, but family does. So I don't think you can accuse me of trying to take anything from anybody else.

    2) "Take it from others?" It already belongs to the public. Nothing is being taken away from anyone. It's not a private park, much as you'd like to think it is.

    Yes, we need to keep safety in mind. And yes, the local residents should be taken into consideration. But it's not their park. It belongs to all of us. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Like I've said elsewhere—if you want a gated community, Broadmoor is just a few blocks away.

  13. I was embarrassed to see the bullying behaviour of some of the speakers at the parks board meeting, where educated, refined, cultured gentlemen behaved like boorish cave men (did not see similar behaviour from any women). They threatened to withhold their votes in any future parks levies, they threatened to put a hex on any parks people or commissioners who voted to take down the fence, they personally disparaged and denigrated a parks dept. employee. It was reminiscent of the behaviour of a two-year old during a tantrum. Send them all to the corner until they learn to play with others.

  14. The last post is so correct in that the 1% have use their "bullying behavior" to get what we want and it has worked for years. It enables them to control what happens in Madison Park by attacking anyone who dares to speak up. This control extends to the MPCC and to any new ideas that people may dare to propose.

    The only way things get done is through activities like Friends of the Park that redid the Park several years ago!

    Nothing will change until the 99% realize that the 1% status quo won't work. We are a really a gated community, we just don't have a formal gate at Lk Wash Blvd yet!

  15. I'm no expert, but maybe the reason the 1% always win, is because they get involved and the 99% just sit on the sideline (or in blogs)and complain about the 1%.

    Every one of you has the right to join the MPCC. How many of you have? One percent? Every one of you had the right to go the meeting at the City. How many of you did? One percent? Every one of you has the right to propose creative solutions to this problem, taking into account both sides' needs. How many have done that? One percent?

    As long as the so-called 99% base their existence in being weak and powerless, that is what they will always stay, both in Madison Park and on a national scale. Want to bring down the fence. Join the MPCC and start proposing solutions that get you what you want, while giving them the security they want. Go and threaten to never vote for another parks levy or sitting council person as long as you live. Do SOMETHING besides nothing.


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