(12:30 AM UPDATE: Adding our unedited video of the entire 2-hour meeting, immediately below)
-Standing room only, FCA estimates 250
-Parks reps say no decision made yet
-Go Ape rep there, but did not speak
-FCA presentation listed concerns including habitat destruction, tree removal
-In public comments, all but one speaker voiced opposition
-Timeline from Parks: Public meeting Aug. 11, Parks Board in Oct., recommendation Nov.
-Next meeting MoCA on 7/18; agenda here
BELOW: As-it-happened WSB coverage of the meeting:
(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB, added post-meeting)
FIRST REPORT, 7:08 PM: We’re at The Hall at Fauntleroy, where the first public presentation about the Go Ape zipline/rope-swing proposal for Lincoln Park (first reported here, on June 28th) is scheduled during tonight’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting.
(Lisa Hobson and 7-year-old Georgia, signing in before meeting began)
A standing-room-only crowd is filling the hall’s largest room; at least two TV crews are among the media who are here to cover it.
We’ll be updating live. More shortly.
7:12 PM: The agenda will start with the Parks presentation, followed by FCA’s presentation about the history of Lincoln Park, habitat protection, and “justice and the community impacts,” followed by an open comment period, and “summary and closing statements.” President Bruce Butterfield is introducing Charles Ng and Rebecca Salinas from Parks, and Chris Swallow from Go Ape (a few hissed, but there also was polite applause for all three). Now counting three TV crews.
Rebecca Salinas of Parks (photo left) speaks first, saying she hopes to achieve “providing you with accurate information about what Go Ape is and what it isn’t, but we’ve been allotted only 7 minutes, and I don’t think (that’s enough time).” She says August 11th, 11 am at Lincoln Park, is the likely date for a community meeting, ‘where we will actually chalk out the area we are considering.” That led to a loud round of boos and shouting. Butterfield asked the crowd to stop. Salinas repeats that they have been going through “internal processes” and is why they had not brought this to the public yet, and that they are “still going through internal processes.” They are looking at “doing a SEPA checklist” (state environmental policy act), she says, and “working with naturalists and natural resources unit, and there are some questions that need to be asked.” She says this will go to the Parks Board in October and that it will recommend to the Superintendent in November “whether to go ahead with the project or not.”
7:19 PM: Parks’ Charles Ng is now explaining “how we got to this point,” as Salinas put it. He first mentions the recession, “is it always about cuts, how can we be creative … we have been accused of being reactive… what’s out there that aligns with our core mission.” He mentions the Parks Partnership Policy (linked in our earlier stories). He also talks about the Parks webpage and the “Expression of Interest” process, and how they got to the point of looking at partnership with Go Ape, which he described as “environmentally friendly” (that drew some groans). Salinas has taken back the microphone and says they have spoken with other cities that have “high ropes courses,” and she mentions the “low ropes course that will have some high elements” at Camp Long. “We were told by Leon Younger [consultant behind this May 2012 report] … that this was coming – people want new ways of recreating, they want to recreate off the ground. It’s a new way of thinking,” she said, with some hisses after that. She mentions Rock Creek, MD, where there’s been a Go Ape course for
three two years, she says, talking about someone she talked with there, at the 1800-acre park, “he said he was leery of it … but now ‘I sound like I am an employee of Go Ape’,” she quoted him as saying. She also says she spoke with someone in Virginia. (So far there has been no presentation of what this is, but rather a sort of defense.) That person, she said, described Go Ape as “how public-private partnerships should work.” She stressed again that they hadn’t “made a decision,” but are doing “due diligence.”
7:24 PM: FCA board member Kim Petram is speaking now, saying that they “realized we had to act quickly” when they “learned of this 2 weeks ago.” She is presenting the history of Lincoln Park, which was originally known as Fauntleroy Park, renamed when the city bought it in 1922. She shows “what we do with the park today … we ride our bikes .. we run and jog … we play baseball .. we use the shelters with .. our families .. we hang out with our friends .. we might enjoy the waterfront and what it was to offer us.” She lists Frisbee, dog-walking, contemplation, YMCA day camps, and other park uses. She also mentions “We have a zipline already” – the small one by the playground. “And it’s a habitat already for many, particularly birds.” That gets loud applause. She says there are five points they are worried about – starting with habitat, the irreversibility of tree removal, habitat destruction, and more. Barbara Webster is asked to speak next. She is a West Seattle resident, a master birder who leads field trips for Audubon. She says she is speaking about “why a zipline course in some of the most densely forested area is a bad idea.” She notes that zipline videos online include no birdsong.
As Trileigh Tucker’s bird photos play on the screen behind her, she talks about the habitat in the area of the park where this is being proposed. She says 82 species are on the list for Lincoln Park, with more than 35 of them regularly nesting there. “They need this forest for feeding, for breeding,” she says. And there are seldom-seen birds that rely on the park too, she adds. She says there are also birds that pass through the park and rely on it as a place to rest. … “There is nothing wrong with wanting another form of outdoor entertainment, but it needs to be in a different setting where the impact on the birds is not so much,” she says, to loud cheering and applause.
7:34 PM: Petram is back at the mike. The second point of concern, her slide says, is “Due diligence.” She says she believes that the Parks Department is violating policies including public involvement, supplemental-use guidelines, and other policies. They believe they are speaking on behalf of future generations too, and are concerned that the financial compensation may not be enough. She is introducing Amanda Lee for the next portion of the presentation. “Among the many reasons why we believe Parks and Recreation should cease the process now for (this proposal) is … we believe the process to date is violation of both the letter and the spirit of numerous policies, and fundamentally at odds with Parks’ current strategic plan and the Vegetation Management Plan for Lincoln Park … and … conflicts with … goals for this park set by this community …and by the people who will enjoy it for generations to come.” For one, she says, use policies say Lincoln Park is meant for drop-in recreation, not for tourist activities; its concession and vending policies, she says, limit those activities to food vending, of which there is none now. She then mentions that the Parks Department Public Involvement Plan does not seem to be followed here, including the “early and thorough” notification of the public (an allusion to the fact that Parks has been talking with Go Ape for 11 months). She says she has looked at the company’s history, and “this process has been proceeding exactly backwards … the public has not been provided to participate to date … and the ideas of the community have not been solicited.” She says they also appreciate Parks’ concerns about revenue, but says that there seems to have been a “back door” to private companies having “secret meetings” with the Parks Department. She singles out the fact that Parks entertained three zipline proposals – and then chose one company, and allowed it to choose which park it wanted to pursue.
7:43 PM: Trileigh Tucker – who has shared bird photos on WSB many times in recent years – is speaking now. She says she was overcome when she heard “so many people applauding for the birds of Lincoln Park.” She says they want to work with Parks to figure out how to make Lincoln Park open and accessible to all, for future generations. She is an ecopsychology professor and says people need peaceful greenspaces to heal from the stresses of urban life. Behind her on a screen, it says, “environmental justice is the right to a safe, healthy, productive, and sustainable environment, where environment is considered in its totality to include the ecological, physical, social, political, aesthetic and economic environment.” She is “call(ing) on the city to (honor) environmental justice by keeping this facility out.” After Tucker, Petram speaks again, with the topic “community impacts” – concerns such as noise, litter, safety/security. “We are worried that we’ll lose the sound of the birds and the animals … and gain the noise of a commercial enterprise,” Petram says. She points out some of the statistics that have been suggested in literature related to this proposal so far – 25 parking slots, up to 84 people at a time on the ziplines/slides. She shows photos of what it’s like to try to park at Lincoln Park on a busy day, and the ferry traffic in lanes along the park side of Fauntleroy. (The central parking lot would be closest to the proposed Go Ape site.)
7:53 PM: Petram also showed a shot of the Lincoln Park lot today. She is now presenting some research about the company, including the planning processes well under way before the public is notified, residents in affected areas “ignored and sidelined” (a quote from the FCA presentation), and then she shows where in the park the course would be, with the help of Tucker on the mouse. She says FCA has not taken a position but would like more information before making a decision about “altering the park.” She introduces FCA vice president David Haggerty, who will be calling those who signed up to speak.
7:58 PM: An Arbor Heights resident named Jonathan speaks first, saying he and his wife “are not tree-huggers, but we don’t think this is an appropriate use of a city park.” Marty Westerman is next, an FCA board member. He says, “I’d like to see Parks choose the most appropriate place for the activities they’ve decided to select … it sounds like so far (they did not).” He also says they would be happy to help Parks to figure out how to make more money. Next, Judy Pickens, watershed steward, who says she has long worked with Parks,and “would love to give you the benefit of the doubt,” but she thinks “the magnitude of this proposal” might be “greater than (they) thought.” She adds, “You ask a lot of us .. use the word partnership a lot … you ask and receive thousands of hours every month from volunteers making sure Parks don’t turn into thickets … I’m used to being a partner, I’m used to partnership going both ways. I would like to hear that come from this section of Seattle Parks.” Next, a woman who says community residents “are intelligent, committed, dedicated to our community … quite frankly, I believe the approach the Parks Department has taken has been incredibly disrespectful to this community.” She says if they wanted ideas, they should have come to the community first. Next, Matt Stiles, native West Seattleite, “No to the zipline,” he begins. Next, Kenney resident Bob Burram takes the microphone, saying he came to this area 40 years ago, with “the natural location” being “part of what attracted us.” He thinks his sons might have enjoyed the zipline. The next speaker says she is a steward with the Green Seattle Partnership, which she says did not know about the proposal, and asks Parks, “How could you consider desecrating … Lincoln Park?” She lists the thousands of hours of volunteer time devoted to Parks, “the equivalent of 256 fulltime jobs” … she also suggests that the Go Ape rep “go buy your own land or lease it … and don’t come looking for public handouts.” That draws loud, long applause and cheers.
Barbara Osteen says, “It’s interesting I should come after that,” because it’s her sentiment. Dave Gould, who speaks next, says “there’s not a damn thing in (Parks) mission statement about building an amusement park.”
8:09 PM: Denise, who identifies herself as an artist who has long lived in West Seattle, says she agrees that “this is a really, really bad idea,” and implores Parks to “drop (it).” She says the city will “become more crowded … and our young people are going to need nature.” The next speaker says she’s also against it, and “ceding her time.” After her comes a man who says, “We need quiet space … we need palces where we can go.” He says he recommends to “patients” to use parks for the same reason. “It’s best that we leave the park as it is … I too understand the revenue needs,” but he says it’ll be shortsighted not to “look at the longterm picture of fiscal responsibility … because this is cyclical.” Martha Callard from the FCA follows him, and she has a question for Parks, asking “does City Council have the final word?” They say, yes. She asks are any City Council members here? No one replies. Author/nature writer Lyanda Haupt speaks next. She says everyone she has spoken to is against this project but “no one is against ziplines – they look really fun.” She says her 13-year-old daughter is included in that, but when she told her about this proposal, the daughter said, “Mom, that would ruin the park.” Haupt said the park is a refugee for wildlife, and a “rare, rare urban forest … we are longing to keep it that way, and we will.” She is followed by Rob Duisberg, who says he “applaud(s) the Partnerships program .. you are being creative and responsible, and that’s terrific.” But, he says, “there are parks .. and there are PARKS … but what hasn’t been appreciated (in this process) … is that Lincoln Park is a remarkable place. It is not so much a city park as Cal Anderson, or Green Lake” (he lists others). The fact there are breeding species “that will be driven out the park by this kind of activity in the canopy, and there is no question about it,” he says. He adds that “ziplines are cool, I went on them in Costa Rica. There are other locations … the so-called ‘jungle’ over the freeway.” Laughter follows. Or, he suggests before his 2 minutes are up, even “the back side of Lincoln Park.” The next speaker echoes that ziplines look fun, and he would take his daughter to something like a Go Ape location, “but not here.” He notes that “ultimately this is going to be a political process, and I want to challenge our hosts … do your due diligence but do it quickly, and decide whether you are for or against this, and speak out.” He says groups must take positions. That draws applause too. Another FCA member, Carolyn Duncan, says she lives across the street from Lincoln Park. She says she is working on a King County Parks task force right now, as it grapples with economic issues, and she says she understands what “the new economy means” for parks systems, requiring “painful choices as they juggle many worthy priorities.” But she says choices must include “compatibility with the park” … and “transparent public process.” She says “urban forests are precious and rare” and “to put the words ‘Go Ape’ in the same sentence as ‘Olmsted park’ is jarring.”
8:22 PM: The next speaker says she and her neighbors “will do everything we can” to stop the proposal. She is followed by a man who says “Lincoln Park is a sanctuary.” After him comes Chris Wood, a half-century-plus resident, who says, “Lincoln Park is no place for a zipline,” and that she is worried about noise and parking “which is an absolute nightmare.” “Already,” adds someone in the audience. “Don’t put the zipline in Lincoln Park .. the wild animals .. don’t do that to them … it’s so neat to see them the eagles, the hawks, a red fox who comes out at 8:30 at night, you can set your clock to him,” and she chokes up. After her, Brian Dunbar, who says he attended school here at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse when it was still an elementary. He says what he is most concerned about is “the lack of transparency in the Seattle Parks Department.” He says the longer you are in any project, the harder it is to walk away. “They gave the keys to Go Ape, they said ‘what location would you like,’ they said Lincoln Park, it’s up for grabs.” He notes the standing-room-only attendance, and the 30-plus people who attended last night’s organizational meeting. “We need to jump on this now and stop it before it goes any further.” A “new” resident named Mike – who elaborates, “I’ve been here 20 years now” (laughter) – says he was “shocked and devastated that the Seattle Parks Department, who I mistakenly thought was here to protect the parks of Seattle, is springing this on us. … I’m still shocked that you guys are doing this.” He doesn’t think this kind of project “belongs in any of the Seattle parks, period.” Beach Drive resident Bill Beyers, who says he goes to Lincoln Park every day, says he is concerned about Mayor McGinn‘s “(failure) to have citizens committees to plan how we are going to manage this park.” He notes that about 200 people are here and that he is astounded “there could be such poor management from the top in city government.” David Haggerty says at that point, they have counted the turnout at 250 people. The next man talks about the controversial “mud bike race” in Lincoln Park some years back. “I don’t get it – you folks are the stewards of the park, could you be that wrong?” He is followed by a Gatewood resident who says she thinks “the cute little zipline” at Lincoln Park is fun for the kids, “but that’s where it ends.” She says when she “struggles with day to day life,” Lincoln Park is the “one place” she wants to go, and that not every community has such a place. She asks for a show of hands of opposition – almost the entire room raises its hands.
(Center, Go Ape rep Swallow, seated next to Parks’ Ng, looks back at opponents’ raised hands)
No one raises their hand in support; nor for being “on the fence.” After her, a woman says our country is so well known for planning, she was “shocked” that this plan had come about without having been publicly presented. “I’m ashamed of our Parks Department.” The woman after her says her top concern also is “lack of due process and public involvement.” She says, “It’s appalling that even now, we are having the first public meeting and two more months to make a decision … we should have at least a year … to at least tweak a proposal that could happen.” She also notes that Seattle voters have never voted down a parks levy, and understands the call for partnerships, and is “invested” in its Parks system. “I’m sure you could find $65,000 in this room today” to prevent the proposal from going forward. She talked about having been in the park one recent morning and that it was “mayhem” with day camps in another part of the park, and she was glad to get to the part of the park where this is proposed, for silence and tranquility. Sarah Hebert is next, holding a young child, and quotes the Go Ape website as saying that the company believes in challenge … and in taking risks. “You’ve challenged us” to band together to stop the project from going forward, she says. She also talks about trying to get to the park along sidewalk-less streets, and believes that there will be even more cars brought to the park by something like this. “It is impossible to accommodate that in the blocks around our community.” Her son, cued by mom, says, “I don’t want the zipline.”
8:37 PM: The last group of speakers is called. “How sad,” says a man. “How sad that it comes to this. But thank goodness our Founding Fathers provided us with this right to speak our piece.” He says he works in nonprofit health care and knows about budget problems, but that they “refuse to impact our patients negatively.” He says this could be “a permanent solution to a short-term problem.” Bob is next, saying he heard “no decision has been made … BUT you’ve been meeting for a year with this party, and one cannot feel like when you were finally going to present it to the public, that we were starting from ground zero … you already have this huge investment in meeting with this partner … I really do hope you mean that ‘no decision has been made’.” A mother with young sons is next, talking about going to the park almost every day to enjoy its silence. “It is a neighborhood activity now to have all the kids take their bikes to the park and watch the baby eagle … or all the little kids want to go under the tree where the owl is nesting, and find owl pellets.” She says children in cities “are desperate for … fun that can be created for free,” like those forest visits. “Fun does not have to be paid for, does not have to be manufactured,” she says. “This is one of the few places in the city,” along with Seward and Discovery Park, among others, “where nature really does hold sway.” She says she won’t be able to teach her children about nature if she can’t take her children into a park with silence.” Next a teenager and her little sister speak, saying they “like to walk on the trails and explore” in Lincoln Park. Her sister says she does not want to hear “yelling” and “screaming” from users of an attraction like this. The next speaker says, “I think if the Park Department fails … to understand the importance of silence and peace, the money that can be lost, $65,000, chump change, the quiet and peace that can be lost …” He says that basically, what’s at stake is priceless. After that, Tom Quinn says “public-private partnerships always seem to leave the public without the resource, and holding the bag of debts.” He invokes the not-paid-off-yet-but-long-demolished Kingdome. “I say no monkey business in the parks.” The next woman, who says she is a Fortune 500 executive, says “Shame on you – you’ve worked on this for a year and you bring a business plan that will bring in $65,000?” She is speaking with outrage, saying that certainly the people in the room could come up with ideas worth more than that. “Shame on you!” she shouts at the end. That brings major applause. Charles Austin, who says he works
as activities director in the activities department at The Kenney but does not speak for it: “I take care of (your parents and grandparents). … I can drive to North Bend for a forest experience, or four blocks down the street, and take my Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to (Lincoln Park) and take them back to the 40s … they remember it. It clears their mind. It makes them happy. It clears their mind. It makes them happy.” He says an original 1941 Colman Pool lifeguard lives at The Kenney. “Don’t take this away from your parents, or from your great grandchildren who have yet to be born.”
The next speaker is David Whiting, who is on the EarthCorps board, and works in restoration. He says, “Yes, the Parks Department does have a dual mission statement to protect resources and provide recreation opportunities, and these days we are seeing different kinds of activities in our parks” – he mentions skateboarding and bicycling. He says the Parks Department is responding to them, but usually with a “long process” – and yet this time, “you went to the developers and the concessionaires, and this is a kind of bass-ackwards way” to go about it. “For $65,000, you pimped out our parks,” he concludes. The next woman notes that there’s a lot of emotion – a friend of hers was so upset about it, she couldn’t sleep the first night she heard about it. “THis community is in an uproar. Don’t torture us. Don’t make us go through a long drawn-out process. Just drop it.” She pleads with Parks to not drag it out, to “not make us come to more meetings … We’ve spoken our hearts. Drop it now. Let’s move on to a new plan that works.”
8:51 PM: Stewart Wechsler, a naturalist who leads walks through natural areas around West Seattle and elsewhere, is the next speaker, and says that the mayor should have someone who reports to him with an interest in nature. Longtime community activist Cindi Barker says the person who said it’s up to the associations to take positions now, she disagrees with – she tells the audience, “You need to speak to your representatives!” She says that MoCA’s meeting next week should include in the Parks presentation the answers to the many questions brought tonight. “Are Parks and Go Ape discussing this with cruise lines, and are we going to deal with buses and not cars? We feel like, if we don’t ask you, we are not going to hear about this.” Cindi also says Parks needs to disclose the timeline, and when they expect to go to the City Council, “there better not be a year of your work and a month of our input.” (Editor’s note: In early work on this issue 2 weeks ago, we were told that Parks hopes to take this to the City Council by/in December.) After Barker, a woman talks about a past park project, in which she was told no trees would be damaged, but they were. She fears trees will be cut or damaged here, and cites the figure of 25 trees. “The people of West Seattle had better get busy and look for a new mayor and new City Council who will protect what little public parks we will have left when this commercial venture is finished if they do not fulfill their responsibility for oversight of the Parks Department.” The public comment concluded at 8:55. FCA president Bruce Butterfield now invites Deb Barker, Morgan Community Association, up, and she talks about the meeting next week, which at one point was originally the first public meeting scheduled to address this. She says other hot topics are on that agenda – including the CSO project at Lowman Beach, and Metro’s RapidRide. She says Parks will have at least half an hour to make a presentation at the meeting, Wednesday of next week, 7 pm, at The Kenney, July 18th. (An audience member suggests a larger room; MoCA’s Barker says she might have to “kick Bingo out,” and adds that she appreciates that people turned out. Butterfield invites Parks to come forward; Salinas says they are “putting more information on the website all the time,” and that there is “misinformation” she heard tonight, but that Parks wants to “give it to you straight.”
9 PM: Butterfield asks Salinas if they are at a point where they could call this off. She says they could at any time. She also says that they hadn’t gone public because they “didn’t have something to present.” The woman who brought up the Green Seattle Partnership, which Salinas contended had heard, says she had talked to a key person who didn’t know, whose focus was habitat and restoration. (So far, as of 9:02 pm, we can’t find anything on the Parks website.) Butterfield mentions the FCA website at fauntleroy.net and the FCA Facebook page.
9:05 PM: The meeting is over. The Go Ape rep did not speak, but gave a brief TV interview afterward. We have the entire meeting on video, and also more photos to be added.
WSB coverage of this issue is all archived here.