Rocky problem at Lincoln Park beach; ‘long-term solution’ sought

That photo is courtesy of Bill and Margi Beyers, who have been trying to get Seattle Parks to remove those rocks placed in January in front of the damaged north Lincoln Park beach seawall. (Here’s our December coverage of that storm damage.) Last week, they e-mailed us about it, saying the rocks’ size “makes them environmentally unsustainable – the first strong north wind at a high tide will toss these rocks over the beach,” adding that Parks put sand and gravel over the rocks last week, which they didn’t see as a solution. After reading their concerns, we contacted Parks for comment – and today, we’ve learned that Parks is working on a plan that eventually would remove those rocks, but says it’s a “complex” situation – not simply a matter of scooping them up and taking them away. Read on for details of the concerns, and the response:

First, the letter we received from the Beyers, explaining their concerns in detail:

In December 2012 an unusually high tide damaged the WPA seawall on the north side of Colman Pool, and in January 2013 the Parks Department repaired this seawall damage. THEN they dumped in front of the repaired area a mound of rock. We spoke to the staff person in the Park Office at the north end of the Park about this (his name was Bill), and he said that he had recommended against dumping these rocks on the beach. Why? Their size makes them environmentally unsustainable—the first strong north wind at a high tide will toss these rocks over the beach. (Please see enclosed photos).

In late April the Parks Department held a public meeting on management of Lincoln Park, which we could not attend because of travel, but we wrote a lengthy letter to the Mayor, Parks Department Interim Superintendent, and Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw (Chair of the Parks Committee, Seattle City Council). In this letter we expressed our concern about these rocks, among other topics, but got no reply from any of the officials.

We received e-mail from Robert Stowers in the Parks Department, with cc:’s to Dan Johnson, Laurie Dunlap, and Carol Baker (all of whom work in the Parks Department, but none of whom have contacted us) on May 23, asking to meet with us about our concerns about this and other issues in Lincoln Park. We indicated that we did not need to meet, as our concerns were clearly stated in our letter. We now invite readers who like us have noted this environmental disaster to register their concerns to the Seattle Parks Department.

On May 28 the Parks Department posted signs on the shoreline path at the north end of Lincoln Park about the closure of the road on May 29 for “beach cleanup.” What the Parks staff did was to put beach sand/gravel on the rocks, so as to camouflage them! What an absurd use of public money, and a failure to correct a bad situation honestly. We cannot tell you how many people we have met walking on the shoreline who have spoken about the ill-guided decision to dump the rocks in front of this area of seawall repair.

This seawall was built in approximately 1936. It has not needed any fill of this type for over 75 years, and the Parks Department has not provided us or in any public forum that we are aware of as to why the rocks were placed in this location.

The shoreline of Lincoln Park is one of the City’s treasures. If a storm scatters the rocks on the beach—and it is only a matter of time until one does—they will be an environmental disaster. Unlike the glacial cobbles that form the natural beach, these are crushed rocks with sharp edges, and they will stay that way for decades. All one needs to do is to go to the cove at the north end of Lincoln Park to see the impact of storms on similar crushed rock dumped on the beach several decades ago in the name of protecting the pathway. High tides in the winter have scattered these larger rocks all over the beach at the north end of the park. They are an eyesore, and a monument to bad engineering that failed to recognize the power of storms that hit this shoreline on a periodic basis. We urge West Seattle citizens to join us to demand that the Parks Department to “correct a bad situation honestly.” Get these rocks off the beach immediately.

Now, the response we received from Parks today via spokesperson Dewey Potter:

Following is information regarding the communication from Bill and Margi Beyers. Parks apologizes for the delay in responding; the issue they raise is complex, involves a number of agencies, and required some physical exploration.

Following the December 2012 storm surge, Parks found that the sewer mainline protective wall on the north side of Colman Pool was damaged in several places. As a temporary emergency measure to prevent further damage from the waves, we placed rocks at the damaged part of the sewer mainline protective wall. (The wall protects a sewer main that was replaced about seven years ago.) These rocks have effectively kept the sewer mainline protective wall from further damage.

Although our Concrete Crew was able to make some repairs to the sewer mainline protective wall, they were unable to gain access to the main washout area. When they were at the site on May 28, they found the extent of the damage was such that they feared that removing more of the rocks covering the sewer mainline protective wall might destabilize the wall. We added sand and gravel to provide, in the meantime, a little more stability. (The BEACH CLEANUP signs were intended to keep the public away while large trucks were using a narrow area that day.)

We are looking for a long-term solution. When we have identified and implemented it, we will remove the rocks. Because the designated emergency period has passed, we may need a permit from Washington State Department of Fisheries and/or the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the rocks placed during the emergency.

We’ll continue to follow up.

8 Replies to "Rocky problem at Lincoln Park beach; 'long-term solution' sought"

  • DF June 4, 2013 (4:41 pm)

    It sounds like the Beyers understandable assumption that the seawall had been “repaired” in January may have been overly optimistic. But I have no doubt that their concerns about these rocks are very well founded. THIS IS A BEACH DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN.

    The fact that gravel was recently added suggests that Parks is trying to find some way to put this on the back-burner. Parks needs to add urgency to this issue and accelerate the repairs to the sewer mainline protective wall so that the rocks can be removed ASAP. Parallel-track the permitting so there are no barriers to removing the rocks once they’re no longer essential.

    Our city and its engineering staff clearly includes competent and thoughtful project managers who can estimate costs, identify risks to timelines, etc. But West Seattle residents can now add important context around priorities and around risks to the usability of our beaches. It’s been almost 6 months since the sewer mainline protective wall was compromised, and the band-aid needs to come off before it’s too late. In my opinion, as citizens we should insist on a FIXED AND FINITE TIMELINE for repairs and rock removal.

  • john bocchetti June 4, 2013 (5:35 pm)

    I live at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, we are getting hit as well with tide surges. it leaves the beach heavily eroded. This is happening up and down the west coast..back in the day their were sewer outlets to the might pacific, not anymore.

  • Del Martini June 4, 2013 (8:24 pm)

    I really don’t see what the big skirmish is. Let Parks work out the solution. It can’t happen overnight. I only wish this was the extent of drainage and erosion problems in my neighborhood that have been waiting for decades to be addressed by the City.

    This tiny section of seawall and some oddly shaped rocks is not some disaster, environmental or otherwise, but is truly in the class of ‘First World’ problems.

  • Kevin m June 5, 2013 (1:40 am)

    The rising sea level is eroding shore lines throughout the Puget Sound, and there is no easy solution. CO2 production from burning fossils fuels is the number one contributor to this slow motion disaster.

  • Keith R June 5, 2013 (8:17 am)

    “Environmental disaster”? That seems a BIT over-the-top. Radiation, PCBs, spilled petroleum… those are the kinds of things that constitute a “disaster”, and only in volume. These rocks are just unsightly. Let’s be a little less shrill and perhaps we’ll be taken more seriously.

  • Cindy Crangle June 5, 2013 (8:24 am)

    Sand and gravel provide reinforcement against wave action? Really?
    The need for a stopgap doesn’t mean we need to accept an ill-thought out solution that will result in long term damage to our beach.
    And the sand and gravel? What a waste of time and resources.

  • Rick in the park June 6, 2013 (11:24 am)

    June 6th- The Parks Dept. Is fixing the seawall today, the right

    • WSB June 6, 2013 (11:28 am)

      thanks, Rick, we’ll ask …

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