Roxhill Park safety updates, ideas @ WWRHAH: New police patrols, zero tolerance for youth drinking, more

November 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm | In Neighborhoods, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Less than a year into its existence, the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council has taken on some of the area’s thorniest issues – safety in Roxhill Park, Westwood Village, and environs.

Chair Amanda Kay Helmick called it “the meat of the meeting” for WWRHAH last night; she was one of the volunteers who helped build Roxhill’s new Castle Park playground and says she’s there with her family at least three times a week. She wants to apply for a grant for the park – but wants public input “what should we do with the money?”

That opened a discussion about the park’s components – which go far beyond the newly renovated playground and the newly installed skatepark. Safety topped the list because of incidents in recent months from armed robberies to an incident just last weekend in which someone was threatened with a knife at the playground.

The discussion led to revelations including a Seattle Police announcement that the park now has regular foot patrols.

Some on hand were worried about Roxhill’s restored natural area – the results of years of hard work by volunteers – being scapegoated as unsafe.

“It’s not the bushes’ fault,” Rory Denovan said, defending the diversity of native plants in the area and saying he doesn’t want to see the restored bog/wetlands area blamed for the crime/safety problems. His ideas include improving the water flow in the area and also altering a path into the area so bicycle riders could use it and so police could get in if necessary.

Native-plant steward Scott Blackstock picked up the discussion, saying sightlines have been improved lately. But he said one big problem is easy to find there – he’s found hundreds of liquor container components. And he said the transit stop’s increased traffic is a huge factor as well. But “You do have to realize, you have a jewel in that park,” Blackstock implored.

That’s why they want to know what the community would want to see, Helmick reassured him. Blackstock subsequently suggested lighting, for example, wouldn’t necessarily cure everything, since many problems have happened in broad daylight.

A resident who has long been active in the neighborhood mentioned seeing police in the park earlier in the day and seeing them there daily recently (something SPD elaborated on later). “The park is high on the radar,” said Andy Thompson from Westwood Village management.

Seattle Parks’ Phil Renfrow said they’ve been aware of issues there for years and have been working with Blackstock and volunteers. “We feel like the wooded wetland is going in the right direction.”

Could a grant be used to encourage more volunteerism to help maintain the bog, to “put people there and help the plants?” wondered Chris Stripinis of WWRHAH. Volunteers are hard to draw, Renfrow and Blackstock noted. It was suggested by a representative of nearby Roxhill Elementary that the school community might be able to help. Listening to that potential connection being made, “that’s why this group exists – to make connections,” Helmick observed. Former Roxhill principal Carmela Dellino, who now works for the city, noted that other area schools could be brought in to help, too – Denny, Chief Sealth, Arbor Heights (which she pointed out will soon have an eSTEM curriculum) – “These young people are the people who are going to help take care of this.”

Mat McBride, an area advocate who’s been helping facilitate during WWRHAH’s first year, said that getting students to the park had been a challenge in the past; it was subsequently suggested that perhaps buses for that purpose could be a target of the grant.

Another idea: An alternative to interpretive information that replaces the current signage, which one attendee pointed out is frequently hit by graffiti vandals.

McBride suggested ideas could eventually be woven together into a vision. “A well-used park” is a park that doesn’t have so many problems, he suggested, and if Roxhill Park was even more of a destination, that could help. “Is it possible for us to create something that brings more people (to the park) to do more things?”

Even more discussion of the park’s layout challenges ensued – which path is passable, which is not.

Michelle from park-adjacent Daystar Retirement Village said they are dealing with issues, too, from campers to loiterers, and they are calling 911 whenever something comes up.

Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores entered the discussion at that point. He explained that Officer Jon Kiehn usually handles this area but has been on medical leave (and is coming back soon). “I understand Roxhill has become a major point of concern for most of you … we are well aware of the issues.” He said many issues about a year ago ‘could be traced back to gang tensions,” yet they also know some issues are not related, such as drinking and camping. “The campers you’re seeing at Roxhill are a lot different than many of the transient encampments we deal with – it’s more of a 4-hour motel stay as opposed to an extended stay.”

Officer Flores then confirmed there are now routine foot beats in the park, particularly involving the Anti-Crime Team. If you don’t think you’ve seen them – “that’s the point,” he said, because they might be low key, undercover, starting in the late afternoon. “They are walking the park.”

Regarding last Sunday’s confrontation and knife-pulling at the park, he said that a suspect has been identified but not arrested. He said it seems the suspect thought someone was a rival gang member (but apparently wasn’t). He says “checking out Roxhill” is a high priority for all officers who work the area, even if they’re just passing by. Also: “They’re taking a zero-tolerance policy with underage drinking and narcotics use. You might say, ‘why is that happening just now?’ Much of what we do is at officer discretion – enforcement could be a warning or ‘aren’t you supposed to be in school? we’ll take you back’ but now it’s zero tolerance … citations for adults, report for juveniles that could be referred for criminal prosecution … if it is something more, there could be an arrest made. … They’re going to see that we mean business now … there are consequences.”

Liquor theft from the QFC is also a focus. He mentioned the charges announced this week against 5 suspects including a local restaurant owner (WSB coverage here) and that “some of those suspects” were involved, and this has led to a closer relationship with the stores, including reviewing surveillance video. “A lot of these bigger stores typically handle liquor theft internally,” but now with Roxhill Park concerns, that has changed, and the stores are working more closely with police. He notes that the rush for private sales last year didn’t necessarily come with close security scrutiny – but that is changing “because they are seeing the losses. … Safeway, QFC, Target, they are definitely aware of it now and changing practices.” However, Officer Flores also noted that drinking in the park is often done with legally purchased alcohol – it’s not all from thefts.

He also said they hope they are not cleaning up the park to leave it empty – “we want to see a park that’s being used.”

What about “you’re being watched” type signs in the park? asked McBride. Maybe that’s something for the potential grant, it was suggested. Carol Baker from Seattle Parks said they do need more eyes on Roxhill Park.

The wall of buses on Barton is a factor preventing some of that. “We recognize that problem too,” said Officer Flores, noting that West Seattle sees few Metro Transit Police, though the buses and stops are technically that agency’s responsibility.

Parks’ Carol Baker brought up the park sign recently proposed by the Morgan Community Association for Morgan Junction Park (as mentioned in our coverage of MoCA’s recent quarterly meeting). It could be considered for Roxhill Park, she said. Blackstock warned of the vandalism targets that signs tend to be, though.

What’s the best way to make the park safer?

“Get legitimate people in there.”

Daystar is a neighborhood-watch community and its residents have called in incidents, said Michelle. And it has walking groups, too.

Wrapping up the discussion, Renfrow pitched for the Green Seattle Partnership, and getting involved. “We need more understanding, we need more people who are trained … we need to get kids involved, move forward .. The city has this fabulous program. … We need residents that are in it for the long haul.”

ROAD-SAFETY UPDATE: Stripinis, who leads WWRHAH’s infrastructure committee, says SDOT finally answered the council’s request to take on SW Roxbury safety issues. Starting early next year, you can expect public meetings for area residents to voice their concerns, he said.

WEST SEATTLE TRANSPORTATION COALITION: WWRHAH is now officially on record as supporting it, after a vote at the meeting.

Keep up with WWRHAH and its future meetings at wwrhah.org.

15 Comments

  1. Really? A representative of Roxhill Park Elementary school offered a solution of having the school community help?. What parent would feel comfortable with their young child being in this park where armed robberies and knifings occur.
    Also, why would any member of the school community want to take time out from teaching and learning at school to patrol a park where daytime drinking and prostitution take place. Ridiculous! Who is this representative?

    Comment by westside pride — 10:36 pm November 6, 2013 #

  2. Sorry if you read otherwise, but the suggestion for school involvement was for environmental education and volunteerism in the park, not safety patrols. I will review the text and fix if that meaning got lost along the way. The overall solution and vision was seen – and I know that’s mentioned in at least one spot – as having a park that is so full of community activity at all times, there’s no room for ne-erdowells. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:12 pm November 6, 2013 #

  3. I imagine one way to draw legitimate users to the park would be to create an area, or two, for off leash dog play. Fund that, and they will come. Whether those people venture beyond the confines of the fenced off leash area is the $64K question.

    Comment by D I D — 3:30 am November 7, 2013 #

  4. The schools that should be involved are not Roxhill, but Sealth and Denny. Roxhill Park is filled with students getting high all day long.

    I think an even better alternative to foot patrols would be mounted police in the park – a very practical use for this specialized form of law enforcement.

    Comment by anonyme — 5:57 am November 7, 2013 #

  5. Our nanny and 5 year old daughter love Roxhill Park. Recently our nanny called the police because of high school aged kids sitting in the park near the equipment swearing, smoking pot and drinking vodka out of the bottle. The police arrived and confiscated the materials but the kids stayed. Leadership from the authorities, community and parents to keep our beloved playgrounds safe for children would be greatly appreciated. Drinking and drugging kids, please stay away from the playgrounds when you cannot use good judgement and control your behaviors.

    Comment by Heylady — 7:13 am November 7, 2013 #

  6. SPD did NOT arrest suspect responsible for “knife-pulling” incident…because he thought that someone at the park, with all the kids, was a rival gangmember. WHAT!! This is outrageous, in what kind of world is it totally acceptable for gang members to engage in their turf wars in city parks, threatening teenage park-goers and parents alike? If SPD truly did not arrest the individual, they have shown that gang activity is completely acceptable and welcome here in WS by not punishing this individual. What does it take to get arrested around here? As far as zero-tolerance, it sounds like the only zero-tolerance policy they have is against succeeding at making WS a safer place to live.

    Comment by Really — 8:13 am November 7, 2013 #

  7. Amazing

    Comment by Enough — 8:16 am November 7, 2013 #

  8. For context, what we understand anecdotally: The suspect (and other possible suspects) got away at the time of the incident. A witness pointed police to him a few days later. I don’t know that they had evidence to arrest him on the spot. One witness was at this meeting at the beginning and said he had heard the guy was arrested; the officer, who arrived later for his spot on the agenda, said the suspect had been contacted but not arrested. That means they know who he is, at least.

    Comment by WSB — 8:18 am November 7, 2013 #

  9. I think the important part of this story, and the success, is that Parks and SPD *are* listening to us. I believe that there are more things we can do as a Community to help Roxhill Park.
    *
    Please send us an email with your ideas about the park to contact@wwrhah.org
    *
    Some of the behavior in this park is completely unacceptable. And we should all be calling 911, or at least saying something when we see suspicious activity, or something illegal. The SPD’s Zero-Tolerance stance is an important one. And Roxhill is high on the radar. We will be in weekly contact with Scott Blackstock(Roxhill’s awesome steward) and Officer Flores. Please, let us know what is happening in the park so we can communicate to the SPD.
    *
    We need to work as a team on this, and I truly believe we can make a difference doing just that
    *
    In response to Roxhill School. The lovely ladies from that school were talking about having Roxhill Parents/Families partnering with Scott Blackstock in the maintenance of the park. But that is something that EVERYONE can and should do. He has work parties the second weekend of every month. For the last 13 years.
    *
    If you are interested in helping, please contact us and we will get you in touch with Scott ASAP.
    *
    Remember, you can be part of the solution!!

    Comment by AmandaKH — 8:59 am November 7, 2013 #

  10. I live in Westwood and have never used this park, but I am on board with D I D’s idea. I would definitely start to utilize this park were there an offleash dog area. It would be great to have a closer alternative to Westcrest. Might even be an economic boost to WWV businesses

    Comment by Kevin — 11:35 am November 7, 2013 #

  11. The monthly cleanup workparty at Roxhill Park is on the second Saturday at 10:00 AM. I believe they meet at the kiosk next to the restrooms.

    Comment by BlairJ — 11:38 am November 7, 2013 #

  12. According to the Roxhill plant steward, the regular work party is from 9:00-1:00 this Saturday, Nov. 9. In addition, there is a special planting work party on Sunday, Nov. 10 from 9:00-12:00, in which they will plant several hundred new plants.

    Comment by Chris — 2:37 pm November 7, 2013 #

  13. And everybody is welcome to send us dates on such things – I checked our e-mail and we don’t appear to have had a listing submitted for the Roxhill work parties; would be more than thrilled to list them. As was explained in detail during the WWRHAH meeting, volunteers ARE hard to come by – we have covered community meetings and events for six years and see how every participant is hard-won! – but every so often, another person here or there will see a mention here, or a mention somewhere else, and join in – we’ve gotten feedback from a variety of groups (WestSide Baby, school tutoring, etc.) that people DO respond to listings published here – TR (editor@westseattleblog.com for listings of volunteer ops, events, more)

    Comment by WSB — 2:46 pm November 7, 2013 #

  14. I call 911 about once a week about something at Roxhill park. I was really hopeful when the new playground and skate spot opened–I thought maybe the presence of so many families and so many older kids there to have a good time, would spook the criminal element and they’d leave, but apparently not.
    For parents of teenagers: When my son was a student at WSHS, he got community service credits for being a part of Scott Blackstock’s work parties, so if you’re looking for a way for your kid to fill those hours, this is a good one.

    Comment by Halyn — 12:56 pm November 8, 2013 #

  15. I’m one of the Washington Native Plant Society stewards working on creating sightlines in Roxhill Park’s natural area. So far we’re noticing a huge impact on how the area is used, but as you know this is just one piece of the puzzle.

    It’s great to see so many community folks interested in making sure Roxhill Park is a safe, healthy place.

    Here’s a link glimpsing into the history of the restoration with a couple interesting pictures: http://www.scn.org/westwood/roxhill/

    Scott would love to have you join in his second Saturday work parties, 9 – 1.

    Peace.

    Comment by Rio Montana — 1:55 pm November 13, 2013 #

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