West Seattle Blog... » Lincoln Park zipline proposal http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:14:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 BULLETIN: Lincoln Park zipline proposal scrapped, says Parks http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/bulletin-lincoln-park-zipline-proposal-scrapped-says-parks/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/bulletin-lincoln-park-zipline-proposal-scrapped-says-parks/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2012 18:58:51 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=115000

(Added 1:02 pm: From WSB files, Trileigh Tucker‘s May 2009 photo of Lincoln Park owlet ‘Wollet’)
11:58 AM: Just in:

Seattle Parks and Recreation has decided not to proceed with a proposal to build a five-to-six acre high ropes course in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park.

“We listened to the community, and though there is demand for this emerging form of recreation, there are some who clearly do not support it at this location,” said Acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams.

Low and high ropes courses are gaining in popularity worldwide, and they are among a number of emerging sports and other outdoor activities Parks and Recreation is working hard to accommodate.

The proposal for Lincoln Park was in the conceptual stages. Parks had just begun its public outreach process with contacts with the Camp Long Advisory Council, the Morgan Community Association, and the informal Friends of Lincoln Park, and had developed a full public involvement plan that included four more opportunities for input, one onsite. Parks had issued an Expression of Interest and had selected Go Ape based on their safety, park stewardship and operational history.

After the meeting with the Fauntleroy Community Association on July 10, Williams made the decision not to proceed with a high ropes course at Lincoln Park. Williams and Go Ape have not yet decided whether to proceed with a ropes course proposal at another site.

ADDED 12:15 PM: That announcement in a Parks Department news release comes 13 days after WSB first reported the proposal had been under consideration since last summer, according to a Go Ape document, but had not to that date been disclosed to the community, and was not even mentioned anywhere on Parks’ website, despite the department’s Public Involvement Policy (as reported in our second story) committing the department to providing “early and thorough notification of proposals and projects, through a variety of means, to users, user groups, neighborhoods, neighborhood groups, and other interested people.” And it came 15 hours after the Fauntleroy Community Association‘s board meeting expanded into the first public discussion of the proposal, at which a standing-room-only crowd tallied by FCA at 250 (WSB coverage, with video, here) expressed almost unanimous opposition. Opponents had been organizing for the previous week-plus, including a Facebook page, Facebook group, website, and strategy session. Many opponents said they weren’t against this type of recreation, but that Lincoln Park was the wrong place for it, for reasons including the park’s wildlife – dozens of bird species, including nesting bald eagles – and parking/traffic challenges.

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As-it-happened coverage + video: Lincoln Park zipline proposal @ Fauntleroy Community Association http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/happening-now-lincoln-park-zipline-proposal-fauntleroy-community-association/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/happening-now-lincoln-park-zipline-proposal-fauntleroy-community-association/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2012 02:09:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=114919 (12:30 AM UPDATE: Adding our unedited video of the entire 2-hour meeting, immediately below)

MEETING TOPLINES:
-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.

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Lincoln Park zipline attraction? Opponents strategize on eve of Parks’ first public presentation http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/lincoln-park-zipline-attraction-opponents-strategize-on-eve-of-parks-first-public-presentation/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/lincoln-park-zipline-attraction-opponents-strategize-on-eve-of-parks-first-public-presentation/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 06:06:19 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=114615

(July 3 photo: Child playing hide-and-seek while opponents led tour of the potential Go Ape course zone)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Seattle Parks employees who have been working on the proposed Go Ape zipline/tree swing “treetop adventure” attraction in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park will make their first public presentation tomorrow night, 11 months after the city decided to explore a potential partnership with the company.

Fauntleroy Community Association president Bruce Butterfield confirms that Rebecca Salinas and Charles Ng from Parks’ Partnerships division will be at his group’s July board meeting (7 pm Tuesday) – which he has moved to a larger space at The Hall at Fauntleroy, to accommodate all those interested in hearing/speaking about it. (ADDED TUESDAY: He says Go Ape‘s Chris Swallow will be there too.)

Butterfield (above, standing) also joined a pre-meeting tonight, billed as an “informal gathering” of people who are opposed to/concerned about the proposal. More than 30 people showed up for an organizational/strategy session at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). They say that will help them be ready for tomorrow night (more on their discussion a little later in this report).

FCA contacted Parks about the proposal after we asked Butterfield what if anything he and his group had heard about it, while we were working on the research that led to our original June 28th story about the plan, which this “project summary” document says has been in the works since last August. (Last Thursday, in his first public statement on the proposal – read it here – Parks’ longtime acting superintendent Christopher Williams described to the process so far as “internal due diligence.”)

Ahead – what’s happened so far, what we’ve learned about Go Ape’s basic course design and construction process, and toplines from tonight’s meeting:

If you’re just coming in on this:

On June 28th, Parks confirmed to WSB that it was working with the UK-founded company Go Ape, which operates three “treetop adventure” courses and more than two dozen overseas (and operates in Australia as Adventure Forest), on a proposal to build one in central Lincoln Park. We had received a tip from a community member to whom information had been forwarded.

One of the e-mails we subsequently received from several people included a PowerPoint presentation (see it here in its entirety) prepared by Go Ape, which included this map of where they propose putting their facility in Lincoln Park:

Go Ape courses are described as using about one acre on the ground and 6 to 10 acres in the trees. From a generic version of the Go Ape presentation that we found online (see it here), here are two pages that aren’t in the Seattle version of the PowerPoint, including the standard course design, shown here:

The courses’ templatization was mentioned by Go Ape co-founder Tristram Mayhew in a British interview last year, in which he was quoted as saying that his company can now “roll out Go Ape courses in our sleep.” That story also mentioned they were diversifying, including adding Segway use to some of their British sites (their UK website lists 8 where it is offered now).

To use a Go Ape course costs $55 adults/$35 kids (US prices for 2012, tax not included), Go Ape offers customers ages 10 and up – those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult – a 2- to 3-hour “adventure” described as:

We take one lush, green forest and a healthy dose of breathtaking scenery; blend with a smattering of treetop high wires, tricky crossings (using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and super-strong wire) and wind-in-your-face zip lines; finished off with a mega dose of people in search of their inner Tarzan.

We then equip people with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners, give them a 30 minute safety briefing and training and let them loose into the forest canopy, free to fly on zip lines and swing through the trees.

Customers are launched in groups of 14 every half-hour.

A Parks spokesperson told WSB that Go Ape would not be charged rent for its use of Lincoln Park land and trees. In its Lincoln Park-geared PowerPoint, the company says that it expects a $40,000-$65,000 revenue share for the city each year – this is also the number cited in the generic PowerPoint – and that it will donate 900 tickets a year, with an estimated worth of $50,000 (if all were at the adult rate, it would total $49,500).

If the project gets final approval – ultimately, the City Council is the end of the line – it would be built next year, according to the Go Ape project summary:

Once the outreach process is complete, Go Ape hopes to begin development in late spring 2013, which will take
approximately 4-6 weeks.

Go Ape courses are built by a France-based construction partner, Altus Outdoor Concepts, according to sources including the second page of this proposal made for an East Coast project in fall 2010.

While Parks has various commercial partners, this partnership would be precedent-setting in establishing a commercial attraction of this size and nature in a Seattle city park. Our first report drew one of the biggest responses of any story we have ever published, outside of ongoing snow coverage, with 250 comments to date.

Since then, people concerned about/opposed to it have launched several organizational efforts. First was this Facebook page. Then a Facebook group followed. And now, a website, PreserveLincolnPark.com.

So far, we have not found any organized efforts supporting the proposal (if you know of one, please let us know).

Critics’ concerns are wide-ranging, with a particular emphasis on the park’s birds, including bald eagles and owls who have raised their young there, past and present. There is also concern for the trees in the park’s central forest; development of some Go Ape facilities has included tree-cutting, according to media reports such as this one. The Seattle project summary says, “Go Ape uses no heavy machinery during our builds nor requires the felling of any mature trees.” Adding a tourist attraction to an already high-use park – with its parking lots jammed on summer days – is another source of concern.

The group that gathered at C & P tonight attempted to come up with a mission statement and a list of concerns.

They explored focuses such as preserving “the urban sanctuary,” protecting “the natural legacy that we inherited now and for future generations,” and safeguarding the park “against high-impact usage.”

Participants stressed that they are not opposed to concessions in Parks – there is no question that the city already has partnerships with many of them. The point, they feel, is that this is not the right project for Lincoln Park.

That was echoed by FCA’s Butterfield, who outlined for tonight’s attendees how his group’s meeting will be laid out tomorrow night. Parks will have a presentation, he said, and so will FCA. They will have signups for speakers, who will be given a 2-minute limit. The meeting, he said, is about Lincoln Park, and how this is not what the neighborhood wants to see there.

Meantime, those who gathered tonight also talked about further meetings of their nascent group, and a central set of talking points, along with a petition. They also are looking ahead to what at this point will be the second public presentation/discussion, at the Morgan Community Association’s quarterly meeting next week (Wednesday, July 18, 7 pm, The Kenney [WSB sponsor]).

That meeting, like tomorrow night’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting, is open to the public. Parks has said it plans to arrange a public meeting specifically about the project next month, but no date has been announced so far.

WSB stories about the Lincoln Park zipline proposal now have a specific archive: Find them here.

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Treetop ziplining at Lincoln Park? Parks superintendent’s reply; plus, 1st public briefing planned Tuesday http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/treetop-ziplining-at-lincoln-park-parks-superintendents-reply/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/treetop-ziplining-at-lincoln-park-parks-superintendents-reply/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 23:25:38 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=113838 (UPDATE: Since we published this at 4:25 pm, we have learned Parks will have reps at next Tuesday’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting – info before story’s end)

(From Go Ape PowerPoint of Lincoln Park proposal, described as 1 acre ground/6-9 acres trees)
One week after first word of a proposed commercial zipline/rope swing “treetop adventure” attraction at West Seattle’s Lincoln Park – a proposal that Seattle Parks has been considering for almost a year without public mention of it – emerged in this WSB story, the man in charge of Seattle Parks is sending a statement to those who have contacted the department. Thanks to the WSB’er who received the e-mail from acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams less than an hour ago and shared it. The to/cc lines included other Parks officials as well as the mayor and City Council members:

From: Williams, Christopher
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2012 3:39 PM
To: Salinas, Rebecca
Cc: Williams, Christopher; Friedli, Eric; Ng, Charles; Brooks, Sandy; McGinn, Mike; Merrill, Nathaniel; Conlin, Richard; Licata, Nick; Bagshaw, Sally; Clark, Sally; Godden, Jean; Harrell, Bruce; Rasmussen, Tom; Burgess, Tim; O’Brien, Mike; Potter, Dewey; O’Connor, Karen

Subject: Ropes course/zip line at Lincoln Park

July 5, 2012

Dear community members:

We have received many messages expressing strong concerns about a ropes course that would include a zip line at Lincoln Park.

Please be assured that Seattle Parks and Recreation is conducting an internal due-diligence process and will conduct a full public process before any final decisions are made.

Seattle Parks and Recreation has begun to consider the possibility of a ropes course because we believe we must respond to emerging forms of recreation. As we saw with skateboard courses and synthetic turf, new forms of recreation bring unanswered questions.

The only way that Seattle Parks can provide a recreational opportunity like this is in conjunction with a partner organization, such as Go Ape, which would bring its extensive experience and expertise, as well as funding needed to create the course.

As part of Seattle Parks’ due diligence in considering a ropes course in Lincoln Park, we will carefully consider the impacts of this recreational opportunity on the environment and to the park’s other uses. The first determination we must make is what if any impacts there would be on the trees, habitat, and wildlife surrounding the course area. To do this, Seattle Parks will work with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other environmental experts. A public meeting will be scheduled in early to mid-August to inform interested residents of findings, answer questions, and address any concerns. We will be glad to meet with any interested community groups. To arrange for a meeting with your group, please contact Rebecca Salinas at rebecca.salinas@seattle.gov

The public process will include review by the Board of Park Commissioners and, if a contract is negotiated, would require approval by Seattle City Council (which must approve any contract lasting longer than one year).

If you have received this email directly, your name and contact information have been added to a mailing list of interested persons, and we will notify you as soon as the public meetings have been scheduled and for further developments.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Go Ape, you can visit their website at www.goape.com

Sincerely,
Christopher Williams
Acting Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation

There’s nothing in that note that hasn’t been part of our previous two reports EXCEPT for what appears to be a commitment to an environmental study, which wasn’t a sure thing as of our report this past Tuesday. Go Ape is a private company founded and based in the UK, with 28 locations there; its US offices are in Maryland, which is the site of one of its three US locations (along with one in Virginia and one in Indiana). Its U.S. admission fees this year are $55 adults/$35 youth. Its websites indicate that its courses include ziplines, rope swings, balancing challenges, and ladders; some of its UK facilities also offer “forest Segway” expeditions.

Previous WSB coverage:
Treetop ziplining at Lincoln Park? City mulls commercial partnership (June 28)
Followup: Go Ape zipline/swing proposal for Lincoln Park – where it stands & more (July 3)

Seattle Times (WSB partner) coverage:
Lincoln Park neighbors riled up over proposed zip-line attraction (July 3)

5:35 PM UPDATE: Fauntleroy Community Association president Bruce Butterfield says Seattle Parks has agreed to send representatives to his group’s regular monthly meeting next Tuesday, July 10th, 7 pm, to talk about this. Location TBA – they usually meet in a conference room at The Hall at Fauntleroy but he is looking for a larger venue.

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Followup: Go Ape zipline/swing proposal for Lincoln Park – where it stands, and more http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/followup-go-ape-ziplineswing-proposal-for-lincoln-park-where-it-stands-and-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/followup-go-ape-ziplineswing-proposal-for-lincoln-park-where-it-stands-and-more/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 18:59:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=113479

(Start of GoApe course in Great Britain’s Delamere Forest. Photo copyright Jonathan Kington; licensed for reuse via Creative Commons)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Go Ape proposal to build and operate a commercial zipline/rope-swing attraction across six-plus acres of 135-acre Lincoln Park‘s treetops did not just swoop in out of the blue.

We’ve been gathering more information in the four days since we broke the news about the proposal – which had not previously been brought to general public attention, though the city and the UK-based company have been working together for almost a year. Our original report is now the third-most-commented-on non-snow story in WSB’s five years of covering West Seattle news, with 235 comments as of this morning.

The comments so far are mostly expressions of concern or opposition. Last weekend, opponents launched a Facebook page – “Stop GoApe Zipline in Lincoln Park.” So far, we have not heard of any corresponding effort by supporters (if there is, please let us know).

In research so far, we found that two other urban-park-based proposals in the U.S., where it has three locations in addition to its two-dozen-plus in Europe, were dropped after opposition similar to what’s being voiced here, while one potential location, on land owned by a California airport, appeared to have been welcomed by the community. Ahead – more on that as well as new information about how the Lincoln Park proposal emerged, and what happens next:

A Seattle Parks document says the city “selected” GoApe as a potential partner last August, as part of its Expressions of Interest process (outlined in this city document), though the policy notes regarding partnerships that “(l)ocal ownership, leadership, and beneficiary participation are keys to success.” (Go Ape is based in the UK, with U.S. headquarters in Maryland.) If you missed it in our first story, here’s where a Go Ape PowerPoint says the Lincoln Park installation would be:

Pursuing more details on what preceded the decision last August to pursue a partnership with Go Ape, we compiled a list of questions for Rebecca Salinas, Parks’ senior manager of partnerships, who supervises Charles Ng, the point person on this project, who we learned in early research is unreachable until next week. We did not hear directly back from Salinas, but received answers Monday afternoon through Parks spokesperson Karen O’Connor.

She says that it all started when, through the Expressions of Interest process, a similar organization “came forward and we showed them around … then we didn’t hear back from them. Soon after that, two other organizations contacted us, one of which was Go Ape. We showed them a few of our parks. We decided there was some interest and put out RFPs [Request for Proposals]. We received three (proposals), and selected them.”

(3:33 pm update: O’Connor says she has since learned an RFP was *not* issued:

After further discussion with Rebecca Salinas, our Partnership Manager, I learned that we did not put out a Request for Proposal for the zipline in Lincoln Park.

In June 2010 Parks developed an Expression of Interest form that was posted our Partnerships web page. The purpose is to encourage and welcome interested parties who may want to engage in partnership opportunities with Seattle Parks. As a result, in April 2011, three companies sent in written preliminary proposals to construct and operate a high ropes course on Park property. High ropes courses, ropes challenge courses and zip lines are becoming popular throughout the country.

Parks issued a detailed questionnaire to each of these three organizations in May 2011, and evaluate their responses in order to select an organization to potentially construct and operate a high ropes course for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Go Ape, a for-profit business, was selected as the potential partner for providing a high ropes course in a Seattle park.

(back to original report) We have asked for a copy of the Request for Proposals that yielded this one, but have not yet received it. Meantime, O’Connor continued [in Monday correspondence], “We showed them a bunch of different parks. They loved Lincoln Park for all the reasons we love Lincoln Park.”

O’Connor said Parks had one initial concern – competition with the Ropes Challenge Course installed at Camp Long in West Seattle last year, also through a partnership – in this case, with the nonprofit 4-H. “But we talked to Camp Long, and this was totally different, so we started moving forward. We brought in our naturalist and our forester and had them look at the proposal. We’re (now) trying to figure out if we need an environmental-impact study … we think we’re going to move forward with that.”

(Photo added 4:25 pm: Concerned park users/neighbors toured the proposed course area today with Erika Schultz, left, Seattle Times photojournalist, and pointed out nests)
Commenters have raised concerns from wildlife – particularly the numerous bird species in the park – to vegetation; we found that Lincoln Park has long had a vegetation-management plan on file – see it here. The plan notes that, “”Despite Lincoln Park’s tremendous popularity, much of the park’s native vegetation has been conserved over time, representing a significant legacy and key to its landscape character.” (We couldn’t find a wildlife plan.)

Questions so far also have included whether the city would be fairly compensated for giving over a chunk of parkland to a for-profit company whose current admission fees are $55/adults, $35/youth. One page in their PowerPoint, which a concerned citizen sent to us, outlines what the company sees as the benefit to Seattle Parks:

The “significant revenue share” isn’t attached to a number there, but it is in the “project summary” document we received (see it here, or in see the full text of it in our first story): Estimated at $40,000 to $65,000. We asked Parks if that is the only direct revenue expected – for example, would they charge Go Ape rent? No, says O’Connor. But she cited something we hadn’t yet heard: Go Ape “would do some advertising for us, advertising we can’t afford, for the Camp Long ropes course, and promote it. And they would do some environmental work in the park – that would be part of the agreement.”

(Critics have pointed out that volunteers already do a significant amount of work in the park – volunteers who had not heard of this till some information about the proposal was e-mailed to them last week.)

Our last question for Parks, for now, involved the time lag between the initiation of a relationship between the department and Go Ape, and the proposed deal coming to light now. According to Seattle Parks’ “Public Involvement Policy for Parks Planning Processes and for Proposals to Acquire Property, Initiate Funded Capital Projects, or Make Changes to a Park or Facility” (see the full policy here):

It is the policy of Seattle Parks and Recreation, in carrying out its mission:
• To invite and encourage direct public involvement in its planning efforts and in the review of its funded capital projects and any proposal that would, in the judgment of the Superintendent, substantially modify the property’s use or appearance.

• To provide early and thorough notification of proposals and projects, through a variety of means, to users, user groups, neighborhoods, neighborhood groups, and other interested people.

O’Connor herself “just learned about it recently,” she said, adding, “We’re still trying to figure out if we are even moving forward. … We want to have a public meeting in early-to-mid August, we’ll advertise that, put out an e-mail blast.” And she reiterated that the proposal would have to go before the Parks Board and City Council to get formal approval. Currently, it’s still in “internal exploration” mode, she said.

Researching other U.S. parks where Go Ape installations have been proposed, we found two others where local residents said they didn’t find out until relatively late in the game. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the park authority made a deal in summer 2011 involving 400-acre Riverbend Park, whose neighbors and users started finding out in the fall, according to this report from last year, and an online compilation of e-mail comments on the proposal. The plan subsequently was dropped, according to this February 2012 story.

In fall 2010, this brief story was reported to be the first word that neighbors and users of 287-acre Byrd Park, also in Virginia, got of a plan for Go Ape to build there – a plan that was, by the time they heard, about to go to the local Planning Commission, with construction to start within months. The plan stalled after a public official identified as its major proponent quit his job. Go Ape has opened two facilities in the same region as the two aforementioned proposals – its first U.S. location at 1,800-acre Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Maryland (here’s the Go Ape page for Rock Creek), and 600-acre Freedom Park in Williamsburg, Virginia (here’s the Go Ape page for Freedom Park).

Go Ape’s third U.S. facility opened in May in Indianapolis’s Eagle Creek Park, and it has had at least one other on the boards – in South Lake Tahoe, California, which would be the first Western U.S. location. According to this report from last November, 12 acres belonging to the Lake Tahoe Airport were to be leased to Go Ape, which also was to provide a revenue share. Construction was supposed to start this summer, but according to this report from May, there were issues to work out with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Back to the Lincoln Park proposal: This would be the first facility of its kind in a Seattle city park (there are on-the-ground “zipline” type swings for kids, including the well-known one near Lincoln Park’s south parking lot). Affected by deep city budget cuts in recent years – which have led, among other things, to dramatic cuts and changes in the community-center system – it has been pursuing more partnerships, jn an effort to keep facilities open and maintained. One of the longest-standing partnerships is with the Associated Recreation Council, which – though many don’t realize this – operates many of the programs you’ll find at Parks-owned properties.

We asked Parks’ Karen O’Connor who, at this stage of the Go Ape proposal, is the appropriate person with whom feedback could be shared – a question asked by many – and she replied that it would be Charles Ng, the partnerships manager, whose contact information is here.

To date, the only scheduled public presentation remains the Morgan Community Association‘s regular quarterly meeting on July 18th (7 pm, lower-level meeting room at The Kenney [WSB sponsor], 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW). Since they meet only quarterly, the agenda is likely to have a multitude of other items. As noted earlier in this report, Parks says it will schedule a meeting specifically about the proposal next month. We are also continuing to check with other area community groups to see if this will appear on others’ agendas; Lincoln Park is in the coverage area of the Fauntleroy Community Association, which had not heard about the proposal when we contacted its president last week, but planned to check with Parks.

Regarding the rest of the timeline: When we first spoke with O’Connor last week, she said the Partnerships division had projected it might get an agreement to the City Council by year’s end; before going to the full council, it would first go through the Parks and Neighborhoods Committee, whose chair, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, is also unavailable for comment until next week.

Added 3:37 pm: In O’Connor’s aforementioned statement received by WSB today after publishing this story, she mentions an expected “Park Board review and public hearing in September.” That would be before any proposal goes to the City Council.

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Treetop ziplining at Lincoln Park? City mulls commercial partnership http://westseattleblog.com/2012/06/treetop-ziplining-at-lincoln-park-city-mulls-commercial-partnership/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/06/treetop-ziplining-at-lincoln-park-city-mulls-commercial-partnership/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 22:11:13 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=113182 (UPDATED SUNDAY AFTERNOON with opponents launching Facebook page)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Ziplining from treetop to treetop is a hot ticket for vacationers in various spots around the U.S., and elsewhere in the world.

Now it might be coming to a forested public park near you.

WSB has learned that the Seattle Parks Department is talking with a private company called Go Ape about installing a “Treetop Adventure Course,” including ziplining and “Tarzan swings,” at West Seattle’s Lincoln Park.

According to a PowerPoint presentation circulated by the company and shown to us by a source, Go Ape would charge around $55 a person ($35 for youth, its website says) for a 2+-hour turn, with sessions launching up to 14 people every half-hour.

The proposal has yet to be announced publicly, but the Parks Department has been considering it since at least March, according to e-mail chains last summer, according to documents also forwarded to us, and the first open public presentation is planned for a community-group meeting next month.

Here’s a map from the Go Ape PowerPoint showing where in Lincoln Park they want to build the facility:

In addition to ropes, wires, platforms, ladders, and other components in the trees, it would include a “cabin” for the operation, and also fences around “access points” to keep them secure during offhours.

Seattle Parks’ point person for partnerships, Charles Ng, is on vacation, so we obtained some information through spokesperson Karen O’Connor, who noted that the proposed location is near a developed section of the park, with a baseball field and horseshoe pit.

Go Ape started in the United Kingdom, where it has more than two dozen courses (mapped on their UK website). They expanded to the U.S. two years ago and have three installations right now – in Indianapolis, Williamsburg (Virginia), and Rockville (Maryland).

Its website describes what it offers as:

We take one lush, green forest and a healthy dose of breathtaking scenery; blend with a smattering of treetop high wires, tricky crossings (using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and super-strong wire) and wind-in-your-face zip lines; finished off with a mega dose of people in search of their inner Tarzan.

We then equip people with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners, give them a 30 minute safety briefing and training and let them loose into the forest canopy, free to fly on zip lines and swing through the trees.

The website also links to this promotional/explanatory video via YouTube:

A page on the company website geared toward prospective partners says the company will:

*Provide ALL capital investment for the program
*Design, build and operate the high ropes course in an environmentally sensitive manner
*Recruit, train and manage all staffing for the operation of the course
*Completely indemnify our park partners of ALL course responsibility
*Maintain an insurance policy that is 10X the industry standard
*Market and advertise the program to ensure financial success
*Provide you with an exciting new activity for your park and a new revenue stream

According to the Go Ape PowerPoint made for Seattle presentations, the “capital investment” here would be half a million dollars.

After learning about this last night, including some indication that Parks was moving toward some community outreachs, we checked with the presidents of the two nearest neighborhood councils.

Deb Barker of the Morgan Community Association said she first heard from Parks in March about trying to schedule a presentation, but couldn’t coordinate one before the July 18th meeting (7 pm, lower-level meeting room at The Kenney [WSB sponsor]). Bruce Butterfield of the Fauntleroy Community Association, which represents the area closest to the proposed facility, said FCA had not been contacted yet, but he’s planning to contact Parks.

According to Parks spokesperson O’Connor, a partnership proposal like this also would have to go before the Board of Parks Commissioners and ultimately to the City Council. She said the Partnerships division hoped to do that before year’s end, and also mentioned they hope to schedule a general community meeting about the Go Ape proposal this summer.

We asked whether an environmental review might be required, particularly given the park’s reputation for wildlife – especially winged wildlife like eagles, owls, and bats – and she wasn’t sure. Parks’ Partnership policy, however, does include:

3.2.8 – The proposed activity should not adversely impact Parks’ facilities or parkland, including wildlife habitat.

Caught in a budget crunch, Parks has been exploring more partnerships the past few years; another forested West Seattle park, Camp Long, opened a “ropes challenge course” last fall, in partnership with Washington State University 4-H. Go Ape’s PowerPoint promises that it will donate 900 tickets each year to “underserved local residents” and will facilitate an annual fundraiser for an unspecified local nonprofit.

8:41 PM UPDATE: We’ve received yet more documents related to the project. One of them reveals that this has been in the works since last August – and also includes the amount of revenue the city is supposed to get from this: $40,000 to $65,000 a year. Here’s the document that’s taken from (which includes many more details, including the “outreach strategy”); in case you can’t open the PDF, here is the cut-and-pasted text:

Treetop Adventure Course – Lincoln Park Project Summary

What – On August 12, 2011, Seattle Parks selected Go Ape as part of their Expression of Interest selection process for the development and operation of a treetop adventure course in its park system. In its proposal, GO Ape selected Lincoln Park as its preferred location for the new treetop adventure course. Go Ape will operate an eco-educational outdoor experience that will provide visitors with 2-3 hours of outdoor fun and exercise while navigating through the treetops. The course will include a variety obstacles, all blended within the forest across 6 to 9 acres at Lincoln Park.

For more information on the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course and business, please view the following Introduction to Go Ape video: http://www.goape.com/new-course.

Who – Go Ape is owned and operated by Dan & Jenny D’Agostino and Chris Swallow. Go Ape is the world’s leader in the development and operation of environmentally sensitive aerial courses. Since 2002, Go Ape has developed 28 courses and over 2.5 million people have safely taken part in the experience. Go Ape currently operates a course at Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Maryland, on land owned by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and is expanding across the county.

When – Go Ape and Seattle Parks are currently developing their outreach strategy to local civic groups, elected officials, community stakeholders, and neighbors surrounding the park area. Once the outreach process is complete, Go Ape hopes to begin development in late Spring 2013, which will take approximately 4-6 weeks.

Where – The course will be located in the woods within Lincoln Park. The majority of course activities will take place 30-50 feet within the treetops. Go Ape does not require the exclusive use of the park land and no existing park activities will be disrupted during development or course operations.

How – Go Ape will self-finance all project developments, with no resource requirement from Seattle Parks. Go Ape estimates that over $40 to 65k per year will be provided to Seattle Parks as a result of the operation of the course.

Community Concerns – Seattle Parks will implement an extensive public involvement plan that includes contacting and notifying key stakeholders/ community groups and public meetings to gather feedback and comments about this project throughout this summer and early fall. Go Ape has also taken deliberate efforts to mitigate any community concerns with our development and operations. The following are the few concerns we initially hear from interested community members and the mitigation measures we have developed to resolve these concerns during the last 10 years of our operation.

Traffic¬ – Go Ape deliberately manages course usage to limit traffic and burden on the park infrastructure. Go Ape caps sessions to every half hour on weekends, hourly on weekdays – sessions are limited to 14 people to reduce traffic and burden on parking infrastructure. 88 percent of Go Ape visitors book in advance reducing walk-ups. The surrounding community should only expect an increase in 4 to 5 car arrivals per appointment time.

Environment – Go Ape hires an outside contractor to perform an environmental management plan that is approved by the Lincoln Park Manager to ensure proper management of the natural area. Go Ape inspects the trees on a routine basis and yearly by an independent arborist. Go Ape uses no heavy machinery during our builds nor requires the felling of any mature trees. Go Ape also works with the park to coordinate the removal of non-native invasive plants and organize park clean-ups.

Parking – Due to Go Ape’s managed use of the course, parking needs are minimal with only 25 parking spaces required.

Noise – The only noise produced at Go Ape are the sounds of families and friends enjoying the treetop adventure trail experience. Due to the large size of Lincoln Park, the trail will be oriented towards the back of the woods where customers will not be heard from existing park usage areas.

Summary of Benefits –
• An annual revenue share of 40 to 65k/ year to Seattle Parks
• Go Ape completely indemnifies Seattle Parks and the City of Seattle of all course responsibility
• Go Ape will actively manage the health of the trees and park land, with annual independent arborist review, organized park cleanups and non-native invasive plant removal
• Educational signage will be displayed on the course to inform visitors on the importance of conservation and local ecology
• A new outdoor adventure amenity for park visitors, with over 500 free tickets provided to Seattle programs, charitable organizations, low income and underserved youth
• Work with Seattle Schools to provide some level of free or low costs access to the course
• As a physical activity, Go Ape will promote health and wellness in the local Seattle community
• The course is accessible to 95% of the special needs community
• 12 new and well-rewarded jobs will be provided to local residents
• Work with Parks to partner and collaborate in potential sponsorship and support of other programs and services

We will be following up on all this, on a variety of fronts, tomorrow.

FRIDAY MORNING NOTE: Many have asked who to send feedback to about this – whatever you think about it, pro or con or otherwise. Though there is no formally announced public process so far, we did put together a list in the comment section of some of those accountable along the way – here’s a direct link to that, in case you miss it there.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON NOTE: Opponents have launched a Facebook page.

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