West Seattle, Washington
(WSB file photo from low tide at Constellation Park)
Spring and summer are rolling this way, sure as the tide, and if you love being out on our beaches, here’s a unique volunteer opportunity:
Volunteer with the Seattle Aquarium at a beach near you!
Why do barnacles stand on their heads? What do sea stars like to eat? How do moon snails lay their eggs? Learn to answer these and other fun questions by volunteering as a Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalist this summer. Naturalists receive training in the spring, and then spend three low-tide days educating beach visitors about inter-tidal life and beach etiquette at one of eleven Puget Sound beaches, including Constellation Park and Lincoln Park in West Seattle.
Training begins on March 2.
If interested, please email email@example.com, call 206-693-6189, or visit seattleaquarium.org/beach-naturalist. Registration required.
See this flyer for more info.
If you’re thinking about a beach walk late today or tonight now that the rain’s lifted – you don’t have to worry about contaminated water along Alki Point.
Four days after the sewage-pipe leak that brought emergency repairs and beach closure south of Alki and beyond, the King County Wastewater Treatment District reports the water quality has “returned to normal” near the leak site, and that while health authorities closed Alki Beach Park itself to swimming as a precaution, its water tested at normal levels all along.
According to county spokesperson Doug Williams, the county estimates 14,200 gallons of wastewater/sewage spilled before they started work to stop and fix the leak last Friday near 63rd SW/Beach Drive SW. It was caused by a failed joint seal. After they fixed the pipe, it was buried in concrete, and now they’re restoring the landscaping by the south end of Constellation Park (a crew was still there when we went by an hour ago). The sewer line there, almost 4 feet across, pipes West Seattle wastewater to the West Point treatment plant across Elliott Bay.
(Video/photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand, unless otherwise credited)
Clear sky, 33-degree air, 50-degree water, and hundreds of cheery participants combined for this year’s West Seattle Polar Bear Swim at Alki Beach this morning. Here’s the leader of the countdown you hear in the video, organizer Mark Ufkes:
He went in wearing his “I (Heart) White Center” T-shirt. As usual, the crowd was peppered with costumes and uniforms – and it’s not a Polar Bear Swim without the softball umpires:
Another group went prehistoric:
The most popular “costume” generally involved head/face gear of some kind:
(This photo and next one by Scott Nelson)
The Olympics provided a beautiful backdrop:
To get the internal temperature back up afterward, free chowder courtesy of Duke’s (right across the street from the gathering spot for the “swim”):
Can’t guarantee the sunshine but the day and time are locked in – so mark your calendar for New Year’s Day 2017!
P.S. Our clip from the sidewalk gives you more of an idea of how many people were on the beach before, during, and after:
(Reviewing our links, you might be surprised to see it’s been sunny on NYD more often than not!)
(WSB photo by Patrick Sand)
Again this year, a doubleheader night for the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship in West Seattle began at Lowman Beach, right around sunset. The view is different from the nighttime stops, and you could still see the Spirit of Seattle as well as its lights. Onshore:
(This photo and next two by Trileigh Tucker)
The Lowman crowd enjoyed a bit of a break in the rain, and a little sunset color even broke through the clouds:
At both Lowman and Alki, Seattle Parks provided a bonfire:
Among those who appreciated their work: Sarah, who shared this photo:
Sarah wrote in her e-mail, “We had a great time watching the Christmas ships go by tonight at Lowman! Thanks to all who brought out hot drinks & built the big fire!”
From Lowman (where you might be able to watch next year from the observation deck atop the new Murray CSO facility across the street) the Christmas Ship headed to Alki Beach Park, where a bonfire also awaited:
(This photo and next three, by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
Inside the Bathhouse, a chance to get treats:
On the east side of the Bathhouse, Christmas Hope performed as an opening act:
Then, as rainshowers drifted in and out, the Christmas Ship sailed up – with The Dickens Carolers singing for 20 minutes until it was time to go, leaving West Seattle for the last time this season.
If you missed it, you can hear the performance (for the next day or two) in the archived video from our live Periscope phonecast. The rest of the Christmas Ship’s regional schedule, nightly through Christmas Eve-Eve, is online here.
(Right-center, Doug Marsano from KC Wastewater Treatment District, talking with residents)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The latter is what some Beach Drive-area residents say they’re still dealing with, and some find it difficult to believe it’s just rotting sea lettuce. So they’ve been talking to the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, which sent reps out Wednesday afternoon to talk with neighbors.
KCWTD took the complaints seriously enough to run tests in its system, looking for a telltale gas that would be present if something was getting out of the system and into the air. They didn’t find it, they told the neighbors:
The tests were conducted by King County odor investigators using gauges installed inside four manholes near your homes that detect the presence of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. H2S gas smells like rotten eggs and is usually what causes people to notice odors coming from the sewer. If the sewer system was creating odors, the gauges would detect extended periods of time when heavy concentrations of H2S were present in the manhole that could escape to the environment.
Testing began on Thursday, September 24 and continued through Sunday, September 27. County odor investigators reviewed data from the gauges Monday, September 28. There are no indications that increased levels of H2S gas were present at any of the four manholes during the four-day testing period.
That wasn’t much consolation – some say the stink is worse than anything they’ve experienced in years, even decades along/near the shore. “It was unbearable this morning,” said one neighbor.
Joining KCWTD community liaison Doug Marsano for the gathering along the sidewalk across from Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, in the late afternoon sunshine, was marine biologist Kim Stark, who works on water-quality issues with the county Department of Natural Resources.
She said this area’s not alone in the smelly siege – areas north of Elliott Bay have been dealing with it too, including Carkeek.
While skeptical neighbors wondered how it could continue through high tides and low, stormy weather and sunshine, Stark explained that the water is warmer this year, and that’s fueled the sea lettuce’s growth.
It’s not just pieces of sea lettuce on the shore, she added – mats of decaying sea lettuce, kelp, and other marine matter have been floating offshore, creating literal hotbeds of odor generation.
So what can we do about it? one neighbor asked.
Right now, the county reps said, not much. State permits would be needed to remove what’s rotting. And those would take a while. They mentioned the community of Dumas Bay in South King County, where the city of Federal Way got involved. And, as Beach Drive Blog (whose owners were also at the meeting) reminded readers, Fauntleroy Cove dealt with this for years, too, though we haven’t heard much lately.
In the WSB archives, we found a 2008 mention of a company that was expecting to remove sea lettuce in Fauntleroy and Dumas, to turn into biofuels.
(Published on WSB, September 2008: State Ecology Department photo of test sea-lettuce removal in Dumas Bay)
Our further research revealed that the company, Blue Marble, has long since changed its focus and moved to Montana, so it’s not an option now.
The neighbors vowed to organize and see what they can do about ensuring removal is an option next year – researching and applying for permits, for starters. In the short run, cooler weather – and most importantly, cooler water – seems to be their main hope of relief from the nose-wrinkling nuisance, but that might take another month.
(WSB photo, taken from behind the protection-zone tape)
Walking on the Lincoln Park shore this afternoon, on our way to meet an interview subject, we happened onto an unexpected sight – this harbor-seal pup on the beach. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s first responder Lynn Shimamoto was already there and marking off an area to keep it safe from people and other animals. On our way back from our (unrelated) interview, we stopped to talk with Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey, who said it’s continued to be a slow season for pup sightings otherwise, as noted on their Blubberblog website (where you’ll likely see a post later about today’s visit, which came four days after a brief sighting nearby). Most likely, Robin said, today’s pup was already weaned, as most pups are born in July or August and now past the time they stay with their moms. One telltale sign: Like this one, the weaned pups aren’t very plump, as they are learning how to hunt for themselves. This means it’s even more important they get space to rest, because if they’re spooked, they’ll burn more of what little stored fat they have as they scoot back into the water to find safety. If you see a seal or other marine mammal on a local store, call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL.
P.S. For tracking purposes, pups protected by Seal Sitters often are given names. Lynn told us passersby from Wales suggested “Cariad,” which means “sweetheart” in Welsh.
At least once a day, someone asks us about a sewer-ish stink in the Beach Drive vicinity or upslope. While busy with other stories this past week-plus, we’ve been replying by pointing them to Beach Drive Blog‘s explanation – but it’s time, while we have a moment, to mention it here for anyone else who wondered but hasn’t inquired. BDB says it’s the rotting sea lettuce that turns up every so often, more notoriously a ways further south at Fauntleroy Cove. This isn’t unique to West Seattle, nor even to Washington, nor even to the U.S. – a Google search for the term “rotting sea lettuce” turns up reports from other nations including Canada, China, and the UK.
Thanks to Kestrel Windhover for the photo taken this morning at Lincoln Park, where dozens of people were fishing. According to our partners at The Seattle Times, “a wall” of pink salmon has migrated into Puget Sound – they’re usually the major catch in odd years. While this run might not seem to be adversely affected by “The Blob” (see previous WSB story), scientists are watching what could happen in future years.
Colorful creativity lines the Alki Beach boardwalk until 6 pm today on this second and final day of this year’s Alki Art Fair.
Above, Salish Sea Designs‘ offerings include bells/chimes made from fire extinguishers recycled from the USS Kitty Hawk. The vendors include West Seattle locals you’ll recognize, like Fred Madrid:
Among Madrid Frame‘s specialties: Historic photos. Keep strolling west on the beach and you’ll find the busker stage:
Nolan Garrett was performing when we strolled the fair at mid-morning. You’ll also find music east of the Bathhouse; the schedule for both stages is here. Also close to the Bathhouse, don’t miss the Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network‘s booth:
Volunteers John, Barbara, and Eilene were just part of the Seal Sitters contingent on hand as the festival’s day began. Take a close look in the booth to learn about seals and sea lions and their presence in the area, with pupping season just beginning. And ask them about signing up for the August 15th volunteer-training session!
Inside the Bathhouse itself – a silent auction. And right outside, food vendors including Lemongrass (Vietnamese food), ice cream, and fruit. The fair is on until 6 pm, with music scheduled until 8, so you have plenty of time to get there, and we do recommend the shuttle if you’re not already walking/biking/bus-riding – Alki parking already was full for blocks around when we visited in late morning.
P.S. Not an official part of the Art Fair, but, from the WSB Instagram feed, some creativity we spotted on the other side of the seawall:
(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)
What a beautiful day to celebrate the return of a West Seattle beach to the public domain. This is Cove Park, adjacent to the north side of the Fauntleroy ferry dock, closed for three years because of King County’s expansion/upgrade of the Barton Pump Station – now open again, with a ribbon-cutting celebration today:
Cutting the ribbon were King County Wastewater Treatment Division director Pam Elardo and our area’s King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. But the celebration was even bigger for the Fauntleroy community, which stewards the Cove Park area and has been working closely with the county (some backstory in this 2011 WSB report) to ensure that the beach and its treasured public art would make a comeback – with additions!
That’s the path from Fauntleroy Way to the small beach, where you will find works by artist Thomas Jay – some familiar, some new. A brochure provided by the Fauntleroy Community Association shows nine things to look for, including these:
As this warm weekend continues, come to Cove Park and see for yourself.
This afternoon’s celebration at the park also included tours of the pump station. You can find out more about the project here.
More reminders about all the cool stuff happening in West Seattle this weekend – this one’s at the top of our list tomorrow afternoon between the West Seattle Grand Parade and West Seattle Outdoor Movies: Ribbon-cutting celebration for the restored pocket-beach Cove Park and upgraded Barton Pump Station, just north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. 2-4 pm, including tours of the pump station (wear closed-toe shoes if you’re interested in taking the tour). Thanks to Phil Sweetland for the photo of posters made by local kids to remind everyone about tomorrow’s celebration!
Thanks to everybody who messaged us about a crew setting up this morning on the beach on the west side of Seacrest. Here’s what they’re up to: It’s a car commercial, for Ford. They even brought their own “lifeguard station”! Greg Whittaker at Alki Kayak Tours told us they’re using some of his equipment, too. The “No Parking” signs in the area are for 8 am-1 pm, so the shoot is likely to wrap by early afternoon.
When you’re out on the shore this holiday weekend, be mindful of the creatures with whom we share it, those that can’t speak for themselves. Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network shares the story of “Little Dipper” the rescued seal pup:
Harbor-seal-pupping season is now underway in South Puget Sound, as well as the outer coast beaches and other inland waters. Since many readers will be out enjoying our waterways and beaches this holiday weekend, please stay well away (100 yards) from harbor-seal haulouts, now filled with pregnant females and moms with newborn pups. Offshore rafts, log booms and docks may also have moms with pups resting on them – or a pup alone. A pup who is alone is not necessarily abandoned! Please don’t interfere or the adult may not return.
Human (and canine) disturbance is truly a matter of life and death for these tiny pups who are still nursing and too young to forage for themselves. Read my post “Fourth of July no picnic for wildlife” about how you can help keep wildlife safe this holiday and throughout the summer and fall months of pupping season.
Last Friday afternoon, Seal Sitters MMSN rescued a newborn harbor seal pup from the beach at Lincoln Park and transported him to PAWS Wildlife Center for health assessment. The pup had first been sighted onshore by Colman Pool early Thursday morning. The reporting party said that she witnessed the pup being scared from the beach by people approaching too closely. When Seal Sitters first responder Lynn arrived, there were 4 illegally off-leash dogs nearby. After she cleared the beach of people and dogs, the pup finally returned to rest on the sand. He had been frantically trying to climb up onto one of the old cement piers off Point Williams to rest, but did not have the strength. Lynn established a large perimeter of yellow tape.
Because it was truly an urgent situation for this still-nursing pup, estimated to be only a few days old, Seal Sitters diverted Park visitors around the opposite side of the pool via the sidewalk loop Sadly, we had a few people who were incensed at this mild inconvenience and questioned Seal Sitters MMSN’s authority to do so. As a member of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network with a binding agreement to respond to all marine mammals, dead or alive, we do indeed have the authority to safely divert the public away from a harbor seal (or other marine mammal) on the beach. All marine mammals are protected from harassment and disturbance by Federal law, the MMPA and Washington State law. Thankfully, there were hundreds of people who were thrilled to help an animal in need simply by sharing the shore and giving them the little bit of space they need.
We hoped desperately that the pup’s mom might return for him, after waiting for the disturbance around her pup to subside. However, over 2 days’ time and with no evidence of a mom, the emaciated pup’s condition was worsening in extremely hot temperatures (photo taken early Friday afternoon) and it was obvious the pup was abandoned. The decision was made to transport him to PAWS.
Please read my post for more info about the pup nicknamed Little Dipper, who is doing well in rehab.
Trying to protect a newborn pup in a busy urban area is incredibly challenging and is almost always a recipe for disaster. Any pup born in our area at this time would still be nursing. However, we can still have pups born as late as early September (October in Hood Canal), so there will be a mix of weaned pups and newborns using shoreline habitat as the season progresses.. If you see a pup onshore, PLEASE stay back, keep people away, keep dogs away and leashed – and call the stranding network immediately in hopes mom will not abandon her pup.
Robin and the Seal Sitters corps are full of hope for Little Dipper; last month, they dealt with a heartbreaker, a premature pup who turned up on Alki Point and couldn’t be saved.
P.S. If you have questions for Seal Sitters, and/or are interested in volunteering, look for them at the West Seattle Summer Fest Community Tent on Friday and Sunday afternoons during the festival (July 10th and 12th) – we’ll be previewing the full community-group lineup as our Summer Fest countdown continues in the days ahead.
(WSB photo of Cove Park, taken from the bluff across Fauntleroy Way at midday today)
Exactly three years ago, on June 22, 2012, we reported the closure of Cove Park – the pocket beach just north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock – for what was at the time described as about two years of work to upgrade the Barton Pump Station next door. Cove Park’s beloved art installations were taken away for storage, but now the crow and canoe are back … the beach is being restored … and new art will be in view when the beach reopens soon. Thanks to Judy Pickens for the heads-up that the big celebration is set for 2-4 pm on Saturday, July 18th (as she first reported in the Fauntleroy Community Association newsletter): “Festivities will include remarks from community, county, and artist perspectives, music created for the occasion, refreshments, and tours of the upgraded and expanded Barton Street wastewater pump station.” Perfect timing that day, between the West Seattle Grand Parade and the first of this year’s six West Seattle Outdoor Movies!
(Photo and video courtesy Vlad Oustimovitch)
On the rocky shores off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4503 Beach Drive SW) at low tide today, Vlad Oustimovitch and other beach explorers were mesmerized by the sight of that small – he guessed maybe a foot and a half –
Giant Pacific Octopus octopus, as it headed toward the water, and then arrived, as Vlad’s two short clips show:
The lowest low tide will be even lower the next two days – per our favorite long-range chart, -2.3 feet at 10:42 am tomorrow, -2.5 feet at 11:23 am tomorrow.
(Photo by Eilene Hutchinson)
That’s part of what Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network, friends, and volunteers found during their Alki Beach cleanup Saturday morning. From Robin Lindsey:
After learning that 360 billion cigarette butts are discarded each year in the US (you can just imagine the numbers worldwide!), volunteers spread out along Alki Beach and the sidewalks with buckets and bags. They returned with over 5,000 butts and amassed a large amount of trash in under two hours. Passersby were astounded and very grateful. People in cars yelled out their support as they drove by the dedicated people plucking up all sorts of toxic and dangerous trash along the street.
Before heading out, the volunteers got educational encouragement:
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
Daoud Miller from Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists (photo above) spoke briefly to more than 80 volunteers, asking them to make sure to hceck trash before removing it in case an invertebrate had claimed it as “home.” He was available all morning to engage with participants and inform them about the small critters that live along the shoreline. Peggy Foreman, education specialist from NOAA, talked passionately about the Arroyos gray whale who died in 2010 with a disturbing amount of human trash in his stomach.
Seal Sitters, Seattle Parks and Recreation, ACC and PAWS (co-sponsors of the event) thank everyone who helped make the beach safer for marine life yesterday!
More photos and details from Saturday are in Robin’s full report on Seal Sitters’ blubberblog website.
Thanks to Lamont Granquist for that photo from earlier this week – yes, taken from a distance, while a Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network volunteer guarded the pup near Alki Point Lighthouse. We saved it so we could publish it with this reminder of tomorrow morning’s beach cleanup on Alki – meet Seal Sitters at Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st/Alki) at 9 am; the cleanup continues until 11:30, but whatever time you can give to it will be appreciated. The cleanup is in honor of Sandy the seal pup who died in 2012 after getting tangled in marine debris, and the Arroyos gray whale whose 2010 necropsy revealed a belly full of trash. Whatever you clean from the beach tomorrow (or any other day) will be that much less pollution in our waters – if it’s left on the beach, it’ll get into Puget Sound eventually.
(Wednesday low-tide photo by Lynn Hall)
In case you haven’t already seen it in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar – the Southwest Seattle Historical Society is launching a new series of beach walks, starting this Saturday, but with a twist – the walks are not tours in themselves, but rather, your chance to help shape a tour. This announcement from SWSHS explains:
The history of Alki Beach awaits a rich, multi-layered walking tour to be developed this spring by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, and you can help make it happen.
The historical society plans three “scouting expeditions” on foot from 10:30 a.m. to noon on three Saturdays this month. The walks will start and end at the historical society’s “Birthplace of Seattle” Log House Museum, 3003 61st Ave. SW.
People can sign up for one, two or all three sessions. They will cover these sections of the beach:
* The promenade, Saturday, May 9
* The sandy beach, Saturday, May 16
* The rocky beach north to the former Luna Park (often called Anchor Park), Saturday, May 30
Leading the sessions is Dave Hrachovina, who grew up in West Seattle and is the museum’s regular docent/greeter on Fridays and Saturdays. He is looking forward to putting together the beach walks.
“You never get tired of Alki,” he says. “It is like an inexhaustible spring of pleasure for young and old. It is Seattle’s headwater, and it is contagious. The more you learn, the more it grows on you.”
The purpose of the sessions is to identify points of interest to be included on a beach walk, everything from the Duwamish tribal story and the Landing Party saga to the times of shacks, tents and the “Coney Island of the West.” Icons present and past will be part of the mix, including the “Birthplace of Seattle” monument, the Statue of Liberty replica, the Alki Bathhouse, the Alki Natatorium, and Luna Park.
If you are interested in taking part in these “scouting expeditions,” please call 206-938-5293 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
Maybe you’ve seen Wayne Kinslow swimming off Alki and wondered if it was just somebody on a dare. Nope. Wayne swims off Alki every day. And we do mean, EVERY day. Today happened to be his THOUSANDTH consecutive day of swimming off Alki – that’s almost three years without missing a day, rain or shine or snow. Among those capturing the historic occasion – Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:
During a quick post-swim interview, Wayne, who’s an Alki resident as well as Alki swimmer, received a trophy of sorts:
Here’s a closer look:
He’s still swimming tonight too, as mentioned in our daily calendar highlights, and invites you to join him in celebrating the milestone – meet up at the Alki fire rings around 6:30, group swim set for about 7 pm, then a potluck and bonfire. By the way, according to a NOAA buoy, today’s water temperature in Elliott Bay is about 51 degrees.
Beautiful day for a beach cleanup! As promised, the Surfrider Foundation‘s Seattle chapter was out at Alki on this Earth Day afternoon, with volunteers picking up trash.
The special focus is on cigarette debris left behind, as this sidewalk message pointed out:
Read more about that campaign on this Surfrider Foundation page.
Sidewalk detours and a bus-stop move are ahead next week with repair work at the 53rd Avenue Pump Station on Alki Beach. We just received the official notice from the county Wastewater Treatment Division – you can scroll through it above (or read it here, as a PDF). The county expects work to start next week and last up to a week.
Thanks to David Hutchinson for sharing the video of a river otter (yes, the otters you see here are RIVER otters, not sea otters, which stick to the open ocean). He explains:
The otter was responded to by Seal Sitters earlier this month at Duwamish Head. While not classified as a marine mammal, our theme is “Share the Shore,” so volunteers kept an eye on him while he was using the beach. Thought you might also want to take a look at him going through his normal grooming routine.
Drive carefully on Harbor and Alki Avenues, because river otters do cross the road, as we’ve noted here before – their “dens” are generally inland, but they go out into Puget Sound looking for food.
P.S. Speaking of Seal Sitters, if you’d like to volunteer with the group, sign up ASAP for the next training session – four weeks from tomorrow, March 22nd, but spots are limited and usually fill up in advance. All the info you need is here.