Encampment postscript: Photojournalist’s park proposal


Exactly one week after we brought you first word of the Camp Long homeless encampment (cleared on Friday) that WSB contributing photojournalist Matt Durham had documented, he has a two-part postscript. First, his newest photos above, clockwise from top, and his captions below:

1. Spring rears its head along the trails leading to the removed encampments at Camp Long.

2. The encampment and its removal scarred nearly 50 yards of trail with deep ruts and the litter. Parks Department workers are limited in their resources to properly restore the park, given other demands.

3. A teddy bear, along with other human waste, continues to litter the area surrounding the dismantled encampment.

4. Large areas of forest floor are trampled and impregnated with leftover refuse from the encampments.

5. Parks Department workers remove a rope swing, near the homeless encampment, to reduce the chance of serious injury to park visitors.

6. A Seattle Parks Department wheel loader knocked a tree down to maneuver close enough to remove a large quantity of human refuse.

Second, Matt has written commentary about an idea he suggests could prevent such encampments and enhance park usage. Read on:

Commentary by Matt Durham

This story is not about punishing the homeless, nor is it condoning destruction; this story is about vision. To have a vision you must understand where you reside.

Most of the comments resulting from my photos were well-intentioned; they just lacked foresight.

How do we protect our urban outdoors? In part, good parks’ design incorporating good marketing.

Encampments and vandalism stem from underusage. The parks don’t have children running over logs and through the creeks, as once was the case. This lack of traffic results in less community policing.

Thoughtful parks’ design can promote a healthy environment by marketing the park to those we wish to occupy the park. Often the Seattle Parks Department post “No Bikes” signs, narrowing the variety of people using our parks. We must move past antiquated perceptions that mountain bikers harm the environment. Their passion to ride forested trails results in a desire to protect nature. Speeds can be regulated through signage and enforcement.

The backside of Camp Long, overlooking the West Seattle Golf Course, would serve as a perfect bantam mountain bike park. Golfers could benefit from an aesthetic natural perimeter. Children and adults would be attracted to nature and a healthy activity.

Whistler, B.C., site of the 2010 Olympics, is one of the more popular summer mountain bike destinations on the West Coast. They suffer one setback, snow; Seattle has the ability to appeal to those tourists by providing a winter mountain bike attraction.

Paying for the changes requires creativity. The City could trade one acre of mountain bike park for every two acres of evasive plant removal. Hold the volunteers to a high standard for evasive plant removal and renovation.

Charge parking fees for non-residents. Accommodations for the 2010 Olympics will surpass $10,000.00 per night. $25.00/day fee for nonresidents would be a drop in the bucket.

We finance stadium in the name of tourism; why not finance our parks for and with tourism? We would all benefit.

7 Replies to "Encampment postscript: Photojournalist's park proposal"

  • TheHouse May 5, 2008 (7:14 am)

    Matt, I agree/disagree. I agree that the lack of use was one of the reasons this was not detected earlier, but this should not be the reason that steers our (the city) decisions.

    I disagree with turning Camp Long into a mountain bike trail and I enjoy mountain biking. One of the attractions to Camp Long is the ability to have “untouched” forrest in the city.

    This probably could have been stopped by employing one additional city parks person that patrols the area similar to a Park Ranger.

    Nobody ever came out and said for certain that the people living there were “homeless”. This could have simply been a place where WS High students smoked weed on weekends!

    Thanks for the photos, Matt.

  • lina May 5, 2008 (9:30 am)

    The photo in the upper right hand corner is of an invasive plant called Herb Robert (aka Stinky Bob-it smells like overly strong, putrid cilantro). It spread like crazy and really loves newly cleared area like this one. If you have this plant in your yard or neighborhood, try to pull it before it flowers are they are starting to do now. It will take over and prevent native plants from reproducing and will cover the ground so completely that when other plants drop thier seeds, they never hit the ground, they hit Herb Robert instead. They may look pretty but invasive plants like this are one of the things destroying our urban forest and native habitat for bird and other wildlife-which are one of the things that people come to a park to enjoy.

  • d May 5, 2008 (10:38 am)

    Again, nice journalistic photos.

    I sure agree that positive patrons need to be marketed to and brought into the parks. But, beyond Camp Long, which is a REALLY hidden treasure in the City (that entryway on I-35 is hard to see!), I think there are a WHOLE lot of non-biking West Seattle people who have NO idea that WS has, at it’s entire eastern boundary, The Largest Greenbelt in the City, with scads of developed trails.

    Those who have worked hard to bring those trails in have my gratitude every time I walk them with the dog. I am looking forward to the challenge and pleasure of walking the linked trails in the future. That’s a great accomplishment! And, thanks to WSB for keeping the discussion on the table here.

    Westcrest is one of the parks I go to most frequently because I live nearby and have a dog. Similar issues on the trails behind the dog park to some degree, I’m suspecting. Again, I would hope that bringing lots of diverse people into the parks for diverse uses is a reasonable strategy to not only keeping the “undesirables” to a minimum, but creating the dynamic, positive usage everyone wants to see. If you haven’t been to Westcrest, I encourage you to have an adventure and check it out. You will be surprised, in a good way! I would hope!!!

  • WSMom May 5, 2008 (11:03 am)


    Oh please, I live with two teenagers and I can assure you they and their friends would no more hang out to smoke pot in a feces strewn rat infested encampment than fly to the moon. Are you serious??? Looking at the photos, it’s apparent to me that the folks who lived in that encampment had serious issues.

    Matt: My family enjoys visiting Camp Long quite a bit in the summer. I really like the bike trail idea and think it should be explored! Camp Long is a treasure, but I must admit that I feel rather vulnerable walking the trails with my kids with no one else around. I’d like to see more use of the area by other nature lovers.

  • WSB May 5, 2008 (11:36 am)

    Lina, I’m laughing because I knew someone would point that out – I almost added the disclaimer about the flower myself but didn’t want to clutter up the main point of the story – I’ve even seen “Most Wanted” type flyers letting people know to watch out for this weed – we have been pulling them around WSB HQ as time allows for years.

  • Vanessa May 5, 2008 (1:48 pm)

    This is begining to sounds like an “either/ or” discussion. Either we have the “wilderness” or mountain bike trails and wilderness means encampment and trash. Yes, the idea of a little bit of wilderness in our city is a great prospect, but if mountain bikers would help “patrol” the area, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have them there a little? I don’t think the issue has to be distilled down to one or the other, wilderness or bikers. Why can’t we only have a couple of trails and the off-trail area can remain wild? If it would keep down the refuse and waste, why not? It will be harmed by that, and obviously the site has been “cleared” and would be useful as a trail. The mountain bikers I know, some of whom do use the BC trails, are very respectful of their environment and would never trash it. Maybe a little “development” to save the forest is not impossible.

  • JanS May 5, 2008 (3:21 pm)

    WSMom…thanks for that observation….I always preferred that my teenage WSHS student/daughter smoke her pot at home so we could share ;-)

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