Fairmount Ravine cleanup postscript: Now, to work on safety

(Photos in this story courtesy John Lang unless otherwise credited)
In our Saturday report on this year’s Fairmount Ravine cleanup, we mentioned that organizer John Lang had found an apparent transient camp earlier in the week and asked for police help before the volunteer event. There was a lot more to the story, as you’ll see now that John has written up his account of not only the cleanup but also the discovery, and a close call he had along the way, as well as what they’re hoping for the future:

The 18th annual spring cleanup was a great success! 23 people participated on the sunny and warm Saturday. There was participation from students from Kennedy, O’Dea and West Seattle High Schools including one who drove all the way from Federal Way. That is dedication!

That’s our photo of the teens – John’s story continues after the jump, including what happened when he discovered the camp – and was attacked by the campers’ dog – plus, how your help might be needed (not just for future cleanups):

John’s story continues:

This effort was appreciated, as cleaning up under the bridge requires the skills of a goat as the hillside is a 45 degree slope. The crew filled approximately 40 large garbage bags and assorted large objects and finished within the 2 hour anticipated timeframe.

The garbage quantity was much greater this year due to transients living under the bridge west end by Walnut Ave. The heavy ivy ground cover and blackberries adjacent to the bridge hide much of the garbage. We found two “pop top” beer cans which would have been down there at least 30 years. Construction debris from the bridge seismic upgrade over a decade ago continues to be discovered under ivy. The cleanup crew discovered that a Safeway shopping cart likely thrown over the bridge and falling 50′ that still works fine…..We returned it and several plastic beverage racks back to the store.

(WSB photo)

Throwing any object over the bridge is subject to a big fine. Not everyone picked up trash; several volunteers cut ivy from the mature trees to prevent the invasive vine from killing the trees. This effort has been very successful for the health of the trees.

We extend a special thanks to Alki Tully’s who provided coffee and hot chocolate to “motivate” the hard working crew. Please remember and support those businesses who continue to show their support of the local community in effort to improve West Seattle.

Finding a transient camp under the bridge was disturbing. This has happened once before during our 18 year history. Unfortunately, analyzing the garbage cleaned up and from reports by neighbors, who live adjacent to the bridge, this encampment promotes illegal activities and can foster local crime. Upon a tip that this year’s garbage was much more than previous years, I viewed the underside of the west end of the bridge last Monday to take the “before” picture you have seen in the WS Blog.

The transients, hidden in one of the recesses under the bridge, released their pit bull, who attacked and bit me in the upper thigh. The response by fire, police and animal control was excellent, and I am very thankful for their efforts. The transients and dog tried to escape but were captured about 5 blocks away. The dog was impounded, is quarantined a mandatory 10 days to check for rabies, and then will be euthanized. My evening was spent in an emergency room.

I saw the assailant 3 days later panhandling outside Safeway, which alerted me to have the police remove the transients early Saturday morning, which they did. Since the attack, I have been working closely with the Seattle police and dentist, George Naden, who owns the adjacent building to the bridge where the path leads down to the underside of the west end of the bridge, on a solution to secure this area. I am confident that as a community we can arrive at a solution that will permanently prohibit the underside of both the bridge and dental office (from being) a gathering point for ongoing illegal activity. We may ask the community for support in applying pressure to achieve this goal.

We will keep you posted and again, many thanks to those who showed up Saturday to make this community a great place to live.

16 Replies to "Fairmount Ravine cleanup postscript: Now, to work on safety"

  • Tim March 9, 2010 (8:14 am)

    Thanks John for putting this together all these years. I did some of the ivy removal but had to leave early due to a prior commitment. But I am more than willing to help put up fencing or screening if needed. I am fairly handy and have my own tools. Contact me at timhds @ hotmail . com if you need help.

  • Marge March 9, 2010 (9:03 am)

    sorry if this seems stupid but where is the Fairmount Ravine?

  • star 55 March 9, 2010 (9:23 am)

    Curious, was the pan handling done by a “spare change” person? They have become very aggressive in the junction area?

  • alki_2008 March 9, 2010 (9:38 am)


  • ltfd March 9, 2010 (9:44 am)

    To everyone involved- great job on the clean up.

    John, you did a good job on the pre-event scouting and utilizing SPD to secure the area. Sorry you were bitten by the dog.

  • enviromaven March 9, 2010 (9:56 am)

    Great job! I’d be happy to help with ivy removal in the future and will be watching the WSB for your next project. Very sorry to hear about the incident with the pit bull – this is what gives them a bad name.

  • KBear March 9, 2010 (10:25 am)

    …and also the type of criminal element that gives homeless people in general a bad name.

  • West Seattle Art Attack March 9, 2010 (11:51 am)

    . . . . and also the type of (formerly) litter strewn hillside that gives ravines a bad name. . . . . .;-)

  • John March 9, 2010 (2:20 pm)

    The poor dog was only doing as it was told. It’s unfortunate that the dog will be put down and not its owner.

  • villageidiot March 9, 2010 (2:51 pm)

    Thanks for cleaning my homeless shelter.

  • mickey mouse March 9, 2010 (5:26 pm)

    The folks who sell the “Real Change” newspaper are earning a paycheck by selling the papers they purchase.
    Do not put them in the same class as those living under the brige and causing troule.
    Check out the Real Change Newpaper for details of their organization and vendors.

  • star 55 March 9, 2010 (7:40 pm)

    Sorry Mickey Mouse but they are not all good people, try being in the junction and saying no or ask shop owners what they have encountered by these people. I am all about helping but not when I have seen them peeing between dumpsters with the bathroom right across the street by the Metro stops, or trying to walk out of Huskies or walking in front of the Mexican Restaurant.

  • m thomas March 9, 2010 (10:06 pm)

    John-thank you for all your efforts in keeping the neighborhood respectable in looks and giving back to your /our community. My parents live on the other side of Dr. Naden’s office and sadley their house was broken into late this last fall. Would love to know if any of the trash at the transient site was any of the missing items from my parents home.

  • Frank Gilmore March 10, 2010 (3:58 pm)

    We need not to help out the homeless through panhandling or “real change”. This is 2010, this isn’t a society where someone cant get a job, there are a lot of government programs and assistance, if someone homeless wanted to find the resources, they could, most dont.

  • John March 11, 2010 (1:26 pm)

    In response to the M Thomas question regarding the trash collected, there were no valuables. Lots of refuse mainly related to the transient’s sustenance. Some used clothing that likely would not be worn by your parents.

Sorry, comment time is over.