As noted in our Sunday report on overflowing trash cans at Alki (David Hutchinson photo at left), it happened between Parks Department furlough days – and as discussed since, it didn’t just happen at Alki. With the furlough days now past for this month, we checked with Parks today to see if they had an official response – Joelle Hammerstad e-mailed back that it was “the result of a perfect storm” but that it has resulted in a change of plans for the future:
Overflowing trashcans at Alki Beach this weekend were the result of a perfect storm of three different events: 1) furloughs; 2) peak-season employees not having started yet; and 3) great weather. In fact, overflowing trashcans were a problem all over the city.
As has been mentioned in many a press release, all Parks employees will take 10 days of unpaid leave this year. We have intentionally skipped July and August as those are our busiest months. These furloughs save Seattle Parks and Recreation almost $2.1 million a year, and save jobs. None of us wants to take furlough days, but when we do, there are inevitable impacts.
Between late September and early May, Seattle Parks and Recreation has a skeleton crew working on the weekends. We begin what we call our “seasonal” shifts in mid-May. This year, those shifts actually begin this week, and continue until Sept. 28. This gives us maintenance coverage at Alki Beach from 6 a.m. to sunset 7 days a week, and until 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday nights for beach fires. Our off-peak coverage is just two employees on both Saturday and Sunday to cover all the maintenance needs of West Seattle parks. Most of the time, that amount of coverage works just fine. Obviously, this past weekend, it didn’t.
And, of course, the weather was beautiful. As the weather desks at the tv stations reported, it had been more than 2 months since we’d had what can technically be termed as a “mostly sunny” day. People were itching to get outside and enjoy their parks, which is great. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the maintenance staff to support that level of park use.
There are 4 in-ground cans around the bathhouse part of Alki and 4 more down at Don Armeni. These go deep into the ground, 16 feet. The in-ground cans at the bathhouse (west area) have actually been in place for quite a while (at least 5 years). We recently installed new ones in the Don Armeni area, and I think those are the ones folks feel have difficult doors. They cans are brand new; we believe that the doors will loosen up and become more flexible as they are broken in.
This past weekend, we had 88 trash cans along the Alki strip, not including the ones at Seacrest and Don Armeni. We have Dumpsters at the bathhouse – 1 regular and 1 for recycling, and usually have another at the picnic shelter.
We take full responsibility for our part of the state of the parks this weekend. Plans are in place to ensure that another situation like the one this past weekend does not repeat itself. As soon as our crews came in on Monday morning, attending to overflowing trash cans was priority #1.
However, as many posters noted, we need the community’s help to ensure that our parks are clean, safe and habitable for everyone. Packing it out when you see that a trash can is full is a great idea. Bringing along a trash bag, and picking up trash as you see it, is another great one.
P.S. Our friends at Capitol Hill Seattle got a version of the same response.