Followup: Parks calls Alki (etc.) trash result of “a perfect storm”

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.

10 Replies to "Followup: Parks calls Alki (etc.) trash result of "a perfect storm""

  • jiggers May 11, 2010 (6:40 pm)

    Please don’t pull the wool over my eyes when you say it was ” A perfect storm”. I’ve heard that term so many times an an excuse. They knew it was going to happen.

  • me on 28th Ave SW May 11, 2010 (7:41 pm)

    Maybe it was a once-in-a-century-storm, eh, I mean event? Those pictures from Alki remind me of what EC Hughes playground looks like after a sunny weekend. Independance Day is even worse.

  • Kayzel May 11, 2010 (7:51 pm)

    So do your part and pick up. Not that hard, folks. It’s your park,too.

  • David Hutchinson May 11, 2010 (9:37 pm)

    My wife and I have lived at Alki almost 38 years and really love this area. Parks has always done a great job trying to keep the park clean and attractive for residents and visitors. That job can be very difficult during any nice weather, especially on weekends.
    The problem is not the lack containers. It’s the lack of enough containers that people are willing to use. It’s great that the in-ground cans go down 16 feet giving them increased capacity. The problem is that the porthole opening you insert your trash through is only 9 inches in diameter. It is hinged at the top using thick, stiff, rubber. To get anything into these large cans you have to push them open with one hand (not a pleasant task) and then try to fit your litter in under that hand which reduces the actual open space to about 6-7 inches. When faced with these obstacles, people elect to use only the smaller older style trash cans which quickly fill up on busy days. Last Sunday I photographed one of these older cans that was overflowing, when within one foot of it was a new in-ground container that was virtually empty.
    The in-ground cans installed recently at Don Armeni try to solve the “icky” factor by installing a metal handle on the porthole cover. Unfortunately, when you push down that handle, it blocks even more of the small opening. A re-designed top to all these cans would probably result in increased usage.
    I’m sorry to say that this would not be a solution to all the litter problems. Some people will never take the time to walk over to a container that is not filled or exert themselves to place their trash into one of the dumpsters.

  • ratsinacage May 11, 2010 (9:48 pm)

    Alki on a sunny weekend is a nightmare with the crowds, traffic, and the knuckleheads that show up on occasion to make trouble. If the police have to set up a mobile command unit, that tells me it’s likely a place to avoid. Plus, shootings, and the like have been reported here so there’s that too.. but what I really want to say is:

    There is a perfect storm (trash) every day all along California Ave and also along 35th .. Who is responsible for cleaning the space between the street and the sidewalk along these 2 major streets!? On a recent walk I noticed broken car window glass, beer bottles, cans, liquor bottles, fast food cups, wrappers, etc. Not to mention they are basically dandelion strips not grass strips.. I do my part maintaining the 2 parking strips on my corner lot. Sure we can all help out here and there and I do but the decay I see is going to require property owners or the city to be held accountable.. it’s larger than one person just picking up some trash by a trash can to help out.

  • jiggers May 11, 2010 (10:00 pm)

    Perfect storm? pffftttt…

  • Noelle May 11, 2010 (11:18 pm)

    It is true, it was the perfect storm. There should still be enough life rafts though! Alki is not the Titanic of beaches with trash problems. We need more trash cans. We need the cans to be taken care of, so they do not over flow. We need lids that everyone can use. No more “icky” porthole doors. Alki is a tourist hot spot. Most people are good and want to put their trash in the propper receptacles. The big problem is when the cans are full and the wild creatures get into the trash or the wind blows it around. I still say it should not be this big a problem. Simple fixes can make out little coast line clean and fresh.

  • jiggers May 12, 2010 (9:20 am)

    No Kayzel, I don’t get paid to pick up others peoples trash. If the City wants to hire more help to maintain its responsibilties, then they should. It is what it is. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind getting paid over $18 an hour plus mega benie’s just to clean up the trash. Honestly.

  • HolyKow May 12, 2010 (3:55 pm)

    I thank you to not just lie to me, SPAR people.

    I get the whole furlough thing, no money, gotta do what ya gotta do, but don’t patronize us with that perfect storm business.

    Here’s hopin’ the new plan works.

    And if there is a cup or a wrapper, fine, pitch in. But when it looks like a land fill complete with Seagull and that ‘stank, you can kiss it. That is not picking up other peoples trash, that is rubber glove and boot you gotta pay me to deal with that stuff kind of situation there.


  • foy boy May 13, 2010 (10:25 am)

    Why are all you people complaining. We all voted for the people incharge. We are all proud democrats. We are living in a utopia. We are democrats, are leaders are democrats gee what more could we ask for. All that trash and stuff must be from those outsiders, you know repubs.

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