West Seattle, Washington
While helping Friends of Lincoln Park restore the forest, a University of Washington environmental-studies senior has also been studying one of the park’s thorniest issues: Off-leash dogs. Sam Timpe has been working with the local volunteers 15 hours a week since January, planting natives and pulling invasives.
Spending all that time in the park, he’s been able to observe dog owners and their pets, and while most follow the rules, he says the ones who don’t are responsible for more damage than you might think. He’s hoping for an “attitude shift” in the park, and hoping that people feel empowered to talk to those not following the rules, to say “please don’t do it,” to have a sense of community.
Restoration work is something you often won’t detect just with a casual glance. It’s a cleared spot, a small plant. “With all the people doing restoration work there,” Sam said, “to have a dog run through it and tear it, is kind of disheartening.”
Any individual dog, of course, wouldn’t do that much damage, he explains, but if he sees one every hour, ten times a day, 50 times a week, the cumulative effects add up.
From Sam’s research:
I did a study within Lincoln Park to get some baseline data on leash and trail compliance. I chose three different locations within the park (south open area near bluff trail, north open area west of soccer field, and the north parking lot) and at each location I conducted three 90-minute samples, one on a weekday morning, weekday evening, and weekend morning. I found that 59 of 239 (25%) of dogs were off leash. 55 of 239 (23%) of dogs were observed going into the woods (off trail, off grass). When excluding the north parking lot, I found that 38% of dogs are off leash and 29% are going into the woods.
The effects go beyond the “trampling of plants,” he explains. When that happens, it’s easier for seeds to disperse and the forest edge to break down. Those seeds are seldom desirable ones – instead, they’re the invasives, the berry-laden plants like ivy, holly, blackberries, cotoneaster.
And the giddily exploring pooch might spread them beyond the park – seeds can catch in their paws, and be carried far away.
One area that Friends of Lincoln Park is particularly concerned about is near the north parking lot. A restored area might look like a clearing – with the invasives removed, and the new native plants fragile and small – and that might seem to some like an invitation to make their own trails. Sam says he also sees people stop, let their dogs out for a quick dash or bio-break, and then move on.
What would he say to try to educate people, convince them not to do this?
Without the restoration work, he says, invasive plants will start to take over and start climbing up trees (think of all the ivy-covered trees you’ve seen). Eventually that weakens the trees, and a windstorm might be all it would take to bring them down. On the ground level, the invasives take over and nothing else can get established, so a “monoculture desert of holly and ivy” results, he explains. Take a look at the difference between a clump of native vegetation before cotoneaster removal, and after:
The value of a healthy urban forest? Priceless. He ticks off benefits: “Reduces stormwater runoff, improves water quality, captures and filters air pollution, provides wildlife habitat, aesthetically improves neighborhoods’ appearance …”
About the wildlife: Even if a dog doesn’t catch it, or eat it, it is a threat: “A lot of these animals, if you watch them for a while, they’re working on eating, building shelter, nests, on what it takes to survive. When you do have dogs chasing them, they have to expend a lot of energy on the chase, getting safe …maybe that next chase does it in, it’s tired. I found one study about shorebirds – having to avoid dogs chasing after them 12 times a day. Many were getting ready for migration. In another study, researchers walked through different areas (of a forest/park) with dogs on leash, with dogs offleash, without dogs … when humans were there with dogs, there was a 41 percent decrease in the amount of birds present. Birds are aware it’s a potential threat.”
So what’s the solution?
More parks specifically set up for off-leash dogs seems like an obvious idea, Sam says, but they’re not so simple to set up – grassy fields get muddy in the rainy season very fast; gravel can lead to runoff problems for nearby waterways.
He hopes that information and education – like this report about his volunteer activities and research – can help people be aware that dogs at least need to stay on the paths, and to share that awareness with others.
He’s working toward a research paper and presentation next quarter. And he’s well aware that dogs are the light of their humans’ lives … he’s just hoping a little enlightenment will help the forest and its inhabitants too.
Stay on the trail, or at least grassy edges and fields – it’s not grass they’re worried about. If it’s a native plant, don’t walk or run on it – salal, Oregon grape, red flowering currant, ocean spray, seedlings of evergreens such as Western red cedar, Douglas fir, Western hemlock, all types of ferns, snowberry … He could go on.
He’s been working on a spot near the bluff trail but hopes to see all the restoration areas thrive.
P.S. He’s interested in your thoughts, if you have a moment to comment.
We’ve been watching the Seattle Public Library‘s page for the Global Reading Challenge – the “Battle of the Books” for 4th and 5th graders – awaiting word of any local teams who made it to the GRC finals one week from tomorrow – and finally the list is up: Congratulations to the Reading Warriors from West Seattle Elementary in High Point and the Rad Radical Hyperactive Jellyfish from Lafayette Elementary in Admiral! They and seven other teams from non-WS schools will be in the final round at 7 pm March 24th at the Central Library downtown. Here, by the way, are the books in the GRC this year.
ADDED 11:47 AM MONDAY: Thanks to Laura Bermes from WSES for the photo added above and more info on their team: “This is West Seattle Elementary’s 2nd year participating … Congratulations to our team: Merichle, Dan, Jimmy, Nelson, Leyla, Jordan & Amer!”
Thanks to James Bratsanos for capturing tonight’s sunset colors. His photo reminded us to mention to you that the spring equinox arrives this Friday (3:45 pm on March 20th), which means it’s season-change sunset-watch time Friday night with Alice Enevoldsen of Skies Over West Seattle, Alice’s Astro Info, and more. As she wrote in this month’s SoWS roundup of reasons to look up at night: “6:55 pm-7:55 pm — Come and watch the Spring Equinox sunset with me at Solstice Park across from Lincoln Park. The sunset itself will be around 7:10 pm. Bring your children and your parents.” (Forecast looks iffy now, but check back as it gets closer.)
4th-grade PE students had an audience at Highland Park Elementary School this morning.
Physical-education professionals are gathered in Seattle for the SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America national convention this week, and today dozens of them visited several SPS campuses to check out unique programs, such as flag football that’s played at HPES as part of an NFL collaboration:
Teacher Kevin Schmidt leads this program at Highland Park.
What the kids showed off today are drills they do after their teacher explains the objective, as the students write it down:
Once they have grasped the goal, it’s on with the drill. Highland Park Elementary, by the way, was the only West Seattle stop for the visitors from the conference, and it was the first school they visited on their all-day citywide tour.
Just in from SDOT:
Paving crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation will resurface a block of California Avenue Southwest, between Southwest Brace Point Drive and California Drive Southwest on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24 and 25. The crews will resurface the street pavement, working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The street will be open to traffic on Tuesday, March 24, but there may be a wait of up to 15 minutes for equipment to clear the roadway. On Wednesday, March 24, the street will be closed to through traffic and pedestrians and driveways on this block will not be accessible. On-street parking will be restricted in the work area.
That block is in Fauntleroy – here’s a map.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Mayor Murray promised today that his office will review the proposed development-rule change regarding transit availability and offstreet-parking requirements, formally known as Department of Planning and Development Director’s Rule 6-2015, before it takes effect.
We wrote about this week before last, before the comment period closed. First, here’s the proposed rule:
We asked the mayor about this during a wide-ranging conversation at City Hall today, his first in a series of planned meetings with “neighborhood press” (the invitation was sent widely; along with WSB, journalists from CapitolHillSeattle.com and the Capitol Hill Times were there – photo above – we’ll have a full report on the entire event tonight).
The West Seattle-based group SeattleNERD. (Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development) contends the proposed rule runs counter to what city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner said in her ruling last year on their appeal related to an on-the-drawing-board development at 3078 Avalon Way SW. SeattleNERD’s official comment is in this letter:
Note Tanner’s observation (see section 15 in her conclusions) that the distinction would have to be changed by legislation – in other words, by a new action the City Council. But Director’s Rules don’t go through the Council; the mayor noted in our conversation this morning, however, that the buck stops with him, since departments such as the DPD report to him, and so that’s why it won’t go forward without mayoral review.
This also is becoming a campaign issue; City Council District 1 (West Seattle/South Park) candidate Lisa Herbold sent a news release saying she also has sent a letter to the DPD, saying in part:
I believe that the City Council did not intend for the DPD to interpret the Land Use Code in this way, and that the department should instead follow the Hearing Examiner’s December 1, 2014 decision. Further, the proposed rule will unnecessarily and unjustifiably reduce parking availability as West Seattle moves towards finding ways to make transit service more reliable, frequent, and consistent.
Read her letter in full here:
That is the point many have made here – while the ultimate goal of less car use and more transit use is supported by most, this area does not currently have the volume and range of transit, even with what Proposition 1 funding is about to pay for, to enable car users to renounce private-vehicle use en masse and eliminate the need for new parking to accompany new residential units.
So what are the next steps on deciding all this? We asked DPD that on Friday, and spokesperson Wendy Shark replied, “We will take the range of comments we received into consideration as we make final edits to the Director’s Rule. Then the Director will sign the final rule, it will be published on our website, and filed with the City Clerk.” (As for a timeline – we’re still waiting for the answer to our followup question about that.)
Last year came word of the nomination … now, finally, it’s time to vote on a local book nominated for a national award.
“Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups” has been nominated for the prestigious Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award for best book.
Written by Brenda Peterson with photos by Robin Lindsey (co-founders of Seal Sitters), the book weaves a tale based on the true story of the friendship of two West Seattle seal pups in 2007 – and the young volunteers who protected them.
There are 5 nominees for the award, and children must read or listen to at least two of the books in order to vote for a winner. Voting must be completed online between March 15 and April 10, 2015. All elementary-school-age children are eligible to vote.
The highly respected Beverly Cleary Award will help bring even more national attention to the book. This award will help protect seal pups and inspire children to reap the rewards of volunteerism and environmental stewardship.
While Leopard & Silkie has garnered much praise from critics (including 2013 Outstanding Science Trade Books K-12 by National Science Teachers Assoc), the best award of all would be from the children we so hope to influence!
Wondering how to vote? Details are in this post on the Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog.
P.S. – WANT TO BE A SEAL SITTER? TRAINING NEXT SUNDAY! We’re told space remains at this Sunday’s training session for potential Seal Sitters volunteers of (almost) all ages – if you’re interested, it’s a rare chance to get the training and get involved. Go here to get details, including the mandatory RSVP link.
The “urban villages” neighborhood-planning strategy from the ’90s paved the way for much of the development you see today. As part of the city’s process to map the next 20 years, former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck and his consulting firm presented a study in January looking at how the plans have played out, closely examining some of the designated urban villages around the city, including The Junction and vicinity, as well as Westwood-Highland Park. If you couldn’t make it to the downtown presentation but are interested in the topic, tomorrow night you get a chance to find out about it without leaving West Seattle, as Steinbrueck is a guest at the Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting – 6:30 pm Tuesday at the Senior Center of West Seattle (Oregon/California), all welcome.
When PTAs and PTSAs raise money for their schools, it’s usually for academic and enrichment necessities that just can’t be covered by the school budget. Right now at Denny International Middle School, the PTA finds itself raising money to keep kids safe, in the wake of the recent robberies/assaults against students in their area (and elsewhere in West Seattle).
Denny PTA co-president Catherine Irby Arnold tells WSB that after meeting with police to find out what more could be done, they’re setting up a Block Watch as soon as they can – what’s above is *part* of their roughed-out map showing the coverage area – and are raising money via their Direct Drive to train volunteers, since they need at least 20. Also, she adds, the money will cover buying security vests, flashlights, and Denny sweatshirts for the volunteers. “We will kick this off as soon as possible. We are all fed up with the rash of security issues around our school. Safety of our scholars is our highest priority.”
If you’d like to help, you can donate online – scroll down this page and click the golden button.
(Looking toward Alki Point: Photo by James Bratsanos; click image for larger view)
It’s the calm after the (2.2 inches of rain!) storm. Calendar notes for today/tonight:
GOT ALL THE ANSWERS? Then maybe you’ll want to join trivia at Christo’s on Alki (7:15 pm, 2508 Alki SW), or trivia at OutWest Bar (7:30 pm, California/Brandon), or pub quiz at Shadowland (8 pm, California/Oregon).
MONDAY MEDITATION: 7:30 pm Buddhist-meditation class at Sound Yoga (WSB sponsor), whose weekly schedule is here. (5639 California SW)
(Four WS-relevant views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
Winter, what we’ve had of it, is in its final days – spring officially arrives Friday afternoon. This morning, we’re dealing with the aftermath of Sunday’s deluge; please let us know, when you can, if you encounter any trouble spots (here’s what was happening last night).
Also, one alert to start the week – those overnight closures of the South Park Bridge are scheduled to start tonight.
8:23 AM: Still a relatively quiet commute. And weatherwise, we’re seeing some blue sky.