By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Since its opening, a community tradition has grown – toys kept at the park for young visitors to share.
This afternoon, all but a few of those toys are gone.
Attention: Seattle Parks and Recreation Jesus Aguirre, Superintendent Christopher Williams, Deputy Superintendent
In the last month, there has been a mass exodus of toys from West Seattle’s Ercolini Park – two pick-ups in the last two weeks! We’re heartbroken and our children miss their toys!
After the first removal, parents rallied and donated toys for the use of hundreds of toddlers and children in our community. The large majority of them were taken by the City this morning. All of the push carts are gone. We’re left with a few tricycles and other toys that the littlest community members aren’t old enough to play with. We’re told a neighbor has filed a complaint, leading the Department of Parks and Recreation to take action. With no means through which to negotiate with the neighbor, we’re asking you to please also take into account the wishes of the larger community.
Wasn’t Ercolini gifted to the city for precisely this reason? Ercolini is special BECAUSE of the toys. Without them, it’s every other park in Seattle. Our children have learned to walk at Ercolini, ride bikes, share with other children, discover empathy, and experience true community. For the parents, we have a place to take them, meet other parents, it’s a space that encourages outdoor time and interaction in a way that other parks can’t. Ercolini is unique and should be kept that way.
We ask the following:
– Please limit the frequency of toy removal to a more cyclical time frame. Families have donated toys to replenish the loss and those toys should have a reasonable life span for the children’s use, and/or;
– Only take the broken toys and/or set up an area for parents to deposit broken toys for the City to pick up rather than taking all or most of them. We’re happy to partner with the City on this, and/or;
– Please arrange an opportunity for us to work with the neighbors requesting removal so we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement; and/or
– Suggest an alternative to removing the toys. Many thanks in advance for considering our requests.
-West Seattle Parents Who Care
As of the moment we’re hitting “publish” on this story, that online petition has more than 430 signers.
After hearing about this – thanks for all the tips! – we asked Parks about the toy takeaway, and spokesperson Dewey Potter replied: “The Park Code has a section that prohibits leaving things in a park. We know that some people like to bring supplemental toys to play areas, and we have tried to walk a middle ground. The toys the crew removed this morning were either old or broken, and there are still many left at the playground. The crew has had complaints from people who had tripped or nearly tripped, so they did post signs in the park. People apparently are not paying attention to the signs, so the crew tries to walk that middle ground by going by once a week to remove any toys that are worn or broken or could present an obstacle or a hazard. Ercolini Park has an unusually large number of toys that are left behind — the crew chief once counted four dozen. We would encourage people to leave only toys that are in good repair.”
Meantime, what happened to the toys taken away by Parks crews – are they somewhere awaiting pickup, or did they just get dumped? We’re waiting for the answer to that.
ADDED WEDNESDAY EVENING: That response, also from Parks spokesperson Potter: “The toys from previous pickups are gone. The crew chief took a quick look at the toys that came in today. She saw signs of wear on the toys on the top of the load and asked the staff about their condition. Their guideline was that they removed toys with damage of any kind. The toys are in the packer truck and cannot be retrieved.”