4:28 PM: That photo of a boarded-up bench at Alki came in just as we heard about this new “Keep It Moving” action from reader John, who had emailed Seattle Parks to ask if “Keep It Moving” also meant to keep people from resting on benches – as he and his spouse do while out walking – or to stop parents of little kids from sitting on the beach while their children played. The reply he got from a Parks staffer:
… We don’t have the staff capacity to sift out more and less appropriate activities, so we’re using the “blunt instruments” such as the Keep Moving initiative and partial closures such as at the beach where people tend to congregate and party. These measures are the best we can feasibly do at this time.
Of course parks are not only for the young and fit, but it seems relevant that persons who are older and less fit are at the highest risk from the virus. We’re doing our best, with the tools available to us, to keep people safe during this public health crisis.
John included that im a note to us, cc’d to City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, reading in part:
[That is] the answer we finally got from the Parks Dept in reply to our asking if it was okay for my wife and I to rest on a park bench while taking our daily walk.
As I write this, Park Dept staff is bolting boards to park benches to render them unusable. The staffer’s answer also seems to somewhat bluntly suggest that older citizens really shouldn’t be in the parks due to their high risk status.
Young people walk and run to get fit and lose weight. Older people take their daily walk as a prerequisite to staying alive, and with proper social distancing the Parks Dept should have no objection to them doing it.
My wife and I both judged the staffer’s reply to be word salad, and we already hear enough of that on TV. We think this is ridiculous. We live at Alki and watch it all day long. There are no real problems here. The Easter closure was an excellent idea, as was reopening it on the following Monday.
I want to know the official justification for the bench banning. And are all park benches throughout the city going to be boarded up? …
We’ll be asking Parks about that.
ADDED 10:05 AM FRIDAY: Got a city response this morning:
Alki saw significant crowding on Sunday, April 19. We are implementing two additional strategies to deter crowding this coming weekend: 1. Adding additional signage. 2. Deterring congregating in picnic shelters and benches through caution tape and placing boards or signs on seating. We will leave some benches open through the park to serve those with disabilities. These efforts are in hopes that we will not have to close Alki Beach due to persistent crowding.
Our goal is that people would stay home, and when they go out to recreate that they walk in their neighborhood or use neighborhood parks. If folks do want to use Alki we would like them to keep it moving when they are there—walk, run, or bike, and try and visit the park during a less busy hour.
The response included two sheets related to social-distancing observations by Parks personnel – we’ll add those a bit later after converting them to PDF.
9:04 PM FRIDAY: As noted in comments – and seen by us at the park a few hours ago – Parks crews were REMOVING the boards tonight, and the department has just confirmed via Twitter that it’s removed them all.