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VIDEO: ‘This kind of project isn’t supposed to happen!’ Celebrating Lowman Beach’s shoreline restoration

(WSB photos/video)

At today’s celebration of the shoreline-restoration project at Lowman Beach Park, Duwamish Tribe member Ken Workman shared the area’s historic name: gWal, or “capsize.” That certainly was once a risk for the at-times-controversial project, which took years of building public support and seeking grant funding to become reality. The project was originally centered on removing the crumbling north seawall at Lowman, but expanded to removing its beloved waterfront tennis court and daylighting the end of Pelly Creek.

The creek end won’t really come into its own until the fall/winter rains. But the expanded shore that replaced all but a small northern stub of seawall has been a joy for park visitors since the project’s completion earlier this summer:

Before this morning’s ribboncutting, there were speeches, emceed by Deb Barker, president of the Morgan Community Association, which hosted many community discussions about Lowman – as she observed, “This kind of project isn’t supposed to happen,” and yet it beat the odds:

Other speakers in our video were Workman, deputy mayor Greg Wong, who marveled at Lowman’s natural beauty, longtime acting Parks superintendent (and former West Seattleite) Christopher Williams, and Kathryn Gardow, representing the state agency that provided some of the funding. They were all joined in the ribbon-cutting by two local students, Ken from Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) and Ezra from Gatewood Elementary. The celebration also featured The Whale Trail – Lowman is a great spot for shore-based whale-watching – and Alki Kayak Tours/Mountain to Sound Outfitters (WSB sponsor) with stand-up paddleboarding demos. Williams also acknowledged the community:

Not only did nearby residents endure months of work on this project, but as Williams observed, they also had been through years of work on King County’s Murray Wet Weather Facility across the street (dedicated in 2017). His acknowledgment also included the Parks managers who made the project happen – David Graves shepherded it for years, including seeking grants:

And Janice Liang managed the project through its construction:

P.S. Looking into our archives for this story, we found this 2010 WSB clip with a 360-degree view of what Lowman Beach Park used to look like (not only before this project, but before the overflow facility across the street, which replaced a block of residences).

WILDLIFE: 2 updates from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network

That’s one of two seals that Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network dealt with on West Seattle beaches this past week. Seal Sitters MMSN’s David Hutchinson sent the photo and updates, with a reminder for beachgoers:

So far this has been a slow season for Seal Sitters, however the coming fall months typically can be a busy time of year. Young newly weaned harbor seal pups are heading out on their own and will even haul out to rest on our heavily used urban beaches.

This past weekend, Seal Sitters responded to a report of a dead harbor seal at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. With the assistance of staff and interns from our partner SR3 (SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research), the 4-foot-long carcass was recovered and transported to their facility in Des Moines. A necropsy confirmed that this animal was the victim of a boat strike.

On a happier note, on Monday Seal Sitter volunteers watched over a young harbor seal pup on a beach along Harbor Avenue. This pup, shown in the photo, was able to rest for a few hours before returning to the water due to a rising tide.

As always, if you come across a live or dead marine mammal on West Seattle beaches, please contact Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.

Lowman Beach Park shoreline-restoration project celebration set for September 24th


(WSB photo, this morning)

We’ve had a few-details mention of this in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar for a while but now the city has just sent the full announcement:

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) and the Morgan Junction Community Association invite the community to celebrate the renovation of Lowman Beach Park! Please join us on Saturday, September 24, 2022 from 10 a.m. to noon at 7017 Beach Dr. SW. The morning will be fun and filled with opportunities to learn more about the beach restoration and the animals that depend on it.

During the event, Seattle Parks and Recreation Environmental Education Team and the Seattle Aquarium will have naturalists on site to help the community explore the beach. Additional activities include stand-up paddle boards and tips for successful paddling from Alki Kayak Tours and an opportunity to learn from Whale Trail volunteers about the trail and the marine mammals that live along the trail. The celebration will offer an opportunity to meet your neighbors, explore the new beach, enjoy refreshments and West Seattle’s Original Bakery donuts.

This shoreline restoration project work began when the south half of the seawall failed in the mid-1990s. This recent project removed the remainder of the seawall and created an approximately 7000 sq. ft unobstructed shoreline benefitting the natural environment, the park and the visitors who can access the beach in a much easier way. The remnant of Pelly Creek that previously flowed under the seawall was daylighted as part of the project. The completion of this project now offers a shoreline park with a swing set, an open lawn area and a gradual transition a vegetated upland habitat to the nearshore habitat which together restore ecological functions, habitat connections, and allow the beach to develop and move more naturally.

SPR awarded the construction contract to Mike McClung Construction and work began in the fall of 2021. Construction was funded in part with grants from the State of Washington through the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account and the King County Flood Control District through the Cooperative Watershed Management fund.

The project fences came down, fully reopening the park to the public, in late June.

FOLLOWUP: 1 more week for early closures at Alki Beach

(SPD car at Alki, early evening, May 27th)

Just in case you lost track – Labor Day is one week away. And that’s the date announced as the end of a second year of “piloting” early closures at Alki Beach Park (as well as Golden Gardens in the north). So we checked with Seattle Parks today to ask if that’s still the plan. Short answer: Yes. Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin confirmed to WSB that the city is “on track” to go back to 11:30 pm closures after Labor Day. The 10 pm closing time has been in place since Memorial Day weekend. Last year, Parks made the change in July after two notable incidents, a deadly shooting and a chaotic social-media-organized gathering that drew thousands. This year has been devoid so far of anything comparable, though ongoing complaints of street racing and other disorder have continued.

P.S. At the start of the season, Parks promised to evaluate the pilot, including community feedback. The survey they opened at the time appears to still be open.

WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Today’s low-low-tide sights, and what’s ahead Saturday

Thanks to Rosalie Miller for sharing three sights from today’s low-low-tide – above, the siphon of a Piddock Clam; below, a Moon Snail:

And an Anemone:

Tomorrow the tide will bottom out at -2.3 feet at 12:27 pm. The Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are scheduled to be at Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) and Constellation Park (60th SW/Beach Drive SW) for the last time this season, 11 am-1:30 pm.

LOW-LOW TIDE: Today’s scenes from West Seattle’s shore

Low-low tides are back this week – not as low as earlier this summer, but low enough to get out and explore the shore, with some expert help. Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists were out at Lincoln Park and Constellation Park; the latter is where Susan Romanenghi photographed some of the turnout. For the three wildlife photos below, Michael Ostrogorsky was nearby, in the Alki Point vicinity:

Tomorrow’s low-low tide will be -3.0 feet at 11:41 am; the naturalists will be at Constellation (60th/Beach) and Lincoln (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) 10:15 am-1:15 pm tomorrow, and 11 am-1:30 pm Saturday – their last scheduled day this summer.

WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: See a seal on shore? What to do, and what not to do

The photo – taken from a distance with a long lens – is from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which has a reminder for you:

We are in the middle of harbor seal “pupping season” so it was not surprising that the Seal Sitters’ Hotline received a call last week reporting a seal on the Elliott Bay shoreline. When volunteers arrived, they found an adult harbor seal, which is unusual – pups are much more common. Seals are generally very skittish and return to the water quickly when approached by people. The Hotline report stated that a couple of people were too close, taking photos and trying to feed the animal.

Under the protection of volunteers, this seal was able to spend about 5 hours resting before returning to the water in the early afternoon. Volunteers are always happy to answer your questions about the animals they are watching over.

If you spot any marine mammal on the shore of West Seattle (alive or dead), please keep your distance, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.

If it’s easier to remember, the number is also 206-905-SEAL.

UPDATE: ‘Humongous’ sighting at Lowman Beach

7:25 PM: The photo is from Caroline, who spotted that on Lowman Beach and wonders what it is: “It’s humongous! And so amazing with the colors and textures.” She and other beachgoers have been keeping it wet while the tide rolls back in, but they’re wondering what it is. We don’t recognize it; tried Google Search By Image, and while it suggests possibly a jellyfish relative, no definitive ID via photos. Do YOU know what it is?

9:22 PM: Consensus in comments seems to be that it’s an upside-down lion’s-mane jellyfish, so we’ve updated the headline.

FOLLOWUP: Cormorant Cove beach reopened after four weeks

Four weeks after health/water-quality authorities closed Cormorant Cove Park‘s beach because of water contamination from a private sewer-line link, the beach is finally clear to reopen. Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB the warning signs are being taken down. Cormorant Cove, in the 3700 block of Beach Drive SW, was the last area to reopen; the original closure stretched all the way from Alki Point to the SW Andover beach access, and most of it was cleared to reopen a week and a half ago. At the time, though, SPU said that while the leak at Harbor West had been fixed, unexplained bacterial concerns lingered at Cormorant Cove.

FOLLOWUP: Crash-landed plane pulled out of water off Alki; hear the crash audio

(WSB photo)

9:43 AM: Thanks to Lorrie for the tip that the work to get that Cessna 150 out of the water off the Alki promenade was under way a little earlier than we expected. It’s been 17 hours since the pilot crash-landed the plane in the water, with no injuries reported A company called AvTech Services is partly dismantling the plane so it can be transported; the US Coast Guard and state Ecology Department are at the scene monitoring the salvage operation (no word of a fuel spill so far).

ADDED 2:20 PM: We went by the beach on our way back from the SDOT director announcement on Beacon Hill and noted as of about an hour ago, everything was over and the plane and truck were gone. As for what caused the crash – a Seattle Police summary says the pilot told them “an oil-pressure malfunction” was to blame. David Hutchinson reports the pilot returned to the scene this morning – he sent photos and info:

Once the plane was towed up on the beach and lifted to the promenade, the fuel was drained from the wing tanks, the wings were removed and the fuselage was lifted by crane onto a flatbed trailer for transport.

As the operation was finishing up, the pilot dropped by to check on things. His t-shirt said “I SURVIVED HAWAII TSUNAMI.”

There was a suggestion made that he get a new one saying “I SURVIVED ALKI BEACH.”

Federal authorities are handling the official investigation.

8:14 PM: FSX Aviation has taken the pilot/air-traffic-control audio from public archives and uploaded it:

UPDATE: Public Health authorities shut down unlicensed food vendors at Alki Beach

ORIGINAL MONDAY REPORT: For the second time this month, Public Health – Seattle & King County has announced that it’s shut down three unlicensed food vendors at Alki Beach for “operating without a valid food business permit.” The announcement says the closures happened Sunday afternoon. The agency also announced previously that it had closed three unlicensed food vendors at Alki on July 1st for the same reason, but doesn’t say whether any or all of the new closures involve the same operators, nor does it name them. We’re following up to see if any of that information is available. (Here’s how to get a permit.)

ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Here’s how PHSKC answered our followup questions: “Generally speaking, it is difficult to determine a business name when there has been no formal permit application in the first place. Not all food vendors would have a prominent business name displayed on a stand/cart/whatever structure they are vending food from. Of the three unlicensed food carts most recently closed by Public Health, one appears to be the same as a cart previously closed by Public Health on July 1.”

FOLLOWUP: No all-clear yet for beaches south of Alki Point

(WSB photo, Cormorant Cove Park, last week)

No all-clear yet, more than a week after a private sewer line was discovered to be leaking into Puget Sound from condos south of Alki Point. That’s according to Sabrina Register of Seattle Public Utilities, which is monitoring the situation. We asked her about the action, if any, to be taken against the responsible party. Her reply:

Seattle Public Utilities notifies property owners when their privately owned wastewater lines are broken or malfunctioning, as property owners are responsible for maintaining their lines. Broken or malfunctioning lines can sometimes discharge sewage into water bodies. Staff consult with them on corrective action that needs to be taken to prevent further discharges.

The property owner associated with the sewer discharge on Beach Drive has been issued notice of violations for sewer discharge into Puget Sound, including in 2021.

SPU is planning to issue a notice of violation for this most recent discharge after determining cost recovery needs.

We’ll be following up again next week.

PHOTOS: Low-low tide sights on West Seattle shores

That’s what it looked like from Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, looking toward Lincoln Park, shortly after today’s low-low tide of -4.0 feet just before noon. Thanks to those who sent photos of what they saw – first, from Linda McKelvey, a crab and a star:

Michelle Green Arnson also photographed a star, plus a moon snail, and clam (she thought it might be a geoduck):

This one’s from Rosalie Miller:

Mark Dale photographed a Great Blue Heron with a great big snack (a skate, we think):

And while out at low tide, Michael Ostrogorsky photographed the schooner Bay Lady as it passed West Seattle:

Friday’s low tide won’t be out as far but still qualifies as low-low – -3.6 feet at 12:43 pm.

FOLLOWUP: Contamination closure continues south of Alki Point

The signs are still up on the shoreline south of Alki Point, as the closure continues because of contamination from sewage pipes leaking at a nearby condo complex since last week. Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB today that “As a precaution, signs are still in place. Water samples will be taken as soon as the property owner makes repairs to its side sewer. SPU has been notified that the repair work is scheduled for tomorrow.” So you’ll want to continue staying off those shores – from Constellation Park to the SW Andover access point – at least one more day. The Seattle Aquarium beach-naturalist program also has canceled its planned Constellation Park visit tomorrow (but will still have a presence at Lincoln Park, 9:30 am-1 pm Wednesday).

WEST SEATTLE BEACHES: Low-low tides are back, starting Monday

(Photo from June’s low-low tide, sent by Chris)

Not only will the weather be perfect for beachgoing this week, so will the tide conditions, Starting tomorrow, you have six days to explore the shores during low-low tides. From the chart:

MONDAY – 9:29 am, -2.6 feet
TUESDAY – 10:17 am, -3.5 feet
WEDNESDAY – 11:06 am, -4.0 feet
THURSDAY – 11:55 am, -4.0 feet
FRIDAY – 12:43 pm, -3.6 feet
SATURDAY – 1:31 pm, -2.8 feet

As usual during low-low tide periods, the Seattle Aquarium‘s volunteer beach naturalists will be stationed at two local beaches to answer questions – Lincoln Park and Constellation Park (south of Alki Point), these days and times:

Wednesday, July 13: 9:30 am−1 pm
Thursday, July 14: 10 am−2 pm
Friday, July 15: 10:45 am−2:15 pm
Saturday, July 16: noon−3 pm
Sunday, July 17: 1:15−3:15 pm

Wherever you go to explore, please tread lightly – the mega-low tides expose animals and plants that are usually underwater.

WEST SEATTLE BEACHES: Condo sewage leak closes shoreline south of Alki Point

(WSB photo, Cormorant Cove Park)

Thanks for the tip about the warning signs up along part of West Seattle’s shores. Waterfront areas south of Alki Point are posted as “closed” because of water pollution. We asked Seattle Public Utilities about it and just received this statement detailing the reason for, and location of, the closures:

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Spill Response was notified Tuesday afternoon of a potential sewage discharge from a condominium complex located on Beach Drive. The source of the sewage does not involve SPU infrastructure. SPU crews are working to determine the number of units that may be discharging. No discharge volume estimate is available at this time.

Per protocol, SPU notified Dept. of Ecology, Public Health-Seattle & King County, and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Signs are posted at public access points including Cormorant Cove Parklet, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint at Alki beach, and the Andover Place street end beach access. Once the discharge has stopped, SPU will conduct sampling to determine if the beach may be reopened.

SPU property owners are responsible for maintaining their sewer lines, and any discharges from unmaintained lines can result in fines.

Charles Richey Viewpoint includes the area more commonly known as Constellation Park.

FOLLOWUP: Fencing removed at Lowman Beach Park

(WSB photo, this morning)

2:29 PM: If you’re looking forward to full access at Lowman Beach Park now that the seawall-removal/habitat-restoration project is over, you don’t have long to wait. More of the fencing has been removed – the south section that had temporarily displayed art by Gatewood Elementary fourth-graders – and the rest, which is mostly near the park’s big trees, will be down soon, confirms Seattle Parks spokesperson Karen O’Connor: “The fencing on Lowman Beach should all be down this week and the district crew will finish mowing around the trees to make the area more accessible to the public. The grass did get long during the construction.” The construction lasted about eight months, which was the duration estimated when work on the $1.2 million project began last fall.

7:50 PM: Just went by again – the rest of the fencing is now gone.

PHOTOS: Seafair Pirates land at Alki Beach, first time in 3 years

(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)

1:16 PM: Another West Seattle summer tradition returned moments ago at Alki Beach, as the Seafair Pirates landed aboard the Global vessel Prudhoe Bay.

(This photo and next by David Hutchinson)

As previewed here, this year’s landing is a “scaled-down” event – no accompanying all-day festival with vendors and activities, just the Pirates mingling with fans.

More photos later.

8:05 PM: As promised:

Scurvy selfies could be had:

The crowd was (a)vastly less dense than in past years:

Trinkets were offered to some on shore:

The Pirates will be busy with parade season soon too – this year’s returning parades include the West Seattle Grand Parade just four weeks from today, July 23rd, and the Seafair Torchlight Parade a week after that.

PHOTOS: 2022’s lowest tide draws crowds to West Seattle beaches

1:58 PM: Thanks to Tom Trulin for the photo! Just after noon, as we’ve previewed, the low tide was out to the lowest point of the year, -4.3 feet. The photo is from Lincoln Park, one of two places where Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists have been out to educate shore explorers. If you couldn’t get out today for a look, tomorrow just before 1 pm will bring the second-lowest low tide of the year, out to -4.1 feet. (Got a photo to share from today? westseattleblog@gmail.com – thank you!)

4:39 PM: Thanks for the additional photos! The next two are from Bruce Gaumond at Constellation Park:

Also from Constellation Park, this one’s by Bonnie Drexler:

Even more from Constellation Park – the next three are by David Hutchinson:

8:35 PM: Even more photos – first, from Rosalie Miller, a gumboot chiton and decorator crab:

From Denee Bragg, who’s been flagging by the northwest end of Constellation Park and reports “It has been the best “office” I’ve worked at in a long time!”

From Eddie, a view of Luna/Anchor Park:

From David Dimmit:

Photographed by Ashwin Moodithaya, a moon snail:

From Dawn Hepburn at Lowman Beach:

Laura White, at Constellation Park, says, “Delightful to see also how respectful everyone was of the animals.” She sent this photo of a young explorer:

Jerry Simmons noted Bey the bald eagle out on the tideflats, with a crow hassling her:

This one’s from Yazmín Penzien:

Thanks again for all the photos!

EXPLORE THE SHORE: This week brings this year’s lowest low tides to West Seattle beaches

That’s what the beach off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook was like this morning, shortly after the day’s lowest tide, which was “only” out to -2.0 feet. So imagine how far the water will recede when the year’s lowest tides arrive this week. Here’s what’s ahead:

Monday, June 13 – 10:37 am, -3.2 feet
Tuesday, June 14 – 11:22 am, -4.0 feet
Wednesday, June 15 – 12:09 pm, -4.3 feet
Thursday, June 16 – 12:58 pm, -4.1 feet
Friday, June 17 – 1:48 pm, -3.5 feet
Saturday, June 18 – 2:39 pm, -2.4 feet

After this, your next chance to see the shore at mega-low tide will be in mid-July, when it’ll be out to -4.0 feet on July 13th and 14th. Meantime, Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists will be at Constellation and Lincoln Parks Tuesday through Saturday this week – times vary each day, and are listed here. (And whether or not you go when naturalists are present, their program offers these guidelines for exploring the shore without doing harm.)

WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Request for you, now that it’s Harbor Seal pupping season

Beach news from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:

Pupping season in our part of Puget Sound runs from June – September. Over the next months, beach walkers in West Seattle will very likely come across vulnerable Harbor Seal pups on both our public and private beaches. These young marine mammals are protected by federal law. If you come across a seal pup using the beach, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters Hotline at 206-905-7325.

Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Our territory is West Seattle, from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island and the East Waterway. We are responsible for responding to all marine mammals, alive or dead, that end up on our local beaches.

Remember that it is illegal to have a dog on the beach at any of the Seattle Parks beaches in West Seattle, either off or on a leash.

FOLLOWUP: Lowman Beach project ‘substantially complete’ but still fenced off

Nice afternoon to walk on the beach. You can do that along the entire stretch of Lowman Beach now – but aside from the beach, most of the rest of the park remains fenced off, though the work to remove its seawall and restore its shore is done. It’s been eight months since work started in earnest on the $1.2 million project, which matches the duration estimate Seattle Parks gave at the time. Asked about the project’s status, Parks spokesperson Karen O’Connor told WSB, “The project is substantially complete. The park is partially fenced off to allow lawn to establish. This year we had such a cold spring so it’s taking longer for lawn to establish. We anticipate removing the fence around the turf this summer. The new beach area is currently open to the public. People can access from the street-end access point.” (That’s on the south side of the park and requires clambering over driftwood to get to the water.)

First night for early closing time at Alki Beach

We noticed that Seattle Police car at Alki Beach around 6:30 pm, a few hours before officers are supposed to start helping Parks personnel close the park for the night. This is the first night of a second summer for the 10 pm closing time at Alki (and Golden Gardens); we first reported in March that the city planned to do it again this year. The beach wasn’t too busy when we went through, but the below-60 temperature is likely more responsible for that than anticipation of early park closure. Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Martin Rivera told the Alki Community Council last week that Parks is supposed to cover the cost of two officers assisting at closing time. One more change ahead at Alki: The beach fire rings are supposed to officially open starting tomorrow; fires are supposed to be out by 9:30 pm.