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Campers unhappy – new roadblock proposed for Discovery Park

August 22nd, 2013 · 41 Comments

By reporter Steven Smalley
West Point Treatment Plant Sewer News announces a proposal to install a gate on Discovery Park Boulevard to limit automobile access to the beach.
The newsletter states, “For several years, King County and the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation have dealt with illegal activities on Discovery Park beaches and uncontrolled vehicle access to the West Point Treatment Plant, beach areas, and lighthouse. To address these ongoing and serious problems, King County and Seattle Parks and Recreation are proposing to install a new security gate on Discovery Park Boulevard to control access to these areas.”
Although the Parks Department wishes you to either walk or bike, if you visit the lighthouse by car, there is an official procedure by which you must obtain a permit from the Learning Center. It’s clear not everyone obtains a pass, and that causes problems, according to City of Seattle and King County.
Following an alert by a vigilant news tipper, Magnolia Voice attended a public meeting at Discovery Park Wednesday in which city and county officials received casual feedback. The meeting began at 4:30. There were obviously more bureaucrats than there were attendees which some said was because of the early hour.
Many Magnolia residents in attendance were clearly not pleased with the proposal, which is slated to take the next 18-months.
“This is the most beautiful place in Seattle. Restricting access to the public is a tragedy,” exclaimed Mary Steele-Klein, a Magnolia resident. “I think they want to eliminate it for everyone but hikers. Limiting the public access to these scenic places by public officials is a disease that has taken over. It’s very hurtful. It’s really tragic – a disaster for the people of Seattle.”
“If people will follow the rules, the gate will not be any different,” said Donald Harris, property manager for Seattle Parks. “The Master Plan for Discovery Park was developed with a huge public process. The plan that we adopted said that Discovery Park is a natural park and that there was not to be vehicle access within the park…that there was not to be a lot of traffic despoiling the environment…. I don’t see us providing more parking availability in the foreseeable future because I think it’s a violation of the Master Plan…,” he said.
“People right now are tending to ignore the permit-only parking. It’s part of what we believe to be a benefit of having the gate. It would direct people back to the Visitors’ Center. They would get a permit and park in the spaces allotted,” explained a spokesperson for King County Wastewater. “Right now people ignore the signs that tell them to stop, and they just go down there.”
It was difficult to find anyone other than government officials who wanted the new gate.
“The proposed gate location is almost a half mile from the beach itself,” writes a Magnolia Voice news tipper. “I know that there are many runners and others who use the trails to get to the North or South Beach Trail, but many of us also use cars to get down to this spot so we can enjoy the Puget Sound and the beach with our children, or simply because we can’t walk down that hill and up again without causing injury or considerable discomfort as a result! Why (will) a second gate solve a problem that the first gate hasn’t fixed?”
What are your thoughts? Magnolia Voice appreciates your comments.
 

Tags: Uncategorized

  • Magnolia resident

    Get a permit. Big deal

  • Steve C

    It’s very difficult to reach the area with small kids and there is a big problem with people parking there without permits, leaving those with permits without parking or with the option of parking illegally and risking being towed. Not sure the gate will help. Parking enforcement would.

  • local walker

    Would much prefer the current system to be enforced, rather than install a new gate.

  • mr. selfish

    got multiple tickets there over the 100+ times going there. never got a permit. maybe should be more flexible with giving out permits. professional photographers should not have to carry gear down there along with their customers. new gate would ruin that location in seattle.

    • FrequentParkUser

      You are the perfect example of why we need a gate – you seem to think YOU should be exempt from the rules. Well, guess what – you are just not that special. In fact, it is BECAUSE of people like you and your blatant disregard for the integrity of Discovery Park, that we find ourselves having to discuss a gate in the first place.

      • mr. selfish

        go me ! i shall continue on what i have been doing then WOOOOO

  • SeattleGirl206

    As long as I am able to park in the visitors parking lot and walk in the park I am not bothered.

  • A gate is a good idea

    We can see the park from our house. Over the past few years, we have lost count of how many times (maybe 100 times) there has been large fires, fireworks or the loud sounds of people camping on the beach.

    The police and/or fire department has to go down there many times a year to respond to incidents.

    Eventually, one of these people will do something that will start the park on fire.

    I am guessing that most of these people drove to the beach without a permit.

    Installing a gate will just enforce the rules that are not currently practical to be enforced and preserve the park for everyone.

    By someone saying they don’t want a gate, they are saying that they want the ability to drive to the beach without getting a permit and that is not what the master plan or the signs allow.

    Uncontrolled access by car to the beach (which what we have now) is not good for our park.

    • S C

      I’m not sure that the people creating fires on the beach will care whether there’s a gate in place or not. Fires are already illegal, so they’re already willing to break that law. There’s plenty of fuel on the beach already, and alcohol (or other drugs) comes in small but potent varieties that are easily carried while hiking in.

  • Drew

    The title of this article is unprofessional and displays a biased viewpoint. It’s clearly a lot more than campers who are unhappy – and I’ve never observed or heard of there even being campers. The writer of the article is biased and should learn better journalistic skills.

    • Heywood

      Happy Camper – Unhappy Campers. Get the joke. Jeeze.

      • Drew

        Valiant effort, but the title is “campers unhappy” not “unhappy campers”. I don’t think the author intended the pun you think they did.

  • ericsmith

    I was in favor of a shuttle to help parents with young kids enjoy the beach or help those who physically cannot do the hike. That appears to not be an issue anymore. So enjoy Golden Gardens or Carkeek if you want easy access, and just figure the beach at Discovery Park is for those who can walk it. Going down the paved way is the hardest way to come back up…there are plenty of stepped paths to wind one’s way back up to the North Parking lot through the woods. I don’t expect this to be a popular statement, but: I don’t figure I can get to the top of Mt. Si by car, so certain things require a level of fitness that one either develops…or finds replacements for. Again, I wish there were something for those who cannot, but if its not going to happen, move on or work up to the hike gradually. Atop Mt Sauk two weeks ago I saw hikers with 3 year olds in carriers on their backs…and that was at 4000 feet or something, so think of it as an outdoor hiking adventure one works towards….and enjoy the view that starts at the south parking lot.

    • Mom of three

      But Carkeek park beach us dirty and polluted from the wastewater in the creek, and Golden Gardens is hardly a serene atmosphere (at least any time I’ve been there). Why can’t we enjoy the beach in our own neighborhood?

      • ericsmith

        Sadly, it is dirty because it is overused. And Golden Gardens isn’t serene because its easy to get to. The car is just a crutch to make it easy to get to the beach at Discovery park…with 50 more spots of parking it would be just as dirty and polluted. It is a treasure because up till now only a few people could drive there at a time, even crashing the “rules.” You can enjoy the beach in your own neighborhood from up top until you are able to walk to it. If you have a bad back, or small kids, then you cannot hike there just as I cannot climb Mt. Rainier. It isn’t my right to have a vehicle to transport me there. I still wish you had a shuttle, so I am not “against you”, just stating the obvious.

        • FrequentParkUser

          Amen to that.

  • dude

    if your fat lazy ass cannot walk 1/2 a mile, then you don’t deserve to go to the beach.

    • Mom of three

      To heck with you. I’m not fat or lazy, but I have a back injury and small children. My dad’s 72 and has emphysema and bad knees. Guess we don’t “deserve” to go to the beach? What an ignorant thing to write.

    • nogate

      dude,
      that is an ignorant comment. you are discriminating to all those who are disabled. You “dude” don’t deserve to go to the beach!

    • kris

      Yea, tell that to my 79 year old mom, 82 year old dad who like to come and watch my child play on the beach. Also tell that to the disabled the parents with small children. Everyone should have access to enjoy the park in a way that meets their needs.

      • ungruntled

        That’s right. Everyone should have access to everything everywhere. Escalators on Mount Rainier!

        • Mom of three

          It’s the freaking beach, with a PARKING LOT, and there’s a ROAD to it. Apples to oranges.

    • ghostinprint

      How do you know someone is a fat lazy ass? You need to clean up your language!

  • FrequentParkUser

    I agree that the above article by the Magnolia Voice Reporter comes across as shamefully biased.

    The people who are complaining about the gate are those who want to continue to ignore the signs, park policy, and The Master Plan, and just want to drive down to the beach in their private vehicle because they think they are entitled to do so.
    Driving to the beach without a Permit, which is issued only for persons who meet certain criteria, is ILLEGAL and has been so for 40 years.
    We have way more people now coming to enjoy Discovery Park and the solitude it offers – time to stop the law-breakers, and a gate seems the most effective tool.
    There are plenty of other opportunities elsewhere in Magnolia and Seattle to enjoy the view or visit a beach via ones vehicle – but NOT in Discovery Park – you are supposed to WALK this Park.
    People should really rally to make the Visitor Center open 7 days a week (they have the staff, they just need to re-schedule them), and insist on a Shuttle Service around the Park that would include service to the beach (as called for in The Master Plan.)

    Do something FOR the Park instead of trying to degrade it with your automobile.

    • Mom of three

      This is NOT true that I want to abuse current park policy and that’s why I don’t want the gate. I actually agree with you on your proposed solutions. I want the current restrictions enforced, and I want increased visitor center hours so that there is adequate beach access. I would love a regular shuttle. I have three children (two of whom would be quite challenged by that hill) and back problems myself, so walking from the visitor’s center is not an option for us.

      • Mom of 2

        What am I missing? By reading the article, vehicles are STILL allowed to drive to the beach WITH A PERMIT. You will NOT have to walk FROM the Visitor Center.

        • Mom of three

          If it’s closed, I will. If all of the permits are out, I will.

  • kevin

    This is such a non-issue. No one is being restricted from visiting the park. And what is with the headline?? Camping is not allowed in Discovery Park anyways.

  • In the clouds

    I can admit that I’ve ignored those signs about restricted road usage in the past. Why? Well, because I’m new to the area and it’s a park. That’s the only road to the beach and I’m just trying to get there. Why wouldn’t I take the road that goes there? I’m not privy to any “Master Plan” and the sign doesn’t talk about that. It just says that the road is restricted to authorized vehicles or somesuch. Maybe I’m authorized because I am trying to get to the beach? Without more information, the person driving into the park is left to wonder. (And maybe that’s naive. I can accept that.)

    Perhaps we don’t need a gate as much as we need an attended gatehouse, with someone to direct people to parking and check out permits as they arrive at the park, and to explain the walking nature of the park if questions arise. Now, I know that’s a pipe dream because they won’t even fund the park to keep it open 7 days as it is…

    • enough already

      Naive isn’t the right word. “Restricted Road” means that unless you know you are allowed there you don’t go there. What if there were something dangerous down there…would you wander down there too? Willing to be ticketed for going down a restricted road? You willing to pay the salary of the guy at the gatehouse? You willing to pay more taxes to keep the park open longer hours? As you stumble through life, use some logic.

      • In the clouds

        I’ve been down that road, on Parks & Recreation activities. I know what’s down there — the beach and beach parking. As I said, there’s nothing on that sign (if I remember it correctly) that defines what “authorized” is. Am I authorized if I’m going to the beach? Driving someone to the beach? Just looking at the beach and leaving? (And, by the way, it’s a terrible waste of time and resources to have to check out a parking permit — and maybe none are available — just to drop someone at the beach or to drive by the beach. That means that *parking* permit is not available for someone who actually wants to park there.)

        Yes, I’m willing to pitch in to pay the salary of the guy at the gatehouse and pay more taxes to keep parks open longer. And to pay the salary of a shuttle driver to the beach so that more people can access it. And to make sure our libraries are open enough hours. And to make sure our schools have the funds so that kids can have a full education and not have to beg parents for reams of paper. Are you?

        • enough already

          Absolutely yes. But I am not an organiser…if you start this in action, post here and those of us who wish to, will join you. As an over-the-top liberal I support all the causes you mention, and yet I have seen the schools ignored, the police cut back and feel pretty powerless in changing it. I encourage you to be the one that makes the difference with the rest of us helping you.

  • Guest

    Getting a permit shouldn’t be a hassle, as long as the visitor center remains open during all daylight hours. I’m with others who are physically unable to make the trek. The hill leading to the beach is pretty steep to climb for some folks. I’ve used the road to drop off less-physically abled elders, then turned around and parked up the hill and walked down myself. That works great. I’m not seeing the logic in changing the current practice without first trying to enforce it (?). How do you know it’s not working if it’s not being enforced?

  • S C

    I think there are multiple issues here:

    1- Unauthorized access during the day, when only permit holders are supposed to park down there
    2 – Those who exploit the 6pm to closing “hole”, or other times, when no permits are available
    3 – Those who park in such a way to block access to the sewage plant
    4 – Fires, graffiti, drinking, “bullet casings”, stolen vehicles, and related issues on the beach
    5 – Those who drive down there to drop off/pick up walkers, hikers, or bikers who can’t deal with the hill, etc
    6 – A concern that vehicular access to the beach violates the spirit of the Master Plan.

    King County and Parks have stated that their goals for this project cover items #1, #2, #3, #4 (per this: http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/environment/wtd/About/System/WP/Projects/SecurityGate/1308_b_WPsecurityGateBoard_WhatTheProblem.ashx)

    I believe King County/Parks were unaware of #5. There appears to be no mention of #6 by King County or Parks in the project briefing.

    My take is that there are existing laws in place to handle #1 and #3: Simply ticket and tow to change behavior. It’s what the city does elsewhere to change bad behavior.

    I don’t think that a new gate will change #4. People who are willing to break existing laws to burn the readily available firewood on the beach, get drunk, graffiti on the walls, or fire their guns (!?), or do other such things, will continue to do so simply by walking in. I suppose that a gate might stop someone from dumping a stolen car down there during the night, but there are plenty of other places to dump a car in the park if the gate presents an obstacle.

    I think that #2 needs to be addressed. I will admit that I’ve parked there (in a parking spot!) after 6pm, when you can’t get a permit anyway. I think it would be reasonable, given Magnolia’s limited options for beach access, to allow use of the existing spots between 6pm and dusk (either under the current child/handicapped rules, or general parking). And ticket/tow anyone who parks outside of those spots.

    As for #5 – pickups/drop offs – this happens to be, as far as I can tell, a popular usage that, while technically not allowed, should be allowed. Saying that the beach is off-limits to anyone who can’t deal with the hill seems mean-spirited and unnecessary. This isn’t the Muir snowfield on Rainier.

    Finally, for #6: This project is being driven by King County, with Parks in support, who have stated the problems (#1, #2, #3, #4) they’re trying to solve. Removing vehicular access to gain closer adherence to the Master Plan doesn’t seem to be one of King County’s goals.

    The Master Plan is clear that vehicular access within the park should be restricted or secondary to other means. The vision of the Master Plan has been the key reason that the park remains a jewel for the city.

    But in my opinion, we should focus on the stated goals of this project. If Parks wants to include #6 here – which they have not so far indicated, based on the available materials – they should run a separate public process that clearly addresses that goal, and allows discussion of a full range of mitigation options.

    In summary, while it’s true that the gate would address *some* of the stated problems, it feels like an overkill solution that removes usage scenarios – pickup/drop off (#5) and the 6pm-to-dusk access (#2) – that are important to many people right now and have relatively little impact (once the practice of parking outside the existing spots is addressed).

    If there’s a way that a gate-based solution could be implemented that addresses those two scenarios, then go for it. If that means increasing the hours that the Visitors Center is open, that should be considered. Similarly, if the shuttle schedule could be extended/improved, along with bike racks, that would help. I have a concern with asking Parks to do more, however, given the constant budget issues, meaning that even if funding is found today, it could disappear tomorrow.

    • ericsmith

      A wonderfully thought out reply, certainly, but undoable. With budget cutbacks, no one will add personnel or additional patrols without a massive community reaction, and if you keep up with this blog you see that people talk about things like “videos to monitor the bridges” but no one steps up to do anything to organise it (I don’t, but then I don’t suggest it). So given that there are so few patrolling police, wouldn’t it be easier to just restrict the number of illegal people down there (your #4) so that it is easier for the police to pick them off when they are reported by neighbors of the park viewing illegal activity? Not all of them walk there…the transgressors usually go for the easy route too. The fire hazard down there threatens the whole park, so let that be the main focus for the police. As for the convenience of the driveby option, your #5..that is well and good, but it has been abused and there is no way to enforce it. It is another example of everyone being punished because of few people abuse a restriction…and more than a few do. Will YOU step up to raise the funds for the salary of the gatekeeper or the person who will monitor who goes down just as a drive by? Just because ordinances and Master Plans are in place, doesn’t mean that in budget restricted times they can be implemented. For the folks whose homes have been broken into recently in Magnolia…would they rather have a extra policeman patroling the neighborhood or checking to see if people are lingering down there in their car too long.?
      When we are flush with cash as a city, or when concerned people like you step up and help raise funds, then something other than a blocking gate could help (like that shuttle). Until then, its like saying there is a law in place that no one can break into a house…it is the law, but it is not the reality.

  • Discovery Lover

    The gradual degradation of Golden Gardens park to a bonfire-plagued, drug-using, beer-swlling, quasi-lawless hangout is a great indicator of what happens to the “commons” when you make it accessible to every person and their car, and then do nothing to manage it or throw paltry resources to barely control the chaos. I use Discovery weekly, and rarely if ever see anyone who is elderly, disabled, or with young children use the lighthouse parking lot. The main users are people violating the current system, blocking fire lanes, parking in clearly marked no parking areas, and generally acting as if rules didn’t apply to them. Only once have I ever seen any enforcement. It’s such a joke. Plain and simple. It’s not working.

    If a security system could be implemented during daylight hours with an electronic card reader managed by the main office that would be checked out, that would be great, but I don’t see many rushing to volunteer paying to use park with user fees or pay more taxes. Asking Americans or even increasingly lazy Seattle residents to walk 1.5 miles is now considered too much and an onerous burden. Cry for me–I have to walk to a natural location, not drive. Think about the logic here. This is why we are, according to all health statistics, the fattest nation on earth, with chronic diseases from type 2 diabetes to cancer. And all of us are paying for the systems that make it easier for people to drive every where, never walk, and then drive up health care and insurance costs for the entire population. This story is almost ridiculous.

    • ericsmith

      At last, someone who walks 8 miles a week or more and proud to be fit. People on this blog complain about having to walk to the postoffice from the Village park because that is “too far” or any number of things that are simply solved by being fit and not being overweight or lazy. I happen to agree with you…I have NEVER seen the elderly or disabled down on the beach, and yet I certainly champion their cause, because not everyone is educated enough to know how to eat, or blessed with good health to start with, (age is not an excuse in itself.)..and of course an injury can happen to all of us. The physically challenged obviously need someone to help them too. I am 62 and on most of the group hikes I do weekly there are few people under 35 who can hike more than a few miles…and they are not among the challenged. A sign of the times.

    • rampart

      awesome post, Discovery Lover. especially regarding Golden Gardens – I live near there (I even -gasp- walk the stairs/trail to get to the beach) and as much as I love the place, its almost unbearable during the beautiful summer months….

      • felinecat

        Golden Gardens is thugged out now. Look at the Seattle 911 page to see how many times a day the police roll up there. The facilities are covered in graffiti and tags. Cars are constantly broken into. The beach is covered in broken glass/litter. Folks have BBQ’s and don’t clean up afterwards. Ballard likes that kind of attention so keep it there.

        But its great that the accessibility goons come out in full force for Magnolia. They don’t have to live with the consequences nor care that the plant entrance is blocked 2 cars deep some days because of non locals. Count how many California license plates park illegal – it’s quite a few.

    • Drew

      This is not a relevant point. The beach at Discovery Park is clearly not being currently overrun or abused. It’s lovely and well-kept. No one here is proposing to open it up further or expand the parking lot; they’re objecting to its use being further limited by preventing any car to get near the beach in the early evenings or even early mornings.

      As for forcing people to get in shape, I’d rather my elderly mother not risk a broken hip hiking up that muddy path. I guess she doesn’t deserve to ever see a sunset from the Discovery Park beach.

      • ericsmith

        It is clearly that way because people are deterred from driving down there. However the current status quo is being abused and many people are going there illegally, threatening the safety of the park….thus the proposal for the new gate. Your mother deserves to see the same sunset from the south parking lot area…a beautiful vista. She can enjoy it and the beach can be saved from the same sad destiny of Golden Gardens…the degredation so aptly described by “Discovery Lover.” Since so many people have drawn an analogy with Mt. Rainier…she can enjoy it the same way people enjoy Rainier… from the Paradise parking lot, without a tram up the mountain….because if there were one there would be cola cans littered all the way up.