By reporter Steven Smalley
Photo by Steven Smalley
A plan by the city to place a roadblock across the steep drive leading to the the lighthouse in Discovery Park proceeds with a new chapter Wednesday night when King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division and Seattle Parks and Recreation hold a public meeting to review their proposal and respond to feedback from the public.
One critic of the project, Magnolia resident and attorney Mary Steele-Klein, is speaking out against the proposal. Magnolia Voice had a conversation with her about this plan to build a gate across Discovery Park Blvd. and her opposition to it. The following are some questions and her edited comments:
Magnolia Voice: In your opinion, why does the city want to put a gate across the road leading to the beach?
Steele-Klein: I think it’s clear the wastewater treatment plant people are the impetus here. They’re the moving force that want to put up the gate to protect their plant. But actually, I see it as an effort to impinge on the city’s public park property. I think it’s an effort by the wastewater people to take over property rights far from where their plant is located, and limit public access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire city. It’s the crown jewel in Discovery Park.
MV: What’s the reality of placing a gate across the road a mile-and-a-half from the beach? What will result?
SK: The permitting process (to acquire a parking pass) in place right now is confusing and hopelessly inadequate. (The gate proposal) will close the road at 5 o’clock, so the most beautiful sunsets cannot be enjoyed by working people or families. All but the fittest people – the R.E.I. rock climber-types – will be able to get to the lighthouse. There are some formidable hills which would prevent the average person from ever getting to the beach on foot.
MV: Isn’t there already a gate at the wastewater treatment plant?
SK: The gate at the plant itself is totally unmanned. The gate is open. There is no need for an additional gate more than a mile away to stem the flow of traffic. It isn’t even manning its own gate or preserving its own security. Why should the public be forced to bear this burden of another gate a mile and a half away which virtually blocks all public access?
MV: Parks people refer to the Master Plan and how so many cars are not permitted. It’s seen as a pedestrian-access park. How does the Master Plan come into play?
SK: I’ve read the Master Plan. Originally put together in 1974, with revisions in 1986, it anticipated an increase in the need for parking from the current 400 to 1,200 spaces. There was clearly an intent for the public to share more of this beautiful scenery. Other references to the Master Plan have included as objectives, getting rid of the wastewater treatment plant. Relocating it to Sodo would be a more suitable place. It’s a more direct access for waste-carrying trucks to go up those big highway ramps – I-5 and I-90. These heavy trucks are a danger here in Magnolia. They’re ruining our spindly little bridges. There doesn’t seem to be a real effort to find an alternative. There should be a new road put into the north parking lot if they’re going to stay – a level, straight road, perhaps dedicated to trucks. There hasn’t been any realistic effort to move them out of the area.
Ultimately the wastewater treatment ruins this beautiful environmental area. The smell is terrible. It’s dumping all kinds of sewage into the water. It’s polluted all of the clams, and shellfish, and everything else.
MV: This is a beautiful part of the park, and the Parks Department wants to keep it that way. But let’s face it, it’s located right next to a sewage treatment plant. Is this situation an environmental contradiction?
SK: This is an urban park. It’s distinct from, let’s say, a national park like the Grand Canyon. This is a park to be enjoyed by the people of this community and the city of Seattle. They have taken this absurd position that people shouldn’t use the park at all. It must be accessible from a public point of view. If it can’t be visited, what point is there?
MV: Would you make another Master Plan?
SK: There have been changes, and there is nothing immutable about it. The fact that the city was given rights by the federal government to take over this park a year or so ago is a sign that maybe it is time to rethink the uses intended for this park and the way it provides for those uses. If the public is going to use this park, the public has to be given parking. We are not all R.E.I. fit alpinists. I’ve had to stop and pick up young people who could not climb these hills. The Hills are killer hills. For the average person to enjoy the beauty of this incredible place, it has to be done in a vehicle.
MV: Do you think the minds of local administrators are already made up?
SK: It’s a totally ineffective plan. If the city does not want to stop the progress on this thing, then I will personally go to Federal Court and…file suit – because they are violating the most fundamental public rights.
The planning and review meeting to install a gate across the road leading to the lighthouse in Discovery Park will be held this Wednesday, December 11, 6 p.m., at Discovery Park Visitor’s Center, 3801 Discovery Park Blvd.
The organizers request an RSVP here
if you plan to attend.