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Plans to block the road to the lighthouse

December 12th, 2013 · 14 Comments

By reporter Steven Smalley
The public process started in earnest last night as the Seattle Parks Department and King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division pitched their proposal to construct a gate across Discovery Park Boulevard in order to keep unauthorized cars from the lighthouse area of West Point. A room-filling crowd of about 60 turned out to hear various agency employees describe different parts of the project to a mixed audience of mostly detractors.
Without providing actual statistics, it was explained how illegal activities such as campfires, graffiti, abandoned stolen cars, and gunfire, along with a sizable number of illegally parked vehicles, make the situation intolerable at the sewage treatment plant, particularly during peak summer season.
Although eight permit-only parking spaces are available, with an additional two spots for people with disabilities, policies requiring permits issued by the Parks Department, are largely ignored. Overflowing numbers of cars unlawfully parked – at times upwards of 30 vehicles – block fire lanes and emergency access. Currently, to qualify for a parking permit, one must be older than 62, in a family with children younger than eight, or without the ability to otherwise walk to the beach.
Acting in a combined approach, Seattle Parks Department and King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division devised a plan, not yet approved by the Parks Commission, to place an automatic gate with 24-hour remote monitoring to block the road leading to the lighthouse 1.5 miles east of the beach. Not all details are complete.  Initial plans call for the barrier to be closed after 5 p.m. and other times when the Visitor’s Center is not open. Parks is exploring a reservation system to allow retrieval of permits after hours. Additionally, for quick pick-up and drop-off of lighthouse visitors, a separate permitting process is being considered. Even a possible shuttle service was discussed as an option.
Parks personnel pointed to the Master Plan, written in 1974 and updated in 1986, when the suggestion was made for more parking at the beach. Presenters said locating more spots there would be impossible.
Following the formal presentation, a lengthy question & answer process began utilizing a moderator to keep order. Much conversation revolved around suggestions the city consider alternatives to the gate. Questions were raised whether enough parking citations were issued, whether fines were expensive enough, and whether cars should be towed to “motivate” drivers, particularly repeat offenders. According to replies from presenters, unless there is an official request from Parks personnel, Seattle Police are a rare sight because of the distance from their normal zone of operation. When the question was asked how many illegally parked and ticketed vehicles were actually towed from the lot, “none” came the answer. This resulted in suggestions the Parks Department begin towing vehicles to make a strong point. Presenters reminded everyone only police are authorized to have cars towed.
Some audience members voiced concerns the agencies had already made a decision and were going forward with the gate no matter the desires of the community. Presenters strongly suggested this was not the case. They said other alternatives would be considered before final approval is requested.
A tentative schedule was outlined with dates for the next phase of operations. In January, a proposal will be presented at a Parks Board hearing, followed by the board’s recommendation to the Park Superintendent in early 2014. Assuming Parks approval, pre-design and final design get underway in Spring 2014, with construction beginning in the summer.
Public comments are ongoing. To have your say, click here or email Adair Muth at King County Waste Treatment Division: adair.muth@nullkingcounty.gov.

 

 

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  • rampart

    this is a good idea, and would likely not even be occurring if people didn’t abuse the parking situation and the park (fires, etc).
    the gate will close at 5pm, so its not like people are being shut out of the park.
    a mile and a half walk won’t do you any harm, either.

    • kaonevar

      “A mile and a half walk won’t do you any harm, either.”

      Unless you are handicapped. Or disabled. Or carrying several small children. Or countless other VALID reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to walk 1.5 miles (and then the 1.5 miles back).
      Ignorance and a lack of compassion are why this gate is destined to go up.

      • mab

        Right. Which is why there are permits available for people in those situations. Discovery Park is also not the only beach in Seattle. Golden Gardens is beautiful, close by, and easily accessible.

        • http://www.ravenoak.net/ kaonevar

          Except that you can only get those permits before 5 pm, when the office is open. Disabled people and those with small children pay taxes too. They shouldn’t have to drive 20 minutes in traffic to go to Golden Gardens when they have a park much closer to home.
          The issue isn’t just the gate–it’s gaining access to the permits as well.

          • ericsmith

            The vast majority of people abused that right, as everyone has already said, and though in an ideal world what you want would be possible, as usual the abusing majority endangered the future of the clean beach at Discovery Park. If it were within easy access it would become the trash magnet Goldens Gardens/Carkeek have already become. Just walk the walk down there and teach your kids to walk the walk. If your kids don’t climb Mt. Rainier you don’t blame that on the state and paying taxes. Learning to walk down to the beach in Discovery Park is worth more than karate classes for kids, or gym classes for adults on a stairmaster and its free. Disabled people who cannot walk can easily see the wonderful view from benches near the South Parking Lot. Unless you personally want to fund a shuttle for them, then they cannot go down to that particular beach in our area.. I do not want to fund that shuttle myself. I accept what I cannot physically do and don’t blame it on the state. Everything in life doesn’t have to be attainable with a car. If you cannot walk up to Mt. Si you don’t complain. If you cannot walk to Discovery Park beach, consider how learning how you could might could be better than other activities you do (
            I do not mean you personally…perhaps you are able to do it but just making a point). I am compassionate, but please see how what you are asking just assumes that everything you want to get to by car should automatically be accessible to you.

            This is an actual post by ericsmith. The “short tennis skirt” crowd likes to try to mess with me and put up silly posts with my name on it, which I don’t always catch, but that is just the nature of this kind of site. I love our Magnolia and the educated posts that have appeared on this issue are wonderful…from both sides of the discussion.

          • Heywood

            My beef is they won’t even consider the addition of parking next to a sewer plant because of a master plan written 40 years ago. Things change. Including people who can’t walk to the beach now at retirement age who were barely out of their teens when some bloody plan was written. And now the bureaucrats hold onto it like an ancient security blanket full of holes and barely in shape to do the job it was originally designed to accomplish.

          • ericsmith

            I hike regularly with people in their 70s, so being retired doesn’t have to mean being unable to walk. In most other countries that hill is easy for a 5 year old, and for younger kids in a stroller, easy for a parent used to walking, as well. Walking regularly would solve a lot of problems for a lot of age groups. Agree with your other points.

      • Snarkbark

        Unfortunately, good law-abiding people like yourself are “collateral damage” in this situation. The vast majority have abused their privileges.

  • Snarkbark

    I also vote for the gate. The public was given the opportunity to police themselves…and chose not to do so. Sorry….strike 3!!!

    • ericsmith

      A five minute shuttle dropoff isn’t a bad idea though for people with a bunch of kids or the elderly. Although I really think anyone can walk down that driveway and back, if they can’t, they can’t…and a quick drop off wouldn’t hurt anyone and the kids could play in the sand. What i love most about going down there throughout the week is the lack of trash, the lack of its being anything like Golden Garden..the lack of people. Your postings are right on…everyone, as usual, blew the opportunity, and now the beach will be preserved with the gate.

  • tonygumbrell

    Parking permits have been required since the park opened for the limited parking at the beach/lighthouse. In recent years the problem of illegal, parking, and simply way too many cars for spaces available have gotten out of hand. While I favor mass towing and impounding at the owners expense. The ticket operated gate seems to be a practical solution. Many parking garages operate the same way. No tickee, no entrée, would be a way of ensuring that the rule, which had been in place for decades is adhered to.

  • gj

    Put the gate in.

  • ericsmith

    Not ericsmith. Too boring to write more.

  • ericsmith

    not ericsmith. Too boring to write more.