<p><strong>A King County Wastewater Treatment Division mock-up of the proposed gate&rsquo;s location. Image courtesy of Annie Kolb-Nelson</strong></p>

A King County Wastewater Treatment Division mock-up of the proposed gate’s location. Image courtesy of Annie Kolb-Nelson

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Electronic failure of the gate, after-hour permits, drop-off and pickup access, more parking and dangerous roads.

Those were some of the concerns expressed by Magnolia residents who attended the open house for a possible gate in Discovery Park. The open house took place last night, Aug. 21, at the Discovery Park Visitors Center (3801 Discovery Park Blvd).

The gate, proposed by the King County Wastewater Treatment Division and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, would limit access to the parking lot near the lighthouse. The north and south parking lots would not be affected.

The gate would help deflect unauthorized traffic and improve security for the West Point Treatment Plant, said Erica Jacobs, project manager for the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD), said.

The parking lot near the lighthouse and treatment plant only has eight spots that are reserved for use by disabled and elderly visitors and people with small children. On warm days, more than 30 cars can pack the lot, creating backups for the sewage trucks that use the roads 24/7.

There are also many illegal activities that pose a security risk to the plant and the park, Jacobs said. This includes graffiti, stolen cars deposited in the parking lot and fires on the beach. The treatment plant has methane gas and fires pose a safety concern.

The goal is to find a common ground, said WTD communications specialist Annie Kolb-Nelson.

“[We want to] bolster the security at the plant, while, at the same time, still maintain access for people to go down and enjoy the beach and the lighthouse area,” she said.

Gathering public input

The plan is in very early stages, Jacobs said. Jacobs will collect comments through Sept. 20. After that, WTD will go through a design process and propose its plan to the parks department. That should take between six to eight months, Jacobs estimates. The gate would be implemented next summer.

“We're definitely open to hearing people’s input,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we’re here so early on in the process.

Donald Harris, Property and Acquisition Services manager for the Seattle Parks and Recreation, said the Discovery Park Master Plan, which was put together by local residents, had planned for limited vehicle access to make the park more pristine.

“The gate would be in the park, so I think at the end of the day we kind of have veto,” Harris said. “If we’re against this, it’s probably not going to happen.”

Harris sees the security concerns WTD is talking about, and he sees problems with parking in the lot by the lighthouse. Harris would like to see a shuttle system put into place to get people who can’t or don’t want to walk down to the lighthouse.

“People see this as being restrictive,” he said, “but it’s already restricted if people follow the rules.”

Right now, the parks department relies on the honor system, which doesn’t stop people from parking down there or going after park hours, Harris said.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think this [plan] had merit,” Harris said.

From too little to too much?

Magnolia resident Ritva Swartz visits the park often to watch the sunset. She often worries that she’ll get a ticket when she parks in the lot near the lighthouse because permits aren’t available after 5 p.m. in the current system. She often brings friends with her, and “they are old people, like me, so they cannot walk.

“I think we have problems — there’s no control on this beach,” she said. “I’m not worried about the gate; I just wanted to know how it works. It doesn’t look like they have a plan yet.”

Mary Steele-Klein, another Magnolia resident, is very worried about the gate. She attended the Wednesday-night meeting with a homemade yellow sign that read, “Gate, No Way!”

Steele-Klein was “really ticked off” when she heard about the gate proposal. She lives next to the park and sees the sewage-treatment trucks traveling down the road to the plant every day. She’d like to see a new road created for the plant or the plant moved all together; officials at the meeting said neither of these options is likely to happen.

“There are homeless men that do live in that park,” she said. [The gate is] not going to stop them.”

The park belongs to the people of Seattle, Steele-Klein said. “The gate to me is contrary to the purposes of the park.”

For more information on the gate proposal, visit www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd/About/System/West/Plant/Projects/SecurityGate.aspx. Comment forms are available on that page.

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