Tensions and concerns were high at a Wednesday, Dec. 11, community meeting about the potential gate installation in Discovery Park.
Approximately 70 people attended the event at the Discovery Park Visitors Center (3801 Discovery Park Blvd.), and most seemed to be in opposition of the gate. Though, as Donald Harris, Property and Acquisition Services manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation, noted, more people typically attend when they’re against things than when they are in favor of them.
During the meeting, various representatives from the Seattle Parks and King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) presented information on the feedback, the gate and the next steps. The second part of the meeting was a Q&A with the audience.
In January, Parks and the WTD will present the plan to the Parks Board (the presentation date hasn’t been released, but it will be open to the public). The board will then make a recommendation to the parks superintendent, who has the ultimate decision.
If the plan is approved, design plans will follow, and construction will begin in summer 2014.
WTD first approached neighborhood residents with the idea to put in a security gate in August. The gate would prevent free-flowing traffic on Discovery Park Boulevard.
The gate was proposed to limit the amount of traffic and unauthorized parking and improve security near the West Point Treatment Plant.
Traffic to the north and south parking lots of the park would not be affected.
There are eight spots in the parking lot that are supposed to used by the elderly, disabled or people who have young children, who get a permit from the visitor’s center. Access from the other parking lots requires a 1.5-mile hike.
Safety and security are necessary “because [West Point] is a critical piece of public infrastructure,” said WTD project manager Erica Jacobs.
The gate is expected to cost between $300,000 and $400,000. There may be a way to reduce the amount of fiber-optic conduit to be laid for communication to WTD, which could reduce the cost by up to $250,000, Jacobs said.
A preliminary design concept has been established that would allow people to feed their ticket in at the gate, get it back and then leave it on their dashboard while they visit the beach. The ticket would then open the gate on their way out, Jacobs said. When there isn’t staff at the gate, WTD staff would take over, and the gate will be hooked up with a camera and voice system via fiber-optic cable.
Currently, the visitors center is only open until 5 p.m., while the park is open until 11 p.m. Many visitors like to use the park to view sunsets. To remedy this, there has been a proposal of a reservation system in which visitors could pick up their permit during business hours to be used later. However, the meeting crowd said this requires people to plan ahead, vs. being able to take a spontaneous trip to the beach.
When days are nice, up to 30 cars may park at the bottom lot, said Discovery Park manager Patti Petesch. Recently, the signs at the location have been upgraded to reflect that only permitted people can park there.
When a car should not be there, parks staff call the Seattle Police Department (SPD), which sends officers out to ticket or tow people; so far, no cars have been towed. Many people at the meeting asked Parks to pursue towing people before restricting access to the parking lot with the gate.
“Why are you presenting alternatives saying they won’t work?” a man in the audience asked. “A number of problems [you mentioned], I don’t see.”
People in the audience suggested having SPD deputize a parks employee to have the authority to tow cars illegally parked in the lot.
“We can tow til the cows come home,” Harris said. “[But] that would be a public relations nightmare. We need better access to the beach that’s not vehicle access.”
People at the meeting asked for extended shuttle service, which would reduce the number of people wanting to drive to the bottom. Discovery Park currently has a shuttle service for 10 weekends during the summer. Currently, there isn’t funding to extend the service.
One woman in the audience suggested outsourcing the shuttle service to another company that could charge a small fee. Harris said he, too, would like to see a more extended shuttle service.
The representatives were not able to provide numbers about crime but did provide anecdotal evidence. Neighbors frequently hear gunshots coming from within the park. Following an incident in September, 60 shotgun shells were found, according to WTD assistant manager Al Williamson.
Last summer, WTD staff put out approximately 24 beach fires — something they’re not trained to do.
“Hearing gunshots — it’s disconcerting,” Williamson said. “I’ve worked here 30 years, and I’ve never heard gunshots until lately. I don’t know that the gate will [stop them], but I hope so.”
To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.