Buried at the end of the Seattle Parks Department’s announcement about May Day’s dedication ceremony for Summit Slope Park was a curious coda. Celebrate the new park, the announcement said. And, oh yeah, we’re still talking about the skatedot feature:
The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners will hold a briefing and public hearing on the skatedot feature in the park on May 12, 2011. The meeting is at 100 Dexter Ave at 7 – 9:30 p.m. The Board will then discuss and provide a recommendation to Seattle Parks and Recreation Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams. The Park Board is made up of citizen volunteers whose role is to gather public input on issues like this and provide recommendations to the Superintendent. While the Park Board doesn’t make the final decision, they do provide a forum for unbiased discussion and input. They will also take written comments via email or regular mail through Friday, May 20.
For those of you who want to get right to it — here’s the Seattle Parks e-mail form.
For those of you who might want to give it some thought first, here’s some background on that skatedot and what Parks has to say about the ongoing situation that has pitted some neighbors against the new park. The situation — the City of Seattle + neighbors + a popular attraction + community good + individual rights — might look familiar.
“We’re looking for ideas if there are any out there,” acting deputy superintendent Eric Friedeli tells CHS. “The issue really revolves around noise.”
Noise and concerns about tagging and dangers from runaway skateboards is what first brought the controversy with the skatedot to our attention last fall. Even before the park had opened as eager skaters squeezed through fencing to give the new space a try, neighbors in the area began to realize exactly what including a skateboarding feature in the park was going to mean. Ryan, the neighbor who posted videos to YouTube showing skateboarders abusing the park, said the public process to add the feature didn’t include him. “Capitol Hill is a transient population. If you had meetings on something years ago, there’s a good chance the people don’t live there any more,” Ryan told us last year.
In response to complaints from Ryan and others in the area near the new park, the city added an $8,000 fence and sign and a variety of anti-skate elements to things like railings to try to contain the skateboarding issues neighbors said the $13,000 skatedot was attracting.
While things like skate stoppers and “turtles” have helped direct skateboard use to the skatedot and pushed some of the problem activities out of the park and p-patch areas, Friedeli says the elements can’t combat the ongoing issue of noise. Skateboarding, even when restricted to limited hours, is loud.
“We’re looking for trade-offs for the unanticipated, unintended impact on the neighbors,” Friedeli said. He said Parks doesn’t have a list of options they are considering for what to do about the park. Instead, he said the May 12th hearing and the public feedback process through May 20th is an attempt to get some answers from the community about how to proceed with a feature that has already been approved by his department, paid for and built.
Skateboard advocacy site Seattleskateparks.org has a slightly different take on the May 12th meeting:
Regardless of this massive and expensive effort to appease the neighbors, they still don’t seem to be happy. In what appears to be official Seattle Parks policy, they have exceeded their NastyGram threshold and are now lending credence to these NIMBY arguments by bringing them in front of the Parks Board of Commissioners. For those unaware, they are the group of citizens that Parks uses as a sounding board (and as in this case…flak shield) for issues like these.
Regardless of where the solutions for Summit Slope go, Friedeli said that the ongoing issues won’t be the death knell for skatedots in Seattle.
“The idea of having small skate features spread around the city is still an idea that we’re wiling to abandon,” he said.
The deputy superintendent did admit, however, that Summit Slope has changed the way Parks thinks about the features.
“The lesson we learned is to think more strategically about where we have them located,” Friedeli said. “In a more open park in another area, they may make sense.”