The closure of a short public path near Lowell Elementary resulted in a split between parents and teachers supporting the closure and community members against it. People on both sides of the issue shared their thoughts, sometimes passionately, at a Tuesday meeting held by the Seattle Department of Transportation before brainstorming possible solutions.
Victoria Beach, playground monitor at Lowell, said she was offended by people who wanted to keep the path open and said they hadn’t seen any needles on the winding trail off E Roy between Federal and 11th. “One needle is enough. When kids show me dirty condoms, needles, clothing, a man they thought was dead, when I see the fright in them, I will walk around the world if that’s what it’s going to take,” Beach said. “Your sense of entitlement is sickening to me.”
Fifth grade teacher Laura Schulz also caused a bit of a stir presenting work from nine students who she said chose to draw pictures and write a few sentences supporting the closure. Schulz photocopied their comments and shared them at the meeting. Drawing kids into the debate didn’t sit well with many meeting attendees who showed up to voice their support for reopening the path.
SDOT closed the path in September after Lowell parents requested Seattle Public Schools address the safety issues they said the path caused near the elementary school.
A Federal Avenue resident of 38 years said she thinks kids have been “pretty much advised to keep their hands off anything weird like that anyway,” in reference to hypodermic needles. Rita Smith, who lives across from the entrance to the pathway, said she hasn’t seen people camping out there.
“This is not an infestation of homeless people,” she said. “… I’m not saying that the students’ safety isn’t a concern, but we don’t need to put all the eggs in that basket.”
Seattle Department of Transportation representative Genesee Adkins provided attendees with background on the closure ahead of the public comment opportunity. “We closed the pathway because it felt like we had an acute situation,” Adkins said. Many community members against the closure said they felt like they were left out of the decision.
Lowell parents have said used needles, condoms, and human waste are a common problem on the tree-covered path that crosses between the school building and its playground. While the PTA has documented needles found on the site, people living in the area say camping has not been an issue along the path.
Adkins has received a number of emails on the issue, and said common themes SDOT has identified include:
- Protecting students at school should be the most important objective;
- The path belongs to everyone, providing a critical link to Broadway;
- Feeling unsafe when the pathway is open to the public;
- Feeling unsafe when the pathway is closed, forcing people to use alternate routes;
- Wanting to keep the pathway open, but make it safer.
The pathway, owned by the city of Seattle, bisects Lowell property.
“So it’s a complicated, sort of awkward situation,” Adkins said.
It is further complicated because public utility lines run under the path, making it more challenging to turn the property over to Seattle Public Schools.
Following the public comment period that grew especially heated at the end, the differing sides were asked to work together to brainstorm creative solutions.
Ideas raised Tuesday included making the pathway more visible by reducing vegetation and maintaining vegetation, increasing police presence, finding ways to encourage more pedestrian use of the path, opening the school playground and field open during the summer, adding lighting, and closing the path during school hours.
Another meeting with a similar format and opportunity to provide public comment is scheduled for 6 to 8 PM on November 3rd at 12th Ave Arts in the Pike Pine Room at 1620 12th Ave.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with comments about the path closure.
SDOT hopes to have a decision on the closure by December.