Cal Anderson’s benches along E Pine? Goners. Bushes and shrubbery? You’re going to get clipped — some of you outright removed. These and other relatively affordable, possibly practical and hopefully effective measures were detailed by parks department staff on a tour of Cal Anderson Park prior to Tuesday night’s community town hall meeting.
“It’s about behavior not status,” Parks head Christopher Williams said.
Tuesday’s tour included Mayor Mike McGinn, parks super Williams and reps from SPD, Seattle’s park rangers, community representatives and a handful of select local media, CHS included. The TV news camera guy that showed up mid-tour was not invited. The three members of the Stranger staff who did, presumably, were. Laura Stockwell, the Capitol Hill mother who seemingly single-handled forced this late-summer issue around Cal Anderson safety on City Hall, also walked the park with the contingent.
The biggest questions — just how threatened do you feel in the park? — why Cal Anderson? — why Capitol Hill? — were never fully answered on the tour. Williams came closest — pointing out that Cal Anderson is the city’s “most intensively used” urban park. After the tour, McGinn chalked the situation up to a “tipping point” and told CHS he believes Cal Anderson has become a focus due to multiple smaller factors that are also at play in other parks in the city.
The tour included the benches along E Pine that, like any good benches in the city, are a mixture of Seattle’s interesting-ness and some of its worst behavior. In August, the 86-year-old father of Century Ballroom’s Hallie Kuperman was assaulted in a seemingly unprovoked attack as he sat on one of the park’s E Pine benches. He suffered an injured hand.
Parks staff told the mayor and the assembled tour that the plan is for the benches to be removed for an undetermined period of time until the current issues around the park’s safety subside and they can be restored.
Also up for whacking are areas of shrubbery in the park. Some areas have grown too high and offer people more places to do the stuff that people are worried about people doing in the park, some areas just need to be cleared, parks staff said.
Other solutions on the drawing board included the possibility of increased use of the community meeting space in the park’s Shelter House to put more people in that area of the park and the possibility of working with an outside organization to fund a Cal Anderson “concierge” to actively program events in the park — a strategy that has worked well in Pioneer Square, reps from Parks said, and something the Cal Anderson Park Alliance would love to have, CAPA rep Kay Rood told the tour. The new lights will also soon be operational on Bobby Morris which will return night-time games to the playfield and also increase use of the park.
Park ranger representatives on the tour said that, though it’s not posted anywhere in the park, there is a 24-hour hotline phone number people can call if they need ranger assistance: (206) 615-0387. Emergencies and reports of crime should still go to 911.
The tour also revealed some interesting anecdotes from the longer-term struggle parks has faced in keeping Cal Anderson a safe place to visit. The tour stopped by the basketball courts where a popular but little known park feature exists — an open electrical outlet popular for plugging everything in from radios to electric shavers. In another example from the front lines of the war on people’s bad habits, parks has experimented with different types of light bulbs in the Cal Anderson bathrooms to try to curb drug use in the park. Apparently, some types of fluorescents make it easier to see veins — a useful feature for heroin users.