[Tweeters] Seattle Parks Guidelines

Connie Sidles constancesidles at gmail.com
Sat Jun 27 04:58:06 PDT 2015

Hey tweets, I attended Seattle Parks and Recreation's hearing on Thursday about its proposal to allow "active recreation" in its natural areas and greenbelts. I represented Seattle Audubon's Conservation Committee, which is opposed to the new guidelines.

The environmentalists who opposed these changes far outnumbered the people in support, who for the most part seemed to be mountain bikers.

Many people spoke passionately about the need to preserve wild nature in the city for very low impact or no impact purposes. They included people from all over town, many of whom have spent years working to restore native habitat in these areas.

The cyclists were passionate too, but moreso about the need to have places for them and for their kids to indulge in their sport without having to drive long distances to get to actual mountains. It seemed to me that they would be happy if SP&R provided such places within existing parks, as long as the courses were challenging.

However, the SP&R superintendent and board appeared to be determined to allow active recreation in greenbelts and natural areas, despite the fact that these areas were set aside specifically to exclude active recreation. Many of these areas are sensitive geologically, consisting of ravines and slide chutes. Nevertheless, SP&R wants to open them up for recreation and "multigeneral activities."

SP&R defines its new "multigeneral activities" as:
• activity that is conducive to, or relating to, several generations, as of a family, or society, and may include bicyling.
• Challenge course area: an area and/or activity that test one's ability, require personal development and/or team building, and consist of a variety or progression of elements, and may include a bicycle skills course or ropes course.

A big change: No science. The new proposal is going to be "values based." The document does not spell out whose values will determine decisions, nor how those values will be arrived at.

As best as I can tell, SP&R will accept applications from user groups, who must fill out a checklist that asks many questions about environmental impact but requires no justification for adverse impacts nor any assessment of their severity or cost, nor any plan for mitigation. The concept of an EIS is not present. There is no funding attached to the proposal at all; rather, user groups are asked to supply notes about applications for Neighborhood Matching Grants and "other granting agencies." There is no requirement or provision for sustainability or maintenance, also no mention of safety supervision or liability.

SP&R's superintendent will apparently decide whether to grant a user group's request. The document claims this process is transparent. I fail to see how.

There are *many* other problems with the proposal.

Because the parks board and superintendent seem so intent on bulling this through, I believe it is very important that we in the birding community speak out. We did at the hearing, but there was time for only roughly 30 people to speak, of whom six or seven were cyclists. Everyone else in the room was opposed and said so eloquently. But it would be easy for the board to think we represent a narrow cross-section of people.

They need to hear from many more of us. If you're willing to write to them, you can email your comments to:
Rachel.Acosta at seattle.gov and ask that Rachel distribute your email to each commissioner and to the superintendent. You should cc the City Council as well: mailto:Council"@seattle.gov

If you want more information, please contact me offline. i can send you SP&R's memorandum that was presented on Thursday so you can read for yourself what the proposal's highlights are. - Connie, Seattle

constancesidles at gmail.com
csidles at constancypress.com

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