Friends of Discovery Park, a volunteer group formed to protect the city’s largest park, had its annual board meeting last Saturday, March 8, to discuss the park, West Point Treatment Plant and the future of Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Approximately 40 people attended the meeting at the Discovery Park Visitors Center (3801 Discovery Park Blvd.). Presenters from different aspects of the park provided brief presentations before moderator Gary Gaffner opened the meeting up to questions from the public.
The group’s current budget is about $32,000; $13,000 of that is money transferred to the group from the Water Defense Fund that the park received when the fund went defunct. The rest of the money actually belongs to the park, said treasurer Julia Allen.
The group’s biggest yearly expense is the free maps it distributes through the park. It costs more than $2,000 for to distribute about 30,000 maps each year.
The group also pays for a storage unit, which, this year, will raise to $768 annually.
The money from the defense fund will target a project to restore the Utah pond, where the shoreline is eroded. Crews will repair the shoreline and create a viewing area.
The group also plans to use money to create a pedestrian path from the north parking lot to Bernie Whitebear Way and replace trees in the lot.
Environmental Learning Center
Education-program supervisor Belinda Chin spoke about Discovery Park’s environmental education. The Parks superintendent has a vision for access, sustainability, opportunity and impact, so that’s how the park has been scheduling programming, Chin said.
With tighter budgets, the park has half of the staff it had a few years ago, “so we’re in a different place with what we can provide,” she said.
One goal Chin has is to reach out to communities who haven’t had as many environmental opportunities. She also said she wanted to “deepen the relationship with the environment to nurture the culture of stewardship in Seattle.”
Sign-ups for spring programs at Discovery Park opened Tuesday, March 11.
Discovery Park is a “showpiece” for the city, said Discovery Park manager Patti Petesch. Right now, park maintenance is taking advantage of any dry weather to mow the grass in the park, so they finish before ground nesting birds begin to nest. They will also mow the grass near the historic buildings in the park, because tall grass could be dangerous in the summer.
There is an effort to clean up the grounds around the lighthouse; last year, a storm and an especially high tide flooded the buildings. One trail, near the lighthouse was washed away but will not be repaired because of the changing environment and shoreline there, Petesch said.
Norway rats have invaded the area, which Parks is trying to get under control before summer. Petesch said the city is using a pest control that traps the animals so any of the nearby wildlife won’t be poisoned.
The Navy and Forest City Military Communities L.L.C. are trying to sell the historical properties in the park. A new owner has been identified, but a contract hasn’t been signed; Petesch estimates that will happen within a few months.
Even though cars are not allowed in the park except for designated parking spots, some volunteers have permission to drive on the grounds; they will post a “Forest Steward at Work” sign in their vehicle windows.
Mountains to Sound Greenway will have a few work parties at Discovery Park this year for the reforesting near former military homes. The fence currently around the area will stay for up to two years, until the plants have been established, Petesch said.
Discovery Park has partnered with United Indians of All Tribes and Daybreak Star. Crews have helped with garbage pickup and building inspections to “try to help them strengthen their programs,” Petesch said.
The park now has a staff person working on the weekend. Even though it puts a strain on the staff, there are too many people in the park on the weekend not to have someone there, Petesch said.
One community member asked about off-leash dogs in the park, which are not allowed. Parks did have a successful pilot program for enforcement, in which a parks employee and Animal Control person patrolled the park. The program only lasted two months before the employees were relocated to other areas. Now, Parks personnel must call an Animal Control officer, but they can report license plates, which does get followed up on at the violator’s home.
Acting deputy Parks superintendent Eric Friedli spoke about the proposed Metropolitan Parks Districts. Parks’ budgets have been reduced in multiple areas, which has decreased staffs and maintenance. This has created a $260 million backlog of maintenance needs across parks in Seattle, he said. A citizen’s action committee organized around the issue identified 20 investment initiatives that the park system needs, Friedli said. It also recommended $57 million in needs, with $25 million for major maintenance; this may create funding for Smith Cove Park.
Funding in the past has been raised through levies. The Metropolitan Parks District is a funding mechanism that would be governed by the Seattle City Council. Levies don’t provide long-term funding solutions, Friedli said, and the districts plan wouldn’t have any impact on the Discovery Park Master Plan.
Last week, the citizens committee recommended approval of the park districts. Friedli expects the mayor to make a proposition this week, and the City Council will vote on it in April; if passed, it will be put on the ballot for the Aug. 5 elections.
West Point Treatment Plant
Dan Grenet and Al Williamson from the West Point Treatment Plant spoke about upcoming projects and maintenance to the facility. The facility has started to capture the heat generated on-site to heat the building. The plant is also selling the electricity they generate to Seattle City Light, which has cut the electricity bill in half, Grenet said. Officials are updating the screening process to make the Loop truck process more efficient, replacing corroded pump stations and the raw-sewage pump engines and upgrading to the control systems, among other projects. There will be an open house in April detailing all of the new updates.
The proposed gate on the road leading to the lighthouse has been put on hold until other alternative methods, like improved signage, ticketing and towing are explored, explained water-quality planner and project manager Monica Van der Vieren. Following feedback at community meetings, Parks and the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) will try these methods through the summer and then make a presentation at a community meeting about their efficacy.
West Point is sending biosolids via Loop trucks to fields in Eastern Washington. Currently, the four trucks cannot leave before 8:30 a.m., which means they’re often stuck in rush-hour traffic wasting fuel, before they make the long trip over the passes, Van der Vieren said. WTD has proposed a new system that would allow the trucks to run during the same time as Metro buses, about 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
WTD tested the noise level and said the Loop trucks generates about the same amount of noise as a bus does. Petesch said Parks was in favor of having the trucks out of the park before main activity hours.
WTD will need to go through a City Council process; there will be three opportunities for public comment.
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