November 5, 2013 WWRHAH meeting notes

Hello, here are the notes from the November 5, 2013 WWRHAH meeting. This was a very brisk meeting!

Infrastructure update from Chris Stripinis:

The Roxbury safety study is done and SDOT has identified various issues that need to be resolved along the length of Roxbury from 35th Ave SW all the way down past 8th Ave SW. They are going to engage across November with their counterparts in King County’s Department of Transportation. In January 2014, they are going to hold public hearings about improvements for Roxbury Street. It is expected to be several sessions (daytime and evening) on both sides and ends of Roxbury. We’ll be able to review their research with King County DOT and possible solutions.

WWRHAH joins the West Seattle Transportation Coalition:

By unanimous vote of all WWRHAH folks present and none opposed, with WSTC Board Members (Amanda Kay Helmick and Joe Szilagyi) abstaining from voting, the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council endorsed the WSTC. WWRHAH joins the Delridge Neighborhood District Council, Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council, the Morgan Community Association, the Alki Community Council, the West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, and the Highland Park Action Committee on the Coalition.

WWRHAH’s population numbers, from the US Census, city-data.com, and Zillow’s sources, are 6,730 in Roxhill/Westwood and 5,054 in Arbor Heights. With us joining, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition now represents up to 46,400 residents from Alki south to Burien. The current Coalition had its origin with planning and discussions in our WWRHAH meetings over the summer this year, and was founded on September 24, 2013, in High Park.

Roxhill Park Improvements—what can be done:

 

Following up on discussions in October, we had a huge roundtable of ideas discussed. The discussion was so broad we agreed to continue forward another month to December, and have refined substantially the ideas that have bounced around for the past 60 days. Instead of listing them all—including the ones that just aren’t doable for cost, practicality, or ecological reasons—here are the ones that may be possible.
These will be looked over before our December meeting by Seattle Parks and the Friends of Roxhill to further refine down what is possible under the existing plans for the restoration and maintenance of Roxhill Park and Longfellow Creek’s peat bog ecology. One of the major driving factors here, as mentioned previously, is that the Department of Neighborhoods has up to $2,400,000 available for projects in 2014, which is a new record. We want to apply some of that to improving Roxhill Park.
The possible ideas:

  • Using grant money to train skilled volunteers in the maintenance of the park. The plant structure in the park is unique, and requires a lot of specific maintenance. It’s not, unfortunately, as easy as just going in and lopping off blackberry and English ivy growth.
  • A major problem in the park, unsurprisingly, is trash. Current clean up is done monthly by volunteers, and that trash is all back in a week. One idea to help mitigate this is to partner with Chief Sealth High School. The students have service hour requirements that they must complete to graduate from high school. They could fulfill some of these hours by coming in teams over the year to help on clean up, combined with an educational component on the ecology of the peat bog and Longfellow Creek.
  • Taking the education component further, having Seattle Parks and the Friends of Roxhill partner with local PTAs and schools—both our local public and private schools—for stewardship of the parks. Elementary students could come to tour and learn about the park. Middle school students could come to tour and learn about the park, but also do a “take out a piece of trash” program as part of it. To help facilitate this, especially for elementary schools beyond Roxhill Elementary, one possibility is to use DON grant money to help defray the costs of busing students to the park.
  • A question that was asked, and that DON is going to look into—could we use some of the grant money as well to directly help cover costs of trash and other park clean up?
  • Apply the grant money for new interpretive educational signs in the park that are more vandalism-proof.
  • Have an educational self-led program created, such as with a podcast or recording for people to learn about the park.
  • Add educational stations and signs for students.
  • The previous ideas mentioned last month remain possible, to place the Momentum and more traditional workout stations (Youtube video showing an example; similar ones are in Lincoln Park and a few other region parks) around the perimeter of the castle play area, as a public fitness facility.
  • Lights: possible lighting ideas keep coming up. The main ones are additional, much more effective lighting around the Rapid Ride Stop on Barton, and to add lighting around the north and western perimeter of the park, aimed in, to make the park safer to walk around and police in the evenings.
  • Improve access for police into the park.
  • Improve the trails to be more bike-friendly.
  • Can we put up signs that this park is under patrol by undercover police officers, or similar to the Morgan Junction Park signage? These would list park hours and advertise the police presence.

Fix Roxhill Park’s Hydrology:

This major topic deserves it’s own section, as it’s a big one.

Fix the hydrology of the wetlands to that they get the water they were supposed to get. Currently, this hasn’t been happening for over a decade due to a misconfigured and incorrectly installed drainage system. If you look at the park overhead, there are several “cells”. The “north cells” are the wooded areas closest to the Rapid Ride Station across from Westwood Village. Cell 1 is from Barton Street south to the first foot bridge. Cell 2 is from the first footbridge south to the second foot bridge. Cell 3 is from that second foot bridge south to the next trail.

Those three cells are supposed to actually be, ecological, wet bogs of slowly moving water, perhaps a foot deep—year round! Currently, they’re just mostly dry depressions. Fixing this would involve hydrology engineering changes to the east side of the park. There are no downsides to doing this, as those areas are already incredibly densely overgrown according to the master plan for the native flora. The foot bridges are actually supposed to be bridges over water. Having water there is actually the natural condition of that land as the headwaters of Longfellow Creek. The creek is, essentially, broken. We can fix it.

The other benefit of changing those three cells to be watery is that those areas are one of the highest concentrations, especially in summer, for public drinking and similar nuisance behavior. People go there because it’s dry and secluded to drink. People won’t want to sit and drink in cold, slowly moving water. Which is a good transition for our next section of the evening, on public safety.

Seattle Police on Roxhill Park safety:

The current major safety issues around the area are fairly well known to some, but not all, of us:

  • Campers in Cell 1. Making this area properly watery could almost automatically push out campers here.
  • Campers east of Cell 3, near the Daystar retirement facility. The transients camping in Roxhill are NOT long term campers. They’re sleeping off a binge, resting after a bus ride, and then they are gone. There are no known permanent or semi-permanent campsites according to the SPD and the Friends of Roxhill.
  • People sitting on the foot bridges, drinking. These are consistently the same people drinking, usually around 12pm-3pm daily. Hydrology and water improvements would have an effect here, and SPD also now knows to patrol these areas around these times of day.
  • 200+ tamper proof liquor lids from Safeway on Roxbury have been pulled out of the park in the past year.
  • Periodic spillover gang issues from nearby neighborhoods. According to SPD, these are usually cases of mistaken identify. For example, a man with his son at the castle sandbox was accosted by a gang member with a knife recently. The gang member thought the father was in a rival gang. He had nothing to do with any gang. Police have identified the gang member and are working on the case.
  • Terrible lighting issues in the parking lot/west side of the park.
  • Transients drinking around the bleachers and harassing people by the baseball fields. These are, reportedly, always the same few people. SPD is aware of this and investigating it.
  • There have also, as we’ve all been aware, a steady stream of crimes reported around the park. We had several beatings, robberies, a death, upticks of vandalism, and shoplifting issues (especially for alcohol) every since the Rapid Ride Station went live.  It allows people to come and go incredibly quickly.
  • Cutting the vegetation is not going to solve problems of crime in the park and goes against the mission and plan of the park to preserve the native wildlife and plant life diversity of the wetlands.

Seattle Police are aware of this all and their undercover team is actively patrolling Roxhill Park right now. Many of the issues that have been going wild lately were specifically tied to gang tensions with a very small portion of the student population at Sealth. The Anti-Crime Team of the SW Precint has been made aware of the Roxhill Park situation and in the past two weeks they have begun routine foot patrols in the Park area, including undercover, and in particular in the late afternoon and late evening hours. Roxhill Park is currently undergoing a high level of scrutiny.

SPD is taking a zero tolerance policy now with underage drinking and drug use. This was previously left to the discretion of the officers involved. The new SPD policy is now zero tolerance: citations for adults, reports for juveniles that can lead to arrests. SPD has begun working with retailers, in particular QFC about liquor arrests. There was a connection between the QFC liquor robberies and the Puerto Vaellarta restaurant arrests in the Junction. SPD will reach out to Safeway and Officer Meyers on the County side about the similar issues on that side.

SPD was asked — where is the Metro police presence in West Seattle for Metro and Rapid Ride? Metro police are a rare sight in West Seattle. Seattle Police are forced to cover Metro issues here.

Officer John Flores of the Community Policing Team emphasized that we really need to be calling 911 for anything we see. The police encourage us to call for anything, and they will sort it out on their end. Don’t be afraid to call 911—always call if you want police to know about something.

How do we improve the utilization of the park?

This came up as well. The ideas bounced around:

  • Improve path to the SW by Roxhill School.
  • An Olmstead Brothers-type approach to the park, to make it more of a destinatin in a number of subtle ways. Do things to get it more constantly used and constantly maintained. Constant presence of people will improve things.
  • Is there a Westwood block watch that can be leveraged? There didn’t seem to an active branch.
  • Can or should we change the park hours? There wasn’t an interest in this, beyond the question. The city (and most people) seem to want standard park hours city wide.
  • How do we constantly bring in more legitimate users to Roxhill Park? More constant usage and public presence in parks tends to discourage problem users.
  • The 2nd Saturday of every month is when the Friends of Roxhill do morning cleanups in the park.

Next meeting of WWRHAH:

The next meeting will be 6:15pm on December 3rd at the SW Branch of the Public Library on 35th. We will continue to discuss Roxhill Park then and follow up on what is listed here.

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