After hundreds of people filled the MLK FAME Community Center this week to oppose a plan to build a children’s play area at Seattle’s Denny Blaine Park, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department announced Friday it has scratched the project.
The beach at Denny Blaine Park is considered a safe haven for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who have gathered there for decades to connect, sunbathe and sometimes swim or sunbathe nude. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community lead to effort to “save Denny Blaine,” collecting more than 9,000 signatures on an online petition against a playground installation.
“As queer and trans individuals, we find solace and acceptance at Denny Blaine Park, a nude beach in Seattle. This place allows us to feel confident in our bodies and express our identities freely in a world that often seeks to suppress them,” wrote the authors of the petition.
Playground plan canceled
On December 8, the parks department posted this notice on its blog, Parkways:
“After hearing from many community members who participated in the community process on the proposed play area project at Denny Blaine Park, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) has decided not to move forward with the play area project at Denny Blaine. While this area of our city still lacks accessible play equipment for kids and families, we understand the feedback that this particular park is not the best location, and we will evaluate other location alternatives.
Many members of the public spoke to the importance of this space and use as a beach, and the cohesion it has brought within the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, community spoke of the unintended consequences adding a play area to this beach site would possibly bring. This is why we have a robust community engagement process, ensuring all people – including those who have been historically marginalized – have their voices heard and perspectives considered.
SPR is planning to meet with leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community to better understand the importance of this beach to the community and the hopes for future uses.
We are grateful to all the community that shared their input on this project.”
Motive of anonymous donor questioned
Several people who spoke in opposition to the project questioned the motives of the anonymous donor, saying the $550,000 donation to build the play area was pitting local families against longtime park users and the LGBTQIA+ community. They expressed fear that the donor’s unspoken intention was to push the community out of the park and to put an end to nudity at Denny Blaine beach. Several neighbors from the area also spoke out against building a playground at Denny Blaine.
Nudity in parks is not illegal under state law, but there’s a line. Nudity consider obscene is illegal. Speakers at the public meeting voiced concerns that what park users have not considered obscene for the decades that the park has been frequented by nude sunbathers will suddenly be considered obscene due to the presence of more families and kids.
Several local non-LGBTQIA+ parents also opposed the project. As one parent explained: “As a local parent of young kids, we have lots of playgrounds already! We don’t need one by the nude beach. It’s a terrible idea.”
Another reason not to build it
The issue of the respecting the history of nudity on Denny Blaine beach was not the only reason for opposition to the project. Rnowned pediatrician and injury prevention pioneer Dr. Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH made another case against the project in a a letter of opposition. Rivara, endowed chair of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, wrote that his chief concern is child safety:
A children’s playground at the Denny Blaine Beach is inappropriate for many reasons. As a pediatrician, and in the spirit of equity, this is one of the highest income neighborhoods in the city with multi-million dollar waterfront homes. There are no low income children in this area for whom parents are seeking a place to play. The money should be spent on other, less well-resourced, areas of the city.
As an injury prevention expert, this is a potentially dangerous please for a playground. Lake Washington Blvd can be a busy street in the summer time. Children playing in the area in which the playground would sit would not be visible to people on the beach raising concerns about adequate supervision of these children. This is a non-life guarded beach and may itself pose a risk to children.
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