Hundreds of people filled the MLK FAME Community Center Tuesday night to voice their opposition to the city’s plan to build play area at Denny Blaine Park, a stones throw from the park’s secluded beach. The beach is considered a safe haven for members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have gathered for decades to connect, sunbathe and swim nude.
The outpour against the park came during a public meeting on the proposed playground build hosted by Seattle Parks and Recreation. The community center was standing room only, with many in the crowd sporting “Save Denny Blaine.”
Longtime LGBTQ+ community spot
For decades, the park’s small Lake Washington beach has been a refuge for people wanting to sunbathe and swim in the buff, especially members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Putting a play area nearby would, in effect, push that longtime park community out of Denny Blaine. The small play area is proposed for northwest portion of the park.
Park’s department officials said the plan to put a play area in Denny Blaine is about park equity. The next nearest children’s playground is a little under a mile away and because the area is one of city’s wealthier locations, the parks deparment’s capitol budget did not include a play area for the area.
“It is one of the only gaps in the city,” Andrew Sheffer, Seattle Parks deputy superintendent of operations, said at the public meeting. “The donation does provide an opportunity.”
Several people who spoke in opposition to the project questioned the motives of the anonymous donor, saying the donation was pitting local families against longtime park users. They expressed fear that the donor’s unspoken intention is to push the LGBTQIA+ 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.
Revered pediatric expert opposes playground plan
This week the group opposition to the park enlisted the help of renowned pediatrician and injury prevention pioneer Dr. Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH to make their case against the project. Rivara, endowed chair of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, wrote a letter opposing to the project. His chief concern, he wrote, is that a playground near an un-guarded beach is unsafe for kids:
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.
Thousands sign ‘no’ petition
In an online petition to stop the play area design and construction, members of the LGBTQ+ community explained their opposition:
“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.”
Other locals also oppose the plan. Susanna Garrett signed the petition with this comment:
“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.”
The day after the public hearing the petition had gathered more than 8,700 signatures.
Other sites suggested
Petition authors suggested the parks department consider four other locations for the play area all within a 10- to 15- minute of Denny Blaine Park:
- Lakeview Park (850ft from Denny Blaine, with very large flat open areas and located closer to area schools and more centrally within the neighborhood)
- Viretta Park (500ft from Denny Blaine)
- William Grose Park (0.8 mi) – more centrally-located in Denny-Blaine neighborhood
- Alvin Larkins Park (0.7 mi) – much larger, with far more space for a play are
An article in The Seattle Times this week said that at least two Seattle City Council members have spoken against the project saying that the city does a disservice to everybody when they pits the interests of kids against those of marginalized communities.
Commend review and response
Design is set to start in early 2024, with construction expected in summer or fall 2024. Parks department officials said at the public meeting that they would take all the comments made into consideration, and that the will make a decision about whether to move forward with the proposal to build the play area within two weeks. Inquiries about the project should be sent to email@example.com.
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