Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

needles at playground

Needles are nestled in the wood chips on a recent trip to Donnie Chin International Children's Park. (Photo by JiaYing Grygiel)

Opinion | Needles at the playground?!

Broken glass, needles made this recent park visit a risky activity.

I love Seattle, I really do. But I am so disappointed with this city.

I took my kids to one of our favorite playgrounds, the Donnie Chin International Children’s Park in the International District. We hadn’t been in a while (It used to be on our weekly circuit, pre-COVID) and the kids were so excited that they ran straight for the slide.

Then I spotted a mess of hypodermic needles camouflaged in the wood chips.

I put on my calm parent voice and explained, “You’re city kids. You need to know what needles look like so you can stay safe.” Like it’s supposed to be OK to be teaching children to identify needles at the playground.

We got out of there fast and dodged mounds of poop on our way to pick up dim sum takeout. I heard something tinkle on the sidewalk, and it was my 10-year-old accidentally stepping on broken glass.

We went to buy boba, with someone’s campout in the place’s entryway. I feel bad for the small business owners in the neighborhood. Who’d want to come here?

I knew the boys were disappointed our playground visit got cut short, so I took them to another nearby favorite, Yesler Terrace Park. I checked no needles but the restroom that used to be open to the playground is locked and the sign has been removed.

I caught the eye of a teacher inside the community center (Yes, there were children inside!), and she refused to let my frantic child use the restroom.

When you’re 6 years old, you’ve got to go when you’ve got to go. I’ll say I’m very sorry to the bush by the staircase. (Hey, kids! Pee in public and look out for needles. What a mom I’m turning out to be.)

This entire park was brand-new three years ago, and now it’s overgrown with weeds and someone’s dug a hole into the slope by the fort. This is why we can’t have nice things.

The next day, I planned a trip to a new-to-us park in Bellevue: Crossroads Playground. It was a 31-minute drive to a completely different world. A fun play fort, an orca-theme spray park and a big green lawn. With clean restrooms and shaded picnic shelters. And happy kids running around barefoot.

We’ve been steadily losing friends to the Eastside, and after seeing the parks over there, I get the appeal of the ’burbs.

Seattle isn’t safe, and doesn’t care.

Editor’s note: Publication of an opinion piece does not mean Seattle’s Child or its staff endorses the views of the author.

If you come across a needle, syringe or other used sharp on public property or elsewhere within city limits, you can find information on how to report it on the hazardous materials page at Seattle.gov.

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About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is the mama of two boys and a freelance photographer and writer. Her work has appeared in Seattle's Child, The Bellingham Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She previously worked as an editor for MSN.com and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and now blogs at photoj.net.