Speaking is Trileigh Tucker, Professor Eco-Psychology, Natural History & Environmental Justice, Seattle U., at the Fauntleroy Community Association meeting at the Fauntleroy Community Center, West Seattle, where attendees protested the commercial, zipline that Seattle Parks & Rec are planning for Lincoln Park. Pictured in front of her are, L-R, Charles Ng who represents Parks, Chris Swallow who represents Go Ape!, the company that installs and operates the zipline, and Rebecca Selinas, the othe Parks & Rec representative. Tucker insisted the zipline violates environmental justice and benefits only those who can afford to take their kids for a couple of hours for hundreds of dollars, and negatively affects the park with noise.
Furious crowd packs Fauntleroy Hall; Speakers, Irate attendees tell Seattle Parks reps, "No zipline in Lincoln Park!"
Seattle Park rep insists "The public misunderstands the facts"
Over 250 angry advocates for Lincoln Park and the natural beauty it offers packed Fauntleroy Hall for a 7:00 p.m. Fauntleroy Community Association (FCA) meeting tonight to voice concerns over a plan by Seattle Parks & Rec to install a zipline "Treetop Adventure Course". It would be operated by the company Go Ape! which installs such attractions worldwide in parks. A fee is charged to use the zipline and some money benefits cash-strapped communities and their parks departments.
The two invited representatives for Seattle Parks, Charles Ng and Rebecca Salinas first spoke and were booed loudly by many attendees. Salinas claimed that a lot of misinformation about the zipline project has been circulating in the media. Representing Go Ape! was Chris Swallow, who was introduced, and also booed. He did not speak. FCA President Bruce Butterfield then took the microphone and pleaded with the audience to show civility to the invited guests, and explained the Parks reps were given just seven minutes to speak during the two-hour meeting. Most honored his request.
While Salinas insisted that the public will have plenty of opportunities at future meetings to weigh in, her detractors, most notably FCA members and residents living near the park, expressed indignation that their organization was kept in the dark about the scheme until last month, while it has been in the works for over a year. Being left out of the loop, and fears of negative impacts that crowds, traffic, and chopping down trees would have on the park's natural habitat topped the list of grievances.
Community activist Judy Pickens, member of FCA and the Fauntleroy Watershed Council spoke to the West Seattle Herald before the meeting.
"What is not wonderful is that it was brought to the community so late in the process," said Pickens. "My concern is that Parks Department asks a lot of citizens. They ask us to do work parties and other numerous volunteer activities to support and supplement the staff. To have the staff ignore the public in such a grand way for over a year is just not acceptable. It is not the Parks Department I have come to know. The local park staff did not know about it."
Also attending was Seattle attorney, Kanti Carolyn Ramamurti. She told the Herald that while her areas of expertise are family law, criminal defense and restraining orders, she volunteered to research the zipline timeline, if you will.
She said, "I not only think that 'heads should roll' at Parks for what has been done, but we need to take a good look at any elected officials who aren't outraged by the lack of transparency and due process in Parks' evaluation of the Go Ape proposal."
She observed grievances by speakers referring to official Lincoln Park use guidelines, which limit use to informal, drop-in activities. The guidelines say the park was never designed to be tourist attraction, destination park, expensive, or to provide privileged activities. Only concession and vending – limited to food vending, may be permitted, although currently no food vending is present.
In an interview before the meeting Chris Swallow said, "We haven't encountered this kind of opposition before. Part of what we do when we developed the model is to work specifically with parks. So we've come to understand parks needs and sort of what kind of state a lot of them are in right now. Seattle Parks are having tremendous budget deficiencies. That's not the whole reason. It's also a fun recreational activity.
We try to align ourselves with the mission and goals of the parks that we serve and this is one way for them to generate additional revenue in addition to having a recreational activity that they don't have to pay for in up front capital costs. I think Seattle Parks is in a more unique position by going to a place that is more averse to development. We're sensitive but I hope that everyone hears our case and everything that we try to do to support not only the parks but the community. I understand people are really upset. It's part of our process to do the outreach and to hear people's opinions (...) I think what we're providing to other parks around the country is a very valuable service. Neither me nor Dan nor Jenny the other two owners of the U.S. company started this to get rich quick. We're interested in doing something that helps."
Swallow said they could possibly leave out the actual zip lines, and develop only an "adventure course" but that it would be less of a draw for visitors.
He said he understood what detractors might say and doubt the company's intentions but, "They should believe what our other partners say, the other groups we've worked with in other parts of the U.S. They are often our biggest advocates. Seattle Parks has reached out to them. All we have to go on is our history and what we've done in other communities."
He said they've examined the potential for minimizing "our appointment size which is normally around 14. We've looked at it for a couple of months at having it be around 7 or 8 so we can see what the impact is to the existing parking and traffic."
Swallow said, "This park has more active uses than any other park we've been in, in the United States. And we would never be louder than a baseball game."
Citing the difficulty in communicating the company's intent and actual result Swallow asserted that those who have come to see their installations even those from the Audobon Society were impressed and supportive. "They've been continually our biggest advocates since we've been in operation."
There is a Go Ape! facility in Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. The Yelp page for that facility currently has 29 positive reviews, with a 4.5 star out of 5 star rating.