A community group met on Nov. 5 to discuss different ways to activate Roxhill Park and reduce public safety problems - from violent crime to underage drinking.
Brainstorming safety at Roxhill Park and Westwood Village
Roxhill Park in West Seattle has a lot to offer: a new skatepark and top-notch playground, wide open green space with mini-soccer goals for little ones to learn the game, the headwaters of Longfellow Creek and a shining example of plant diversity thanks to the wooded wetland “bog” taking up the east side of the park.
Amongst the positives, however, there are growing public safety concerns at Roxhill and the Westwood Village shopping center just north, due in part to a handful of violent exchanges – from stabbings to beatings – taking place recently and ongoing nuisances including youth and transient drug and alcohol use in the thickets of the bog. Gang tensions have been identified in some incidents and with King County Metro turning Westwood/Roxhill into a transit hub, many citizens say the increase in activity has brought increased crime along with it.
Members of the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council (WWRHAH) gathered on Nov. 5 to brainstorm on how they can improve safety at the park, and Council Co-Chair Amanda Kay Helmick framed the conversation with the goal of putting together a plan and presenting it to Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods for consideration of a $100,000 grant.
With the task made clear, the ideas started flooding in:
- Install exercise equipment at the playground so babysitters and parents can get a workout in while the kids play.
- Installing workout stations throughout the park (for example a chin-up bar here, a stair-step there) to activate lesser used areas.
- Improve trails to encourage bicycle through traffic and make it easier for police to access the wetland area.
- Activate the park by encouraging schools – from elementary to high school – to use the park as a platform to study the environment.
- Empower Daystar Retirement Village residents (they live just east of the bog area) to take a block watch mentality to their neighborhood park – giving them the tools to identify bad behavior and the know-how on where to report it.
- Find volunteers who can consistently pick up trash (easier said than done, as one said at the meeting)
- Provide improved lighting at the Metro stops and along the park trails.
- Alter drainage so that the bog actually floods on a regular basis, making the thickets to the sides of the trail an inhospitable place to hang out.
- And a final recommendation that spurred a larger conversation: Can we just chop down cover created by the wetland? The suggestion was met with resistance from Scott Blackstock, a longtime Roxhill Park steward and representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation who said the wetland is a carefully managed urban forest that cannot just be chopped at. It takes “subtle, gentle management tools … not turning (untrained) volunteers lose with chainsaws and machetes,” as a Parks employee put it.
Mat McBride, a neighborhood activist and member of WWRHAH, said, “It’s been my experience that the bottom line is a well-used park is a well-maintained park.” The group agreed activation of the park is paramount.
SPD at work
Seattle Police Officer John Flores joined the conversation to talk about steps his department is taking to curb crime at the park and shopping center. He said in addition to visible foot and vehicle patrols in the area over the past several weeks, they have also unleashed their Anti-Crime Team to investigate problems, including undercover scouting.
Additionally, Flores said officers have been told to implement a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinkers found in the park. While it is traditionally up to the officer’s discretion whether she or he wants to issue a citation, they are now writing those tickets without question to discourage kids from hiding away in the bog and binge drinking booze that is often stolen from nearby supermarkets.
Taking Metro to task
After the WRAHCC meeting, Helmick shared a letter with the Herald she sent to King County Metro asking that they pay more attention to the public safety issues at their newest transit hub.
Speaking for the council, Helmick requested Metro regularly clean up and police Metro facilities (Metro police are rarely seen at Westwood), and do something about the “Wall of Buses” that regularly park on Barton St. “creating hazardous driving conditions from 29th Ave. S.W.” and “inhibiting observation of the park from Barton Street.” She also asked that Metro add lighting to their bus stop at 29th and Barton.
To join the conversation, visit the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council online at http://wwrhah.wordpress.com/.