King County answers to Friends of Hicklin Lake concerns
Recently, we were among those CC’d on a letter from Friends of Hicklin Lake to the King County Parks Department. The letter voiced numerous concerns about the park, particularly regarding its use for disc golf. Christie True, who leads Natural Resources and Parks, has responded to the same mailing list with inline answers to concerns voiced by the citizens’ group (which are in bold, inbetween her answers):
Thank you for your e-mail sharing your concerns about the use of King County’s Lakewood Park and Hicklin Lake by the disc golf community. As you mention, Lakewood Park is a public park and is open to all users for both passive and active recreational activities.
As a general overview of Lakewood Parks and its may features and uses, you may know that it is unique in that it is the home of the only disc golf course (established in 1989) in the King County park system. In addition to the public disc golf course, Lakewood Park has three picnic shelters, a playground area, restrooms, walking path around Hicklin Lake and is the new home of the Technology Access Foundation Learning Center (TAF).
Lakewood Park is used by the local community on a daily basis, as well as the site of community picnics and events, church groups, family picnics and reunions. Many of the community events are not charged for the use of the park. The new concession at Lakewood Park sells disc golf equipment as well as snacks and beverages and is open to the public. The Parks and Recreation Division (Parks) receives revenue each month from the new concessionaire and also receives revenue from user fees for picnics and other activities.
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to each of your concerns which I have provided below:
Is politics controlling reality in our local park? That seems to be evident, where one group of players is allowed to take over a public park for their benefit. Their web site notes “every nook and cranny of the park” has been utilized.
From our observations we find the following:
This King County public park is Lakewood Park/Hicklin Lake, located in the heart of White Center, and has been turned into a single sport arena, remaining a “park” in name only.
Lakewood Park is used by the local community on a daily basis, as well as the site of community picnics and events, church groups, family picnics and reunions throughout the year.
The disc golf community has given countless hours to volunteer projects over the years. In addition, they work with the local school district offering disc golf classes to the middle and high school students.
King County personnel defend, with lame embarrassing excuses, both of the illegal activities which occur in connection with this sport and the environmental damage to the park landscape.
Many of the illegal activities that occur at the park cannot be resolved by Parks alone as we do not have legal enforcement authority and must rely on other King County agencies, such as the King County Sheriff and Animal Control, to enforce King County regulations.
The exchange continues ahead – again, what’s in bold is what was voiced by Friends of Hicklin Lake:
King County’s own ordinance prohibits alcohol usage in their parks, yet this illegal activity flourishes in Lakewood Park. Many, many photos of empty alcohol containers found in garbage cans were sent to the County, and their response: “they are not proof of illegal alcohol usage.”(Suggest they check with Sheriff Deputies that stop once in a while at the park and require the players to empty their alcohol containers.)
New and additional ‘NO ALCOHOL’ signage was installed in 2012. Parks staff has and will continue to work with all park users, including the disc golf community, to reinforce communication and understanding of the park rules, including the no alcohol use policy. As mentioned in previous correspondence with you, Parks staff does not have legal enforcement authority and cannot issue warnings or citations – only the Sheriff’s office has that authority. We have asked that sheriff officers use Lakewood Park to complete paperwork whenever possible to provide a presence and provide another opportunity to educate park users about alcohol use and other park regulations. This request was made most recently in August of this year.
With Cascade Middle and Evergreen High Schools located next door, plus the new TAF learning Center located in Lakewood Park, there will be additional students frequenting this facility… what a poor image this illegal activity creates! We are branding on young minds the idea that laws do not require obeying, and that breaking them produces no consequences. King County needs to take action to resolve this illegal activity. Why are the sports members free from prosecution?
Again, Parks staff do not have legal enforcement authority and cannot issue warnings or citations – only the Sheriff’s office has that authority. We do plan to transmit an updated Park Rules for consideration and approval by the King County Council in the next month. One of the new regulations, if approved, would allow Parks staff to ban park users from the park(s) for illegal activities.
There are a number of disc golf members that are volunteering with the local schools to teach disc golf to interested students. This not only sets a good example but teaches new skills to the youth of the community.
King County Parks posted signage at this park states dogs must be leashed, yet the players ignore the message and let their pets roam freely while they shoot frisbees, and we have never seen a player pick up their dogs waste.
New and additional ‘NEW DOG ON LEASH’ signage was installed in 2012. Parks staff does not have legal enforcement authority and cannot issue warnings or citations to dog owners that allow their dogs to be off leash – only Animal Control has that authority. We have requested patrols by Animal Control Services. You are encouraged to request additional patrols as well. The link is: http://www.kingcounty.gov/safety/regionalAnimalServices/GetHelp.aspx. You can also contact Animal Control by email at 206-296-PETS (7387) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THREE so called practice baskets were placed inappropriately at the main entrance to the park. As these frisbees travel at high speed and long distances they provide a dangerous condition, not only throughout the park for unsuspecting visitors that can be blindsided by flying frisbees (yes, this has happened), but by visitors just entering the park, perhaps for the first time. These need evaluation as they are an eyesore and at a very poor location that requires relocation.
We believe are referring to the putting area. The putting area is for disc short tosses at low speed. Children are safe in the play area. Plans are in place to move the putting area and place bark around the baskets (purchased by the disc golf community).
King County obtained a grant of over $181,000.00 for a vendor to modify this Disc golf course causing many unsound environmental problems. The local community was not notified of this usage of taxpayer’s money. (Discovered by Public Disclosures)
This course change allows frisbees to be thrown over both the lake and detention pond waters. As many of these discs then fall into the water, the players use devices similar to rakes attached to ropes that drag the lake and pond bottoms, stirring up contaminates from the floor. Riling up the pollutants is not helpful to water or water creatures, and also causes the vegetation on the shore to be trampled. We watched one golfer repeatedly drag his line through emerging irises, breaking off stems in the process. He refused to move over even a few feet, even when the plant damage was pointed out. County personnel insist this procedure is not harmful. Wrong!
A Community Partnership Grant (CPG) program grant was awarded to Discovering Open Spaces, a non-profit, community-based organization. The disc golf holes near this area have been closed for a restoration project that includes the removal of invasive species along the shoreline and replanting with wetland and native plant species. The restoration project will add a buffer between wetland and lake and will prevent all park users from damaging sensitive areas of the park.
Oh yes, and the vender was rewarded with a location for his business in the former park life guards office, rebuilt for him at taxpayer expense so he can sell his merchandise.
The concession stand interior required improvements to be usable for revenue generating activities. In addition, the restroom and shelters were also updated at the same time. The concessionaire and organization that received the CPG grant was not the same. The CPG grant was awarded to Discovery Open Space, a nonprofit, community-based organization. The concessionaire is Chainbanger, a for-profit business that sells disc golf equipment as well as food and beverages at Lakewood Park. With the installation of new concessionaire, vandalism has dropped off significantly in the park.
Concrete benches were constructed next to tee off pads and do not follow the parks theme in any shape or form. Sitting on a wet, cold chunk of concrete (that looks nothing remotely like a natural rock) is not the most desirable experience.
The concrete benches are vandal resistant and provide an additional amenity.
Placing these concrete structures between two mature trees, which cover the trees roots system and placed within inches of the tree trunk will shorten tree life, though the County claims it is harmless. When these mature trees die it will be too late. On the east side hill a large amount of dirt was piled over the root system of a mature tree, to level a concrete tee off pad that was added on top, with concrete steps leading up to the tee off pad.
The soil covers less than 25% of the drip line area and is not a threat to the trees.
Along with the 18 concrete tee off pads there are 41 areas for basket locations. When vegetation gets trampled down, and the soil compacted, basket locations are moved to further destroy vegetation at another site. With all this concrete poured it causes more drainage run off into the lake.
Friends of Hicklin Lake are very concerned that King County allowed this damage, by turning this park into a sports area. One of the parks own mandates is preservation of landscape integrity, and this mandate was not upheld. The decision needs to be revaluated.
Wild animal habitat in the park has been destroyed by placement of disc baskets in their home territory, driving the wild animals to seek shelter into the neighborhood resident’s yards.
The disc golf club brags on their website of the wonderful job of “trail building” their group accomplished into the dense brushy areas, stating that “no one ever went back there before…why would they?” They failed to realize that the brushy, undeveloped area was home to possums, raccoons, and other wild life which belong in the park but have now fled into the neighborhood.
The trail building you reference above did not take place at Lakewood Park. We believe this was done at the City of SeaTac’s SeaTac Park.
There are numerous wild animals in the park including birds, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and even a coyote.
Seattle Pacific University students came to the park at White Center CDA clean up day and also at the start of their new school year, picking up several bags of litter and removing truck loads of invasive weeds both times. We found over 50 cigarette butts at a tee off pad next to the children’s play ground, and at the #1 tee off pad one hundred forty + cigarette butts, plus numerous candy wrappers and lots of bottle caps were removed.
What is concerning during this time frame: several players were on the premises but not one player offered to help. (The students later remarked “Sure is a lot of trash around here!”) There are park users who live by a certain ethic: leave an area better than you found it. Other park users apparently feel it’s the Park Departments job to clean up any mess they leave behind. We have seen first hand which ethics this particular sports group espouses.
We applaud and thank the Seattle Pacific University students for the many hours of volunteer service to King County Parks. Volunteers are an invaluable asset to the parks system. In 2011, a total of 8,360 volunteers provided 58,350 hours of service during 430 events benefitting more than 50 sites throughout the Division’s vast system of parks and trails.
Many disc golf participants volunteer at the park and help in the removal blackberries and ivy.
Another exclusive perk: the County built a special foot bridge for the players to cross the inflow creek because they were too lazy to walk around a short distance, and the Park personnel grew tired of the trampled marsh grasses… (Guess who paid for that bridge?)
Back in the year of 2008 King County Program Manager asked Friends of Hicklin Lake for suggestions to improve these park facilities, and we contacted people in the community, took a survey, and suggested three options. Only one was chosen. That option was to build a safe, usable path around the south side of the lake. Today the path is only half finished, unlevel, too narrow, very poorly constructed, made of gravel, and its completion is not being pursued to date; lack of funding is the excuse.
The footbridge was built at minimal costs using some existing materials. The new footbridge has helped to avoid further erosion from of this area by all park users. It’s is a great new location to bird watch from.
Our local public parks should be maintained and designed for all citizens to enjoy, not just a few sport enthusiasts who blatantly destroy plants and landscape which were not their personal property to degrade, and who, for unclear reasons, are granted special dispensations.
Lakewood Park is open to all park users for both passive and active recreational activities and is used by the local community on a daily basis, as well as the site of community picnics and events, church groups, family picnics and reunions throughout the year, bird watching, walking, jogging, and disc golf.
Allowing all of these conditions stated above to persist, which have systematically degraded a public park, is not acceptable to the “passive” parker users, those of us who enjoy walking in the park to bird watch, photograph plants, and otherwise appreciate the (previously) natural surroundings. Parks should remain a RESPITE from man-made, concrete and metal objects, not a temple to them! The current status needs re-evaluation and review, with input from local citizens solicited by King County personnel.
Again, Lakewood Park is open to all park users for both passive and active recreational activities and is used by the local community on a daily basis, as well as the site of community picnics and events, church groups, family picnics and reunions throughout the year, bird watching, walking, jogging, and disc golf.
Thank you to North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC), White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA), Technology Access Foundation (TAF), and all the people involved that helped change King County Director of Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) opinion on the pollution of Hicklin Lake waters, to start the process of cleaning up the contamination.
All the above local organizations wrote letters on our behalf to make water quality improvements next summer to Hicklin Lake, and we need their help once again to reclaim the use of Lakewood Park in general, for everyone in our community.
We need letters of support written by as many community members as we can get: those of you who use Lakewood Park, enjoy its natural beauty, and are disappointed with the way the Parks Dept has allowed one group to over run it. And those of you who share our frustration at the way in which sports club members are allowed to do anything they please with a park that belongs to us all. Please send your letters of concern to Joe McDermott, Christie True, and Dow Constantine.
As always, thank you for helping to make our community a better place for all.
We appreciate your continued involvement in Lakewood Park and we hope that you and other groups and community members concerned about the future of Lakewood Park will continue to be active in your involvement and use of Lakewood Park.
Department of Natural Resources and Parks
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