Important meeting in West Seattle: Tonight!

myrtle_hp.jpgSeattle Parks is having it’s second meeting for the Myrtle Reservoir project. This project already has funding, and is slated for an 11,000 square foot skatespot.

At the last meeting, several neighbors who live directly adjacent to the park came out strongly against the skate feature, claiming that skateboarders were “criminals”, and “degenerate”. Instead, they said, put it at High Point, where there’s already a lot of “noise”.

Doctor John Carr, while researching this project for his thesis, discovered that these neighbors were using skateboarders as proxies for their fears about…well…everything. He discovered that they had sent emails to the Parks Department that in effect, suggested that the criminal activity that “usually occurs in skateparks” would be a better fit in the High Point neighborhood, where there is “already a lot of crime”. Even in considering the valid concerns like noise and increased activity, both assertions about crime and who skateboarders are, are problematic.

From our interview with John last week:

What was so interesting, is at the same time they framed their objections to all the “noise” and “crime” that skaters would bring to their neighborhood, they often compared it to all the “noise and crime” from the black neighborhood. They would then say, “well, if you have to have a skatepark, put it across the street in the black neighborhood” either because it is already such a problem area, or because there is already a huge police presence there, or because the black neighborhood isn’t a “residential” area. The problem though, is the City has statistics showing that the black neighborhood is both a residential area and has crime levels on par with the rest of the area and the rest of the city. So, by saying “we don’t want the skatepark because it will bring the kind of noise and crime that happens in the black neighborhood” these white neighbors were really saying “keep the black kids out of our neighborhood.” But because they framed their objections in terms of who skaters are, rather than who African-American kids are, they got away with it. The City left the spot in the white neighborhood off the list of identified sites, and they have begun re-developing the park without a skate facility. Without the discursive proxy of the skater to code the neighbors’ requests, they couldn’t have gotten away with that type of claim in Seattle.

Here are quotes from some of the emails we got from Parks through public disclosure:

We strongly feel that a skateboard park in our residential neighborhood would bring more negative issues than positive. The increased activity for potential gang crime, a general hang-out for unsupervised youth, and increased traffic and noise is not something we feel should be introduced to our neighborhood. … just across the street there is a much more established and controlled facility already in existence at the High Point Playfield. .. the police are already patrolling [that] area for the not-so well-intentioned.

We purchased a home in this neighborhood due to the quiet and safe atmosphere it provided. Since acquiring our home, we have enjoyed the tranquil city views and green space the Myrtle Street Reservoir has offered. . . .A 10-30,000 square foot skate park does not belong adjacent to or in the middle of our neighborhood. The crime, drugs, traffic, noise, etc. that arrives with the skate park does not belong here and simply is not welcome.

My husband and I have lived near the Myrtle reservoir and water tower for several years. We purchased our house in this area because it is a quiet mature neighborhood. Yes there are children and we eventually plan to have children, but it is not a suburban cul-de-sac environment…. I am not against skate parks, children should be able to have recreation. I am, however, against putting theses parks in established neighborhoods. Highpoint seems to be much better suited as a location for a new skate park…. We have endured the noise and intrusion of the Myrtle Street reservoir construction, now you are asking us to put up noise, mess, crime, traffic, etc. for the rest of our lives! In addition to the inconvenience, this will also lower our home values.

As you can see, woven amongst the valid concerns there are reflections of bias in these emails that are not only unfair, they raise serious social justice issues about class, race, and the rights of everyone to have equal access to public recreational spaces.

Show up tomorrow and let the Parks Department know that not only are skateparks good for the community, but that the users of skateparks are merely a reflection of the community they live in. Also, come prepared to be a good ambassador for skateboarders. Let’s show these neighbors that this is about the kids in the Myrtle Neighborhood having a positive, active place to play that they can be proud of, and that no one wants to see an unsuccessful crime-filled park of any type.

Be there: Tuesday, January 22, from 7-9pm @ High Point Community Center.

2 Replies to “Important meeting in West Seattle: Tonight!”

  1. Awesome, I’ll be there. Can’t believe these folks are this biased for no objective reasons. Anyway, it’s a park for more than the immediate neighbors. It’s my park, too, and I want a skate park.

  2. Nice to meet you, Chas. Thanks for your ongoing support of skateboarding in this park.

    I was very impressed with the gentleman’s comments about long-standing community support for a skatepark in the Neighborhood Master Plan, with the kids who came out to speak up for their skatepark, and with all the new adult advocates who turned out, especially the mom who is organizing the kids. Keep it up, skate moms and kids!

    I was not impressed with the NIMBY backlash that began to smoulder and catch fire during the second hour of the meeting, with the gentleman’s attempts to hijack the agenda and “just take a vote” about the skatepark, and especially with the two comments that pitted the discursive proxy of the police officer against the discursive proxy of the skateboarder in order to paint the latter as a CRIMINAL, and I think you know who and what I’m talking about here.

    And a big shout out to Kim from River City Skatepark, the whole crew at Marginal Way Skatepark, and the Seattle Parks Department for working to build a network of free public skateparks in Seattle.

    Anyway, this is how the process is supposed to work, so be tenacious, and don’t accept less than a 10,000 square foot skatespot at this site. Check the Citywide Skatepark Plan, check the Neighborhood Plan, send your comments to the Parks Department, and be at the third meeting! See you there.

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