Why? That’s what residents are wondering as City of Seattle plans for playground next to nude beach

SEATTLE — Controversy is brewing in the central district. The City of Seattle wants to put a playground right next to a nude beach. The decision has many people, including members of the LGBTQ+ community asking, what are they thinking?

The city project is privately and publicly funded, but it’s not clear how much of the project’s $550,000 price tag will fall on taxpayers. The Parks and Rec department said it will be minimal. The bigger concern is from the people who use the nude beach at Denny Blaine Park. They also said they just found out last week, when they saw the project sign posted.

“It’s baffling to me where it’s like oh we need a new playground. Let’s place it on the nude beach. I think almost anyone would be like why you are doing this,” said Sophie Debs, who is one of the Save Denny Blaine organizers.

Why Denny Blaine Park? That’s the question on a lot of minds right now.

“We saw the sign and were like a play area? What for?” said Hugo Castillo, who works in the neighborhood.

Nicole Baich, who’s frequented Denny Blaine Park’s nude beach for the last two years said, “You got to be kidding me. Come on.”

Seattle Parks have marked the swatch of land by Lake Washington, Denny Blaine Park, as a new site for a future play area. Parks and Rec said the area lacks a playground within a 15-minute walk.

The project was announced last week, despite pushback from District 3′s Kshama Sawant at Monday’s Parks and Recs Budget meeting.

“This is problematic, this proposal is extremely problematic,” Council Member Sawant said. “From the standpoint from my office I think this is really a move towards gentrification is the central point here.”

The big question is, can there be kids playing alongside nude adults in the same park?

“The sentiment is a mass concern about how a playground will legally change the current culture’s usage in the park,” said Baich.

Debs added, “especially with all the attacks in media on trans people being groomers who are trying to sexualize children. That’s just an attack photo op waiting to happen.”

A Change.org petition, with over 3,000 signatures, has four alternative locations all within a minute’s walk of Denny Blaine Park.

Those are:

· Lakeview Park (850ft from Denny Blaine, with very large flat open areas and located closer to area schools and more centrally within the neighborhood).

· Viretta Park (500ft from Denny Blaine).

· William Grose Park (0.8 mi) – more centrally located in the Denny-Blaine neighborhood.

· Alvin Larkins Park (0.7 mi) – much larger, with far more space for a play area.

Since the ‘60s, Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community has flocked to the beach, with it being especially important to people who are trans.

“I think a lot of trans people feel really uncomfortable at any beach, even just wearing a regular swimsuit we might get called slurs, we might get weird stares or people making uncomfortable comments,” said Debs.

When it comes to public nudity, incident exposure is illegal in the state of Washington. In 2008, then Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske made a statement surrounding enforcing indecent exposure laws in Seattle regarding nude bicyclists in Fremont. The statement reads:

As you know, a recent protest of nude bicyclists came through Seattle, as well as, nude bicyclists at the Fremont Solstice Parade. The perpetual enforcement question surrounding public nudity during the summer is both a legal problem and a public policy issue.

Washington’s indecent exposure law makes it a misdemeanor to “make any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.” In other words, there must be lewd or obscene behavior for an officer to take action. In order for the police to make an arrest, we must have witnesses currently in the public place where the nudity is occurring who must make a complaint. These witnesses must be willing to appear in court. Also in order to prosecute, the burden is on the government to prove that the offender was knowingly aware that their conduct created alarm and offense of others. There are, of course, incidents involving nudity in which the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is having severe mental problems and the police can take appropriate action.

Historically, it has been difficult in Seattle to prosecute cases of public nudity. The position of the police department is to take a report upon receiving a complaint, identify the individual involved, and forward the complaint to the City Attorney.

KIRO 7 put in a FOIA request to find out who the private donor is and how much was donated. There is a public comment meeting scheduled for December 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King FAME Community Center.