Rizal Park off-leash area changes to be discussed at 10/20 meeting

As mentioned previously in this space, Seattle Parks and Recreation will host a public meeting this Thursday, October 20 from 6:30-8 p.m. to present and discuss possible changes to the off-leash area (OLA) at Dr. Jose Rizal Park. The meeting will be at Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S.

The construction of the nearby Mountains to Sound Trail has provided an opportunity to reconfigure areas of the park including the OLA. In the proposed changes, the OLA would be reduced in size and fenced, to provide a buffer between the dog area and bicycle traffic. However, all of the property within the OLA would be usable, which is not the case with the current site.

The proposal is not without controversy. “Save our off-leash area!” reads a headline on Frieda Adams’ “Friends of Jose Rizal Off-Leash Area” website, which contains commentary about the proposed changes, and a petition form to keep the OLA at its current size.

Adams is not in favor of Parks’ proposed changes to the site footprint, and suggests that the city is shrinking the site because of low attendance and perceived vulnerability to crime in the area: “Whether low attendance is due to fear, whether it’s due to neglect on the part of the Parks Department and COLA, whether it’s true that nobody is using the site—these are all considerations the City must take into account before scrapping the off-leash area’s original concept.”

Those interested in the future of the park and of the OLA should attend Thursday’s meeting, where Parks’ plan will be presented in full.

4 thoughts on “Rizal Park off-leash area changes to be discussed at 10/20 meeting”

  1. “Frieda Adams” also calls herself Lucy Flanagan. She appeared at the Seattle Pacific University City Quest event in September, and had to be blocked by myself and faculty members from harassing the students at this school orientation event. She then stood on the edge of the work party and took photographs of the students without their or the school’s permission. As there were plenty of witnesses to this, I reported it to Parks & Recreation, Brenda Kramer, Park’s staffer who works with COLA. She wrote back on Sept. 27:

    “I was sorry to learn about Lucy’s behavior and contacted our Park Ranger who called and spoke with Lucy. Since she is not registered as a volunteer she will not be doing any work in the off-leash area or in any area of the park. She will also not be referring to herself as the defacto OLA steward. For this weekend’s event, a couple of Park Rangers will drop by the park for 30-45 minutes to make sure everything is okay. We really need to hear from Parks staff when these kinds of problems occur, and need to document them with an incident report, so that we can take progressive action, if needed.”

    Frieda Adams/Lucy Flanagan continues to identify herself as the off-leash area steward despite Parks’ position, and stands at the entrance to the OLA for as long as 8 hours a day trying to get passersby to sign her petition. Her petition advocates re-establishing the original borders of the OLA – this would mean removing the Mountains to Sound Trail. As Lucy Flanagan, she attended the NBHC meeting in September. She was the person who berated the Parks team and then began talking about Magnuson Park.

    Before the Seattle Pacific University event, she ziptied weird signs at the entrance to the off-leash area, including metal prongs at the entrance, like are used with campaign signs. Parks removed these objects before the students arrived. Notices for dog-related services and businesses were removed from the bulletin board, and replaced by messages from “Frieda Adams.”

    She lives in north Seattle somewhere.

    As far as crime in the area, in the last ten years there has been only one violent crime in the lower meadow of Dr. Jose Rizal Park, on June 23, 2008. Afterwards, Parks & Recreation, Seattle Public Utilities, and other city agencies put together a plan to make the lower park safer, and that plan succeeded. It succeeded in large part due to the number of volunteers working in the park, increased use of the off-leash area, reclamation of the orchard area, and elimination of the last entrenched encampment in the park, which had been covered by a bramble of blackberries about 8 feet tall – it was at the northwest point of the park, down toward the freeway ramps.

    I had lunch with Lucy the day before the Sept. NBHC meeting – I had no idea she had an alter ego as “Frieda Adams.” She told me she wanted to organize support so she could stage a coup and take over Citizens for Off-Leash Areas. The following day, at the NBHC meeting, I was surprised at her words and conduct toward Parks personnel and the deputy mayor.

    She wasn’t straight with me, and I don’t believe she’s being straight about what’s happening in the park.

  2. I support off-leash areas as much as the next guy, but does anyone even use the off-leash area in Jose Rizal? I’ve rarely seen anyone in there with their dogs.

    Indeed, I know at least a few female BEHI residents who have said they wouldn’t feel safe taking their dogs down there, especially after dusk. I definitely see where they are coming from.

    One can definitely imagine a scenario where that perception of danger changes to one of safety, but I don’t think maintaining the status quo is the path to accomplishing that goal.

    Moreover, “Lucy Flanagan” would definitely have more credibility if she lived in BEHI and was a user of that particular OLA area. Perhaps she’s not getting a lot of traction with her petition, because most BEHI residents would rather drive their dogs to the Genesee Park OLA than use the Rizal OLA.

  3. At the risk of being obvious, a smaller off-leash area is more likely to have the fencing left alone, and less likely to have potentially dangerous interactions between homeless people and dogs.

    It’d also be easier to maintain/keep clean.

  4. As a former steward and one of the original designers/builders of the Rizal OLA (which opened 10 years ago this past July), it is certainly disappointing that it doesn’t get used enough and is threatened to be significantly reduced in size, if not eliminated. When the mountains to sound trail design was finally brought to the attention of COLA, it was initially disappointing that SDOT had designed something that bisected the OLA without any communication with the steward group. However, once the actual plan was realized it was determined to actually be beneficial to the OLA by improving access, increasing through traffic, and providing lighting. The loss of the acre or so west of the Mountains to Sound trail was seen as a bit of a trade-off. Lucy Flanagan knows that, and is not asking for the trail project to be cancelled or undone. In fact, it was everyone’s opinion, including Parks, that the construction of the trail would likely increase use of the OLA. That increase could be substantial enough to justify expanding the OLA boundary further south to fully utilize the area that was evaluated in the original SEPA review during the OLA siting process. That concept was initially supported by Parks, but that was about 6 years ago and the trail project got delayed so long that those who were involved at the time apparently aren’t around any more. Personally, I don’t think a larger area is necessary, but significant further reduction of the OLA area will definitely impact the usability of the OLA. Smaller is definitely not better when it comes to the OLAs, as the use gets concentrated and wear increases.

    Regardless of your opinion of the Rizal OLA, if you have any interest in ANY OLA in Beacon Hill you should attend this meeting and voice your opinions. Also, you should contact COLA directly (www.coladog.org) and voice your opinion, but more importantly volunteer. The OLA system is highly volunteer driven and is not just another amenity that Parks maintains. Right now, COLA’s position is that if the installation of the trail and the restructuring of the OLA doesn’t generate a significant user group and real commitment from dedicated volunteers and stewards, it will recommend to Parks that the OLA be abandoned, and unfortunately I can’t say I blame them. It really comes down to use it or lose it, with the stipulation that you maintain it as well. In addition, nobody seems to be pushing to relocate the OLA to another location within Beacon Hill. Somewhere in Jefferson Park seems ideal, since I see so many off-leash dogs there anyway.

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