(The Post Millennial) – A youth cross country team is the latest program affected due to the city of Seattle abdicating control of local parks to homeless campers.
Every year, thousands of runners from seven-year-olds through masters’ level races use the city park for training and competition.
According to KOMO News, “The city has denied permits for leagues to host meets at Lower Woodland, on the south end of Green Lake, and the ban will likely last the season.”
Jim Neff, a local running coach, told The Seattle Times: “It’s the mecca for cross country in Seattle. It’s known everywhere as an extremely challenging course, so runners come from all over to test themselves against it.”
Lower Woodland is now off limits for running competitions and events because of the homeless encampments that have spread across the grounds like many other parks in the city, which officials have refused to remove.
Corey Batten, one of the head coaches for the Rain City Flyers, told KOMO News: “They’re not issuing any permits for usage there.” According to the outlet, the parks department and mayor’s office said the permits were denied “due to concerns around the current conditions at Woodland Park, including reports from our grounds crews of encampments blocking some trails.”
“I think it’s just a safety issue and they didn’t want to have any conflicts,” Batten said.
Ed Balet, a parent of local runners, told KOMO: “The drugs, the prostitution, the human waste – all that is in our city parks that we are spending money to maintain, and I think the balance is gone.”
Earlier this summer, the spray park at Ballard Commons Park was not turned on due to a massive homeless encampment that has overtaken the area. Neighbors frequently post videos of crime including theft and open air drug use in the encampment.
According to My Ballard, a spokesperson from Seattle Parks, told the blog: “Because of health and safety concerns of Seattle/King County Public Health and our own Safety Office regarding ongoing encampments and other activities at Ballard Commons Park, we regretfully decided not to operate the spraypark there this summer.”
Ballard Seafaood Fest, a massive event which is held around the park every year, was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers planned a modified version of the event for 2021 called Off The Hook for September.
In July, the festival released a statement that the event was being cancelled due to safety concerns: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we could not guarantee that we could create a safe and enjoyable event for all.”
The problems with those living on the streets pre-dates the pandemic. In 2018, one of the camp occupants overdosed in the children’s area of the festival, and in 2019, vendors equipment was stolen and tampered with by the campers.
In April of 2020, the Ballard encampment was removed after a massive hepatitis outbreak among the campers, but the reprieve was short lived and the campers were allowed to return. Fires have broken out in RVs occupied by the homeless in the area recently as well.
Last week, a man was shot to death near a homeless encampment in Gas Works Park. Last month, the park was site of an event to celebrate the expansion draft of the newest NHL team, the Seattle Kraken, even though the annual July 4 fireworks event was cancelled.
The list of violence in the encampments continues to grow exponentially, cancelling events and preventing Seattle residents from using the parks for fear of their safety, not from the pandemic, but from the area’s campers.