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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 2, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 40
LGBTQ community meets with new Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent
Safety and LGBTQ programming among top concerns
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LGBTQ community meets with new Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent
Safety and LGBTQ programming among top concerns

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On October 5, Seattle's LGBTQ Commission sponsored a meet and greet between the community and the new Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent inside the Miller Community Center (330 19th Ave. E., 98112 just north of E. Thomas St.). The two-hour event, which was open to the public, had more than 20 people gathered to hear directly from the new man in charge of Seattle's vast parklands: Superintendent Jesús Aguirre.

Aguirre oversees over 400 parks and open areas, and over 6200 acres of parkland. And one thing has become clear ever since the first public park within the city limits of Seattle, Denny Park, was gifted to the city by David T. Denny in 1884: Seattleites love - and use - their parks. The LGBTQ community has a special connection to two parks in particular (although LGBTQ people arguably use at least some part of every park and recreational land available to the public) and those, of course, are Cal Anderson Park and Volunteer Park.

Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave., 98122) includes a fountain, texture pool and reflecting pool, promenade paths, landscaping, a shelter house, a plaza, a children's play area, a wading pool, a lighted sports field, and a number of oversize chess boards, the underground Lincoln Reservoir, Bobby Morris Playfield and unfortunately lots and lots of violent crime which has ranged from sexual assault to stabbings and muggings. Simply put - the park which bares the namesake of Washington state's first openly Gay legislator from the 43rd District, Senator Cal Anderson (officially renamed in 2003 from its original 1901 name, Lincoln Park) is not safe at night and depending on whether or not it is the weekend, it isn't too safe during the day either.

Volunteer Park (1247 15th Ave. E., 98112) is located on Capitol Hill. Volunteer Park is home to the Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum and sits on a whopping 48.3 acres of land as well as the Volunteer Park Reservoir and Volunteer Park Water Tower. For years the park was the site of the annual Seattle Pride Rally. Today, the Seattle Pride Parade folks use the park for their annual Pride Picnic - designed for LGBTQ youth and families to enjoy as an alternative to bar and nightclub events. It is the kickoff and ending location for the annual AIDS Walk. And the bushes and trees that line the parks walkways at night played host to men, cruising for sex, after dark for decades. In 1997 however, Seattle Police Department officials declared the days of anonymous sex in the west end of the park over for good and began to make arrests of men found engaging in, or in some cases, attempting to engage in sexual activity in the park. Eventually judges stopped hearing the cases and lawyers stopped seeking prosecutions and the police stings and the sex have both since died down. While Volunteer Park is largely regarded as being a safer space for LGBTQ people than Cal Anderson Park is, there has been a fair share of assault (even attempted kidnapping) cases over the years.

Seattle LGBTQ Commissioners asked that attendees 'bring your ideas, suggestions, and concerns about Parks and Recreation for LGBTQ children, youth, adults, seniors, and families.' A number of people heeded that request.

Here are some of the things that people brought up:

o Some community members would like to see an increase in the amount of dog parks that Seattle Parks and Recreation currently offers.

o A Transgender parent of a disabled youth praised Seattle Parks and Recreation for holding an 'all gender-swim' day and would like to see more of that offered.

o Public safety was a big concern for homeless folks who are Transgender and say that the police are harassing them while letting 'rich white privileged straight people get away with smoking pot and drinking wine out in the open.' Still, others talked about the security problems that some homeless people have created in and around Cal Anderson Park.

o Seattle Parks used to be open 24 hours a day, but are no longer; a request was made to take a look at usage and time and see if we can't return to allowing parks to be open 24-7.

o Request that programming for LGBTQ seniors is taken into account.

o Because the LGBTQ community does not have a community center, some people recommended that perhaps a public/private partnership between the department and the community could exist where the department allows usage of one of their facilities and the community runs/funds it.

o One man asked about the availability of some community centers to be used as a temporary overnight shelter for the homeless community.

o SEE SOMETHING YOU LIKE OR SOMETHING MISSING FROM THIS LIST? Reach out and contact the parks department ASAP.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is poised to receive $4 million/year in new funding starting in 2016. Yet no dedicated funding for any programs for LGBTQ teens, Queer youth of color, or LGBTQ seniors has been identified. If you are interested in changing that, send Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Aguirre an email at jesus.aguirre@seattle.gov and tell him what you would like to see at Seattle Parks as far as LGBTQ programming is concerned.

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LGBTQ community meets with new Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent
Safety and LGBTQ programming among top concerns

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