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Parks Department pulls plan for controversial West Seattle zip line

The Seattle Parks Department has withdrawn a controversial
proposal to install a zip line and high ropes course in
West Seattle’s Lincoln Park after hundreds of opponents
turned out Tuesday night for the first public meeting on
the plan.

“We listened to the community, and though there is demand
for this emerging form of recreation, there are some who
clearly do not support it at this location,” said Acting
Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams in a statement
issued Wednesday.

Shouts and boos dominated the standing-room only
discussion Tuesday night as Parks Department officials
detailed their initial thoughts on the plan, which they
say is part of the effort to expand recreational offerings
and generate new revenues for the cash-strapped
department.

“There are a number of new forms of recreation emerging
and becoming popular and we feel that we have some
obligation to accommodate them,” said Dewey Potter,
spokesperson for the Seattle Parks Department.

The proposal called for an up-to-9-
acre area in the park that would combine zip lines, rope
ladders, bridges and other apparatus through the wooded
park. The Parks Department had partnered with U.K.-based
Go Ape, a company that has developed and operates 27
similar parks in the U.K. and three in the U.S.

But critics of the proposal argued they worried the course
would destroy precious habitat and endanger wildlife while
also permanently altering the nature of the park.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting another form of
outdoor entertainment, but it needs to be in a different
setting where the impact on the birds is not so much,”
said Barbara Webster, a West Seattle resident and master
birder with the Audubon Society.

The company insisted the course would have minimal impact
on the environment and park experience for other users.

“Go Ape hires an outside contractor to perform an
environmental management plan that is approved by the
Lincoln Park Manager to ensure proper management of the
natural area,” the company writes in a project summary on
its website.

“Go Ape inspects the trees on a routine basis and yearly
by an independent arborist. Go Ape uses no heavy machinery
during our builds nor requires the felling of any mature
trees. Go Ape also works with the park to coordinate the
removal of non native invasive plants and organize park
clean ups.”

While the company said it would generate revenue sharing
of $40-65,000 per year, critics blasted the “privatization
and commercialization” of public parks. A newly launched
petition on a recently established opposition Facebook page called on opponents to
“protect our public space from the proposed transfer of
use of public assets to control by private entities, a
high-impact commercialization that is a threat to all
public spaces and public sector jobs.”

Opponents were also angered by what they said was the
Parks Department’s failure to notify the public about the
proposal which had been in the works for nearly a year.
But officials insisted they needed that time to first
craft a proposal and plan for plenty of public input and
participation in the process.

“The reason we haven’t come out to the public yet is
because we’ve been going through our own internal process
for over a year. We are still going through our internal
processes we have not made any decisions yet,” said
Rebecca Salinas with the Seattle Parks Department at the
public meeting.

Williams and Go Ape have not yet decided whether to
proceed with a ropes course proposal at another site.

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