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Discovery Park advocacy group says arts campus would ruin park’s tranquility

Fort Lawton at Discovery Park. (Joe Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons)

A classical music event at Discovery Park to raise awareness of climate change may sound like a wonderful idea for a summer Saturday — but Friends of Discovery Park worry it could be the start of the slippery slope toward developing the park.

Sponsored by the City of Seattle, Terra Nostra, and Discover Arts in the Park, among other groups, Symphony for Climate Change features music, dance, and a resource fair in the name of environmentalism at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in the north end of Discovery Park.

While these are all things that Friends of Discovery Park President Philip Vogelzang supports, the event comes just as the group is battling a proposal by a nonprofit to develop an arts educational center in the park’s 11-acre Fort Lawton Landmark District.

“It’s an appropriate place for a music event, and we’re happy that it’s occurring there, and we encourage them to have it there,” Vogelzang said of the Daybreak Center. “The problem is, they’re going to try to flip it into an argument and a conversation about moving this event that they’re having from Daybreak Star into the historic district.”

Residents want to stop redevelopment of Discovery Park’s Fort Lawton

A music school would cause a large increase in traffic at a place that is supposed to be a refuge from busy Seattle streets, according to Friends of Discovery Park.

“We don’t think it fits in with the primary purpose of the park, and that is to provide a place of quiet, solitude, and relief from the city,” Vogelzang said to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Established as a military base at the dawn of the 20th century, Fort Lawton served as a POW camp and site for anti-aircraft missiles before it was decommissioned.

The Seattle City Council recently decided to build hundreds of units of affordable housing at the 34-acre Fort Lawton Redevelopment Area in the northeast portion of the park.

Vogelzang said that while affordable housing is an important issue in Seattle, it should not come at the expense of park land. With over 530 acres to its name, Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park and a favorite spot among local nature enthusiasts.

“The city needs greenery … We need solitude, we need peace and tranquility from the city,” Vogelzang said. “We don’t need further urbanization of these very precious green spaces.”

And while he is all for fighting climate change, he called the link between the arts campus plan and a climate change event “deliberate deception” on the part of those wanting to develop the park.

“Climate change is something we all need to be aware of and fight against and work on — it’s a major threat and we support it,” he said. “But when you conflate the two issues of climate change with commercialization and building a major facility in the middle of Discovery Park, I think everybody with any sense will see through that argument.”

In Vogelzang’s view, sometimes the best action to take is none at all — in other words, to leave the park in its natural state.

“For 50 years, the City of Seattle and the citizens have been able to keep that as a one open, green, pristine space, capturing carbon, cooling the planet,” he said. “People are going to see that and understand that that’s important … everybody supports what we need in Discovery Park, and that is to keep it green, keep it open, keep it tranquil, and keep it a place of solitude.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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