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Seattle’s parks dept. grappling with encroachment ‘spread all over’

Mar 17, 2016, 11:55 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm

There are countless numbers of private properties encroaching on to city park land. (v104/Creative ...

There are countless numbers of private properties encroaching on to city park land. (v104/Creative Commons)

(v104/Creative Commons)

Exactly whose land is it?

That’s what Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department is trying to figure out. What is known is that some private owners have encroached on city park land &#8212 they have built extensions of their private properties onto public land. Seattle’s parks department is now launching an effort to draw clear lines in the ground, and oust encroaching parties.

Parks manager Donald Harris told the city’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries & Waterfront Committee that it is difficult to give an exact number of private properties encroaching on city park property.

“We’re trying to identify these areas,” he said.

Related: Burgess says Seattle City Council had “optimism bias,” but is not “shady”

Some cases are as minimal as a fence stretching a few feet into city property. Others have been more extreme.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw remembers one issue of encroachment well. About six years ago, the city found what Bagshaw called “amazing encroachment.” There was a zipline that cut into the park, not to mention a hot tub.

“It was a nice little area,” she said, noting it was about 100 feet of encroachment.

There are several reasons encroachment can happen. That can include someone simply not paying attention to where they build, to putting up things such as fences for safety reasons. Committee Chair Debora Juarez said she’s seen people build fences in places they don’t necessarily have authority to in order to keep homeless people from walking around their property.

Harris told the committee the city hasn’t been consistent with encroachment.

“We have been in reactive mode,” he said.

But the parks department is trying to change that. Thanks to a 2014 levy, there is funding dedicated to staff removing the encroachments. Because the city is trying to be diplomatic in the process, that work doesn’t typically happen over night.

The current focus is on contiguous stretch of park land, while addressing encroachment through other means. There is a target of reclaiming 25 encroachments this year, according to Harris.

Though the exact number of encroachments on city park land is unknown, dealing with all of them could take some time considering the Seattle has more than 400 parks in 6,200 acres of land.

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Seattle’s parks dept. grappling with encroachment ‘spread all over’