Plan to build kids area near popular Seattle nude beach scrapped

Dec 11, 2023, 9:03 AM

Image: A photo of Denny Blaine Park and the sign entering the park...

A photo of Denny Blaine Park and the sign entering the park (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

Seattle Parks and Recreation is scrapping a plan to build a kids’ play area at Denny Blaine Park, near an unofficial but popular nude beach.

The department said in a statement Friday that feedback from the community indicated the park was not the right location for the play area.

It comes just days after hundreds of people packed a community meeting to oppose the proposal, joining thousands of others who signed a similar online petition.

While not officially designated, the beach at Denny Blaine Park along Lake Washington is commonly considered clothing optional.

A ‘safe space’

“Even wearing swimsuits, a lot of trans people feel uncomfortable at other beaches, and we get negative harassment, even assaults for being ourselves at these beaches,” said Sophie Amity-Debs, who helped lead the effort to stop the playground. “And the queer community has known that Denny Blaine Beach is a safe space for us.”

Earlier coverage: Community pushes back against playground near nude beach

She says the park and beach have been a hidden haven since at least the 1960s, and there was strong support to keep it that way.

“The nude community and the queer community have kind of settled on this,’ Amity-Debs, an organizer with the Save Denny Blaine campaign, said. “It specifically has blocked off sightlines so there’s not a lot of visibility at the beach, which makes it a good place for a nude beach.”

Seattle Parks and Recreation initially proposed Denny Blaine for a play area because it said there wasn’t one in the neighborhood within a 10- to 15-minute walk.

A private donor, who wished to remain anonymous, offered to provide the $550,000 needed for the project. But those who frequent the park were strongly opposed to the idea.

While there is no law against nudity in Seattle, there are laws against indecent exposure. During Wednesday’s public forum, community members said adding a kids’ play area to the park felt like an attempt to demonize the community.

“It feels difficult to deny that it has to be an attack on the culture of the beach,” Amity-Debs said.

While Seattle Parks didn’t directly address that concern, spokesperson Christina Hirsch said the department is planning to “meet with leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community to better understand the importance of this beach to the community and the hopes for future uses.”

The search for alternatives

Seattle Parks also pointed out that area of the city is still lacking in accessible play equipment for kids and families, but said it plans to search for alternatives. Amity-Debs says she and others wholeheartedly support the playground—just not at Denny Blaine Park.

“There’s so many other parks within walking distance,’ she told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee & Ursula this week. “Lakeview Park is 850 feet away and has way more space for a playground.”

From Dave Ross: Beaches in the buff don’t scream ‘Seattle’

Some suggested alternatives for the play area were made at Wednesday’s meeting, including:

  • Lakeview Park (850 feet from Denny Blaine) —  It has large flat and open areas and it is located closer to area schools and it is more centrally within the neighborhood).
  • Viretta Park (500 feet from Denny Blaine)
  • William Grose Park (0.8 miles away) — It is more centrally located in the Denny-Blaine neighborhood.
  • Alvin Larkins Park (0.7 miles away) — It is much larger, with far more space for a play area.

Amity-Debs and others plan to work with the city to get the park officially designated as clothing optional. But for now, she says she is grateful that Seattle’s leaders have chosen to listen to community feedback.

“There’s a lot of wonderful beaches in Seattle. But I think this is one of the only ones, if not the only one, that a lot of queer people feel safer,” she says. “And we’re really, really excited that that space isn’t being taken away from us.”

Contributing: L.B. Gilbert, MyNorthwest

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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