Everett residents iced out of demolition plans: ‘Don’t blame the gazebo’

Feb 23, 2024, 11:25 AM | Updated: Mar 27, 2024, 12:26 pm

everett gazebo...

The gazebo in Everett's Clark Park is endangered now that Mayor Cassie Franklin has decided, without any public process, to demolish it. (Photo: Feliks Banel, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Feliks Banel, KIRO Newsradio)

Mayor Cassie Franklin of Everett has decided to demolish the historic 1921 gazebo at Clark Park. Not everyone is happy about the decision, or about the opaque manner in which it was made.

Clark Park is a block west of Broadway in the north part of downtown Everett in an area known as the Bayside neighborhood. The park dates to 1894 and is considered the city’s oldest.

The gazebo (or bandstand) was designed by noted architect Benjamin Turnbull. It was constructed in 1921 and has been host to hundreds of events over the years. In the recent past, it was fenced off to keep people out – but it’s open now and has been for a few years. The gazebo does need to have some deferred maintenance issues addressed – as would be expected with any 103-year-old structure – but it appears to be solid and not in any apparent danger of falling down.

Clark Park itself looked well-maintained on a visit there Thursday afternoon. But like so many public parks in so many jurisdictions these days, it also clearly needs some long-term TLC and would benefit from upgrades to facilities and programming to “activate” the space in order to attract more regular daily visitors. What appeared to be unhoused people were present in Clark Park on Thursday, including someone sleeping in the gazebo, but the park was quiet, and there were many other park users there, too – including students from nearby Everett High School, and a few people exercising their dogs.

Simone Tarver is public information officer for the City of Everett. She said Mayor Cassie Franklin decided to demolish the gazebo and posted on Facebook about it in late January.

“The decision was come to with the Parks Department and with the community after seeing a lot of challenges within that park over the years,” Tarver told KIRO Newsradio. “Not that necessarily removing this gazebo is going to change the entire situation or solve all the problems, but it is going to be a step in the direction that we’re hoping to go in reactivating that park space and promoting more positive use by adding that dog park.”

Tarver said Mayor Franklin believes replacing the gazebo with a dog park will address the safety concerns at Clark Park, though it’s unclear if the city has looked more comprehensively at other solutions beyond the dog park. Tarver acknowledges that creating a new dog park wouldn’t necessarily require the removal of the gazebo.

“Is it possible for them both to be there? Yeah,” Tarver said. “I think the idea is that the gazebo has reached a point where it needs a lot of repairs, and so rather than spend money on a lot of repairs, I think the decision is now that it would be more financially feasible to just prioritize the dog park.

“For background: The City of Everett has considered several alternatives that would allow us to keep the gazebo, but all were too expensive to truly be feasible,” Tarver continued in a subsequent email. “Options included moving the gazebo, which would cost between $163,000 and $236,000 depending on where it was moved to, and installing a shutter system [to close the gazebo at night or to make it inaccessible other than for scheduled events], which could cost between $295,000 and $396,000.”

None of this information is posted anywhere easily accessible on the City of Everett’s website. Tarver had no “fact sheet” to share with a reporter and there appears to have been no public discussion of the “several alternatives that would allow us to keep the gazebo” prior to Mayor Franklin deciding to demolish it.

Whose idea was it to tear down the 103-year-old community landmark?

The notion of demolishing the gazebo rather than maintaining and restoring it reportedly emerged sometime last summer. It appeared that Everett Parks Department staff and a committee of the Bayside Neighborhood Association — an official group of neighbors who advise the city – came up with the idea while brainstorming how to address what they saw as concerns with the structure and with Clark Park. Apparently, the Parks Department and Bayside Neighborhood Association believed that costs to repair the gazebo, as well as costs to make required upgrades to it, including making it ADA accessible, were too high, given other needs at Clark Park.

Following that discussion, the decision at the department level to pursue the demolition of the gazebo does not appear to have been shared beyond the department. Neighbors of Clark Park weren’t informed or queried, and no apparent effort was made to communicate beyond the Parks Department to other constituent groups who might have wanted to have a say in a discussion about the gazebo’s future.

During autumn 2023, the Everett Parks Department apparently then moved forward with the demolition plan. And though they apparently didn’t tell the general public or other park stakeholders – such as Everett residents or the historic preservation community – Parks Department staff did ask the Bayside Neighborhood Association to write a letter in support of demolition.

“As a neighborhood, we feel the gazebo has become a draw for drug use, drug sales, violence and other nefarious activities,” the Bayside Neighborhood Association wrote in a letter dated Jan. 2. “We would like to see the gazebo moved out of the park. We realize this will not solve all the issues at Clark Park, but it will solve the problems with the gazebo in the park.”

The letter was addressed to the mayor, city council members and Parks Department staff. The letter also asked for improved lighting at Clark Park and made no mention of the dog park.

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When the mayor’s decision to demolish became public last month via a Facebook post, history and historic preservation people in Everett, who had been left out of the conversation and not asked their opinion of the historic gazebo, were understandably upset.

Andrea Tucker lives in Everett, but not in the Bayside neighborhood. She works in real estate and is board chair of Historic Everett, a non-profit preservation group. Tucker, who used to live nearby and often organized Easter egg hunts at Clark Park in the past, claimed the challenges there won’t be solved or even addressed by tearing down the gazebo. The problems, Tucker said, stem from cuts to the City of Everett parks budget and wider societal struggles around housing shortages and drug use.

“The fact is, it’s not the gazebo’s fault,” Tucker told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday, standing a few yards from it and shading her eyes from the afternoon sun. “The issue has nothing to do with this structure that sits here.”

John Phillips is vice-chair of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, the group that sent the letter blaming the gazebo for Clark Park’s issues and supporting the structure’s demolition. He lives nearby and has been volunteering at Clark Park for years. He and his wife often pick up garbage and organize annual community events, such as the Christmas carol sing-along which takes place in and around the gazebo.

Phillips clearly loves Clark Park and even seems to love the gazebo, too, despite the problems that he’s had to face there head-on. He’s clearly frustrated by the deferred maintenance and the other issues at Clark Park. For example, Phillips said, one year the electrical outlet in the gazebo was vandalized just before the Christmas carol event, so they had to bring in a portable generator.

“It was loud if you have kids singing and you have performers up there,” Phillips said. “Renting the generator was expensive, too.”

Phillips told KIRO Newsradio that as much as he loves the gazebo, he supported the plan to demolish it and said he approved of the letter that the Bayside Neighborhood Association sent to city officials.

However, he did acknowledge that the quiet work over the past several months that led to the mayor’s decision could have been shared more widely.

“There probably could have been tons of better communication,” Phillips said.

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Still, he said, he was surprised by the strong reaction from people outside of the neighborhood to the news about the mayor’s decision. However, Phillips sees a possible silver lining in this strong reaction by those Everett residents who only recently learned about the demolition plans: That they might now make a serious effort to save it.

“If that’s what it takes to say, ‘Hey, either we’re gonna remove it, or you need to figure out how to save it,’ then maybe this was the impetus to get everybody involved and try to raise the funds and put the pressure on to fix the gazebo and keep it at the park,” Phillips said.

Meanwhile, Simone Tarver of the City of Everett said the timing for the work at Clark Park is unclear.

“Right now, we’re still finalizing all of the details on next steps,” Tarver said. “But we did want to share that that was what we’re moving towards. And so I know that there will be more information that we’ll be able to share in the coming weeks, but at this point, I don’t have an exact timeline.

“We want to make sure that we can get started on everything we need to do to get the dog park going,” Tarver continued.

Given the uncertainty of the schedule of the city’s plans, there might still be time for a community-wide effort, not just from the Bayside neighborhood and people like John Phillips, but city-wide to work together on a solution that would preserve the gazebo and take a much more comprehensive approach to “activating” Clark Park – for the neighbors in the short-term, but also for the entire City of Everett in the long-term. After all, Clark Park has already been home to the gazebo for 103 years.

John Phillips from Bayside Neighborhood Association and Andrea Tucker from Historic Everett each appear to be in favor of convening a meeting to talk about the issues and opportunities and explore solutions for preserving and restoring the gazebo.

When asked about Mayor Franklin’s receptivity to such a broad-based community-based effort, spokesperson Simone Tarver was non-committal.

“Without putting that directly to the mayor or to another decision maker within the city, I wouldn’t be able to advise one way or the other,” Tarver replied.

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The mayor’s receptivity notwithstanding, there is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter when the Everett Historical Commission will hold its regular meeting this coming Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Everett City Hall.

Clark Park gazebo is on the agenda, and this meeting is open to the public. It should afford those concerned about the future of the gazebo the first fully public and fully transparent discussion since demolition plans were hatched last summer.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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