MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Everett’s Clark Park gazebo now gone to the dogs

Jun 6, 2024, 11:39 AM | Updated: Jun 7, 2024, 11:20 am

Photo: Everett Clark Park gazebo....

Everett Clark Park gazebo. (Photo: Feliks Banel, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Feliks Banel, KIRO Newsradio)

The Everett City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a funding package to build a new off-leash dog area at Clark Park in the city’s Bayside neighborhood. Passage of the funding measure effectively marks the end of Clark Park’s historic gazebo, which will be dismantled and placed in storage to make way for canine recreation.

A group of preservation activists affiliated with the non-profit group Historic Everett had staged a single event back in February to call attention to the threat faced by the 1921 gazebo by the dog area project, and reached out to local media, including KIRO Newsradio, to share their concerns. Meanwhile, a number of Bayside neighbors were well organized and vocal in their support for the removal of the structure, saying it was attracting illegal and other undesirable activities to Clark Park.

“The neighbors that live closest to Clark Park support the removal of the gazebo,” resident Lisa Phillips said during public comment. “You’ve heard from several of them about the activities that occur inside the gazebo due to the privacy of its location. You’ve heard about drug dealers drug use violence, including a stabbing, and even folks yelling at the high school women’s tennis team.”

“Our neighborhood is willing to sacrifice this beloved structure to another location as a first step in rebuilding the reputation of Clark Park,” Jane McClure, another Bayside resident, said.

Everett resident Christy Anderson disagreed with the Bayside residents.

“The gazebo was not the problem,” Anderson commented. “I like the idea of a dog park, but the gazebo is not what’s causing the problem.”

More coverage: Citizens beg City of Everett to compromise on dog park and gazebo

Blaming a physical structure is nonsensical, Anderson said.

“Last week you had someone that talked about criminal activity in Garfield Park,” Anderson said. “The response from the city was not that we should tear down the dugouts or tear down the covered picnic structures there, it was that we have criminal activity in a park. Somebody else complained about criminal activity at Jackson Park and there wasn’t an immediate reaction, ‘Well, let’s tear down the covered picnic structures in Jackson Park.'”

Preservationists and other community members countered that an off-leash dog area would be a welcome addition to Clark Park, and new activity from dogs and their owners might discourage the unwanted behavior taking place under the gazebo’s inviting roof. A compromise was offered by Patrick Hall, chair of the Everett Historical Commission: build the dog park, keep the gazebo in place, and see if a year or two of this new amenity might negate the need to remove the historic structure. No response to Hall’s offer, formal or otherwise, ever came from the City of Everett, Mayor Cassie Franklin, Planning Director Yorik Stevens-Wajda or Parks and Facilities Director Bob Leonard.

Everett Parks and Facilities Director Leonard gave the staff report on the project. Though the Everett Historical Commission ultimately chose to abstain from officially weighing in on the gazebo’s future, Leonard cited the commission when he described how the gazebo would be commemorated once it was gone.

“With input garnered from the three Historical Commission meetings we went to, we were able to incorporate many, many mitigation design elements into the overall project plan,” Leonard said, listing elements of the dog park fence and gate that will echo the gazebo design.

“A commemorative marker and plaque at the current location of the gazebo, as well as interpretive signage about the history of Clark Park and the gazebo,” Leonard continued, “were also added to the project.”

Though the gazebo’s fate appears to have been sealed with the council funding vote on the dog park, there appear to be hard feelings that remain among members of the Everett Historical Commission for how the City of Everett appeared to sidestep accepted practice for reviewing changes to city landmarks before alterations up to and including demolition are approved by council vote.

Through multiple meetings of the Everett Historical Commission, officials from the City of Everett sparred with commission members over semantics and procedural issues about what, if any, approval was required from the commission for the City of Everett to remove the gazebo. Changes to historic properties typically require a “Certificate of Appropriateness” (COA), while demolition requires a “waiver.” This issue appears to have never really been resolved to the satisfaction of several commission members, despite an opinion from the Everett city attorney.

Patrick Hall, the chair of the Everett Historical Commission, who had earlier offered the compromise that would have preserved the gazebo, also spoke Wednesday night, though he hastened to point out he was speaking as a private individual.

“The difference between them (COA vs. waiver) might seem pedantic, but there’s a key point,” Hall said. “The COA can be overruled by the planning director, he alone decides. The waiver requires a city council vote. So essentially, city staff have decided amongst themselves that they alone can make this decision without going to council.”

“If I were on the council, I would question that,” Hall continued. “This is why the commission got stuck on this for three months before deciding not to participate.”

“The city shouldn’t be allowed to bend the rules,” Hall continued. “It’s true that the city attorney has decided to support the planning director’s interpretation of the code. Although I’m not a lawyer it is clear enough that another attorney could argue a different interpretation.”

There was some council discussion of points made by Patrick Hall, but no formal action was taken regarding the concerns he expressed.

KIRO Newsradio has reached out to the City of Everett for specific timing on the removal of the gazebo and information about where the pieces of the historic structure will be stored.

In an email response early Friday, spokesperson Simone Tarver wrote, “We’re working on the timeline for next steps and will certainly share publicly once that’s known.”

Tarver did not address KIRO Newsradio’s question about where the gazebo will go once it is dismantled.

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

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