•No, we do not misunderstand this policy change.
It effectively replaces the traditional policy of reserving natural areas for passive use, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem services with a policy that invites specialized-user groups to lay claim to natural areas for their own preferred uses. This is inequitable, unsustainable, and unwise.
Passive use is important because it is universally available to virtually everyone. Passive uses are compatible with one another, and with the other living creatures that depend on natural areas for habitat. Passive uses do not require their own specially allotted spaces, or ask people to pay fees for entrance. They do not favor organized groups who have the time and energy to provide ecosystem restoration services in return for usage privileges. Passive use is the best way to ensure that natural areas do not become overused, misused, and degraded.
Passive use is why we have natural areas today.
•Yes, the policy is misleading.
By stating that “wildlife sanctuaries” would be protected, the Parks Department implies there are wildlife sanctuaries. There is only one on dry land: Kiwanis Ravine, a scant 9 acres. And from what we understand from Parks Staff, there is little-to-no chance of there ever being another wildlife sanctuary. The bar is set too high for any other natural areas to qualify.
In other words, we’ve already stressed our urban nature so much, it is no longer considered “special” enough to merit sanctuary status. We think this is all the more reason to protect what little we have left.
•Yes, the policy does include commercialization.
Ropes courses are not free—the existing ones at Camp Long are not free. And “ropes course” is the same term Parks used interchangeably in the proposal for the GoApe zipline. Ziplines are not free. The policy does not limit uses to those that are free to all.
•No, we are not “strict preservationists.”
Our main goal as an organization and as individuals is helping people connect more deeply with nature. We emphatically do not want to keep people out of natural areas. In fact, last year, when we first found out about the plans, Denise sent the promoters of Cheasty Bike Skills Course an Open Letter, explaining our position, and offering to partner together to create a more equitable, open-to-everyone trail, that would help all people connect more deeply to nature. (The offer was not accepted.)
But, we recognize that without wise planning, future Seattlites will not have the nature they’ll need for health and well being. And, without wise planning, wildlife will not have the nature they need to simply survive.
That is why we launched our PETITION.