FAQs on Natural Area Policy

Why are so many people opposed to opening natural areas to new uses? Here’s a few FAQs and our replies. If you agree, please sign our petition!

  • Can’t we all just share nature together?

Yes! That is the exactly the concept behind passive use, which are low-impact uses that are universally available to virtually everyone. By reserving natural areas for passive use, we ensure that no one will be squeezed out of natural areas. The alternative—dividing up natural areas for specialized uses—results in a roping-off of some areas for a small segment of the population at the expense of everyone else.

  • Can’t we strike a “Balance”, giving some specialized-users a bit and some passive users a bit?

No. That would only increase the imbalance that already exists. The vast majority of Seattle parkland has already been developed for active uses. In Seattle only about 1 or 2% of the land areas remains as natural. If we remove its current protected status, it won’t last. That would be unfair, unsustainable, and unwise.

  • Shouldn’t we have a diversity of uses in our natural areas?

We believe it is better to have a diversity of people, not a diversity of uses. Passive uses are universal, available to virtually everyone. Specialized-uses only serve a small segment of the population.

  • Wouldn’t adding more uses in natural areas allow more people to enjoy nature?

No. Adding specialized-uses—the kind that are not universal and/or compatible with other uses—allows a small segment of the population use natural areas more ways. It does not serve everyone. The best way to let more people enjoy nature is to increase passive use opportunities in natural areas, especially in underserved neighborhoods or in natural areas long-neglected by the city.

  • Don’t we need to make natural areas safer?

We live in a dangerous world, but natural areas are far safer than most places in the city. Last winter, one of our members conducted a telephone survey of community policing representatives, and found that the overwhelming majority of crimes in natural areas are victimless crimes. Using scare tactics as justification for developing natural areas is wrong.

  • Don’t we need more active uses to make natural areas more welcoming?

The best way to make natural areas more welcoming is to stop telling people they are unsafe. People need nature for health and happiness, and wildlife needs us to protect their habitat. We should be encouraging people to explore and find their own connections to nature.

  • Don’t we need to make nature more fun for kids?

Kids have always known how to have fun in nature, if they are given a bit of freedom to do so. Letting kids explore and make their own unstructured fun is more imaginative and creative, and is an important part of development and health. Our society is moving more in the direction of unstructured nature-play, and we should be encouraging this, not sending the message that nature needs to be sugar-coated in order to be fun.

  • Isn’t there a huge demand for active uses in natural areas?

This is not clear. The Parks Department has not provided evidence that we need to develop natural areas for active uses. Specialized-user groups are quite organized and vocal, but they represent a small segment of the population. If there is such a huge demand, then Parks needs to be more transparent about where it is coming from and why.

  • Won’t the forests die if we don’t open up natural areas to active uses?

Absolutely not. The Green Seattle Partnership—a partnership of the non-proft Forterra, the City of Seattle, and other volunteer groups—is doing a great job of restoring our forests. Much more need to be done, but it should not be done as part of quid-pro-quo arrangements, trading eco-restoration services in return for usage rights. Forest restoration is a long-term commitment. The city should take responsibility for the condition of our natural areas.

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