Why zip lines get us RILED

Some things don’t belong in an urban forest!

Last week, a Seattle Times article touted the success of a commercial zip line in Bellevue’s Eastgate Park. The article seemed to imply that Seattle is missing out because zip lines are fun, they bring in money for Bellevue, and they help young people improve their self confidence.

Oh, really?

We think zip lines in the right place are great. But not in Seattle park natural areas. We share this opinion with at least 700+ citizens and 16 organizations who have supported our petition. It’s not just zip lines, either. We’re opposed to any and all of the “new uses” that the Parks Department is proposing to allow in natural areas. We’ve already written a ton about our rationale in other blog posts. But, here is a bit more on zip lines to counter the glowing report in the Times.

3 reasons zip lines do not belong in Seattle park natural areas:

  • $74 admission fee!

In Eastgate Park, it’s $74 per adult, $47 per child! Maybe that works in Bellevue, but in Seattle we have a tiny fragment of nature remaining—less than 1 or 2% of total land area—and an exploding population. Roping off any part of our natural areas for the wealthy would be unconscionable. (How could the author make NO mention of this fee in the article?)

  • A False Premise

Zip lines do not build self-confidence in any meaningful way because they don’t test skill, ability, or problem-solving. At best, they might increase your confidence in zip line equipment or in zip line operators. You might walk away from zip lines less afraid of zip lines, or less afraid of other no-skill activities like bungie-jumping, or riding on a roller-coaster. But you will be no more confident in your own ability to succeed in real-life situations.

  • Sugar-Coated Nature

We should not be sending the message that nature needs to be thrilling in order to be fun. Such thrills inevitably become boring, and then new fads must be supplied to replace them. Getting people hooked on sugar-coated nature (or getting the Parks Department hooked on income-producing commercialization of natural areas) is unwise and unsustainable.

A Better Idea for Seattle Natural Areas

We have very little nature left in Seattle, and it must serve the needs of all Seattlites as well as our urban wildlife.Our urban nature is a rare resource, and we need to make the wisest, most effective use of it that we can.

We need a policy that is equitable and sustainable, so that everyone has fair access to the nature we all need for health and happiness, and so wildlife can have the nature they need to simply survive. We should increase passiveuse* opportunities in natural areas, particularly in under-served neighborhoods, or in natural areas long-neglected by the city.

In addition, we need a natural area policy in Seattle that will help people forge meaningful connections with the natural world. It would be so much better for us, for wildlife, and for the future of conservation.

We’ll write more about how to do this in a future post, because it’s a big topic. Right now, we just have to make sure we don’t lose our natural areas to commercialization, development, exclusive use, over-use, or mis-use.

Here’s how to help:

  • Sign our petition
  • Write a letter or email to the mayor, the city council, the Park Board. Tell them you oppose the “Supplemental Use Guidelines for Seattle Park Natural Areas.” (For more information, click here)
  • Volunteer to help restore your local natural area.

*passive uses are low-impact, universal, and compatible with other passive uses. They are free to all, and available to virtually everyone.

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