by Sara 

Campers found in Discovery Park


Story and photographs by Magnolia Voice contributor Steven Smalley

UPDATE:  We spoke with Dewey Potter from Seattle Parks and Recreation regarding the encampment in Discovery Park.  She says that when a situation like this is identified, the city first sends in representatives from a service organization to speak with the members of the camp.  They will give them information and help with housing and services.  They will visit the camp twice in an effort to relocate the people living there.

If the campers do not leave after those two visits, the Parks Department will post a notice for them to leave the park.  After that a cleanup crew is sent in to remove the items at the campsite and break down the site.

A Magnolia Voice reader happened upon people camping in Discovery Park in the area adjacent to the sand dunes this week.  She says there are eight to 10 people at a makeshift campsite.  She says that she saw them burning a fire, cutting trees, and leaving human waste near trails. 

The tipster takes daily walks with her dog through the area and was frustrated to see feces and other human litter near the camp.

?It was shocking to see them with big sticks…they looked like weapons,? she said. ?I would not want to go on that trail for awhile.?

She said it was the disrespect for the land that upset her  the most.  She called the Parks Department and other officials in city government until she got action and police stepped in to investigate.

Two SPD officers went into the park to question the campers and run their names through police computers for arrest warrants.  It is unknown whether any were found.   Unless they have warrants, police tell us that officers are instructed not to rouse the homeless in  campsites like this one. 

There is a link on the Parks and Recreation Department website to report illegal campers here.

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  1. It’s illegal to camp in city parks however “officers are instructed not to rouse the homeless in? campsites like this one”. ?Huh?

  2. I must be missing something. The story says “police tell us that officers are instructed not to rouse the homeless in? campsites like this one.”

    So, if the story is accurate, the SPD?policy is if you’re homeless, you can cut down trees, have open fires, litter?and?deposit human waste around?a public park???

    That doesn’t seem to jibe with the second-to-last sentence “camping in city parks is illegal.” And why does Parks and Rec have a link to report illegal campers if the laws aren’t enforced?

    There has to be more to this story.

  3. If it’s illegal to camp in city parks, they should be told to vacate.??? Especially if they are litering that beautiful park with garbage and human waste.? Not to mention starting fires….
    There must be a way to get the city/police to take action!

    1. “There must be a way to get the city/police to take action!”

      You must be new to Seattle…yeah good luck with that with respect to this issue.?? I saw a MC Cop ticketing an elderly lady? with a walker. crossing at 1st and Pike against that funky “walk only” or “cars only” light..

  4. I saw them on Monday for my afternoon walk and didn’t recognize until I looked at the pictures, but last Friday they were taking the bus from downtown to Magnolia talking about Discovery Park. They were young and looked like teenagers or young adults. I was a little unnerved as a single female walking on the trail when I saw the sleeping bags, but luckily nothing happend. I did keep looking behind me just in case. Now I wish I had a dog at least. This is sad and they should be in shelters or transitional housing. It’s said it’s illegal to stay in the park and I would think the fire would be a great concern since it’s still summer technically and it’s a city park that is huge and beautiful not to mention close to houses. That would be a huge tragedy if they started a fire and it spread.

  5. I won’t even begin on what I think about Seattle’s political leaders.? I called Mayor McGinn’s office to ask that something be done.? Apparently requests to clean out encampments are handled through a customer service department.? I spoke to a very polite and professional guy there (whose name, I’m embarrassed to say, I forgot) and made the request to have the camp cleaned.? So we’ll see what happens.

    I go running in the park several times a week and generally feel pretty safe.? But I think I’ll give it a miss until this is cleared up.? Why are they waiting?? If it’s illegal, why can’t the police take action?? I don’t get it.

  6. ?What would happen if 30 -40 citizens together, in-person, asked them to leave? There’s only a few of them, would be hard for them to argue…

  7. according to the city of seattle, there is a different policy for handling the ?homeless.? the rest of us tax paying citizens would be arrested on the spot, but the homeless have “no where to go”.? what a crock of huey!!!!??our city is enabling this to happen!!!!? ???????

  8. I don’t understand the time frame here. They were gone yesterday when I checked. They didn’t leave a big mess behind either. I talked to a Parks employee yesterday. They had asked the teens to leave on Tuesday and the camp was gone?by Wednesday. This?is?blown out of proportion commentors!?

    1. you don’t get it.? it’s a city park and it’s closed after 11p to EVERYONE.? they shouldn’t be there in the first place!!

    2. They left because police and Parks asked them to. They left of their own accord. Had they refused because they were “homeless” it would have been different. If they stuck to their guns and pleaded “homelessness,” the city has a policy not to bother them, especially if they’re living in “encampments.” All the notices in the world do not move people if they choose to stay. Had a Seattle resident of the normal variety decided to camp in a park overnight, the park staff would have asked you to leave, chances are you would. Stand your ground and it’s a different story. All of this is understanding “the system.” Ask anyone who knows how to work a bureaucracy to their advantage and they’ll tell you. You just have to know the ins and outs. Apparently, these particular campers weren’t that shrewd.

    1. Thanks for the link.? I used it submit a complaint to the mayor’s office.? Doubt it will do much good.

  9. ?I see Larry Phillips has again?come to Magnolia’s rescue — he won’t lift a hand for people in the rest of his district but at least he’s doing something.?? Congratulations.? It’s nice to see that politicians still work?on behalf of some of their constituents.? ?And yes, I know Larry Phillips is a King County councilman, but he brags about what he does for Magnolia.

  10. I commute to and from work on the 33 and it’s common to see homeless people who don’t get off the bus until the very last stop at the park.? This has been going on for years and I always assumed they were going there to camp, although I’ve never actually come across an encampment while walking through the park.? The city really should enforce the no camping laws.

  11. I’ll bet if they were a little more out of sight and clean there never would have been a problem. ?People have been staying in the park and on the beach for ever. ?I have talked with a few of them and most seem to be OK.?

  12. As long as most of them seem OK…

    Hell, as long as people are smiling and willing to hold a door for someone on the way out, there should be a problem with stealing from local stores either. ?

  13. When the army had the park (base), a guard at each gate allowed you in…to run, to bike, to walk.?? My kids went there often.?? Can you imagine campers trying to enter at that time??? I quit running at the park ten years ago after seeing direputable folks lurking about.?? And no one in their tight mind would allow a child to go there without an adult.?? Why not charge admission??

  14. When the military had the park (base) there was a guard at each gate.?? It kept out the riff-raff, but allowed almost anyone in to walk, jog,bike or picnic.? Why not charge anominal admission, or long-term pass to locals for a fee.?? That would sort out the campers and others.?? I quit jogging there ten years agi because of the questionable folks I sometimes saw sneaking through the brush.?? If you send you kids up there alone now, you should stop!?? People have been camping at Discovery Park for many years, and it isn’t too hard to find them.? Maybe we should give it back to the army…they knew how to police it peacefully.


  15. Just to be clear, these campers are in fact street youth–kids–who have been displaced from multiple other squats around the city. The real shame is that they “squat” because of the overwhelming shortage of emergency shelter beds for street youth. Yes, I agree that the waste is foul; but what I find even more distasteful is that we as a society would much rather treat the homeless young people as criminals as opposed to coming up with solutions for what truly is a societal, not an individual, problem. Gates? Guards? How about donating time, money, brain power to increasing emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless and at-risk young people. I work for an agency that serves these young people, and they truly are remarkable people with an enormous amount of potential, trying to survive in a very unfortunate situation. If you are hoping to bring about change in the aesthetic of the encampment, why not try and engage them? Ask if they have clean water, hygiene kits, garbage bags, etc.

    1. Uh…Yeah I tried to “engage” one of them and ask them about life in the woods. He flung some poop at me in response. I’m not kidding, he used one of those sticks and flung it at me. Luckily it missed.

      Save the THEY’RE JUST POOR KIDS OKAY rap for someone who might fall for it. Go on the 33 bus and you’ll see them making their way into the city to panhandle on street corners. Once they get off the bus on the return back to Magnolia they don’t even wait until they get into the woods before they start smoking up the tweek (that’s meth, btw).

      As for the SPD, they’ve known about it for a long time. One officer I spoke to at a local eatery while we were waiting to pickup food said that they’ve been given clear direction to not “go out of their way to hassle the homeless” from the mayors office. Running names for warrants and asking folks to open bags/pockets for weapons is okay, but they’re not allowed to ask them to leave and have also been told to look the other way for drug paraphernalia (just throw it away, but don’t arrest anyone).

      I think we as a community should band together and march them out. If the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce and push out plane noise, why not some riff raff meth heads?

      1. Ah, yes, mob mentallity. Very mature. Just the level of maturity that us well-to-do Magnolia folks aim for, huh? A life time Magnolia resident, I am confident that this is not the case; I have more faith in my community then to believe that the majority would join in on some witch hunt to scare off the “riff raff meth heads.” Now I remember why I don’t blog. Once hidden behind a computer screen it is amazing how quickly one is willing to air their predjudices and, well, sound like a totally self-righteous NIMBY. Have fun, all! I’ll make sure to pass along your intentions and heartfelt words to city officials, law enforcement, and those smart enough to actually understand the societal and cyclical nature of youth homelessness.

        1. Okay, but just to confirm, its okay if they fling poop at people and smoke tweek? That’s okay because they’ve had a rough life?

        2. “sound like a totally self-righteous NIMBY”

          How many do you have in your back yard then?

      2. “I think we as a community should band together and march them out. ”

        Fantastic idea.? We can also drum out the campers above the bridge (I saw a red rent – clearly visible while driving up the bridge) there most of the summer, and next to the Port.

        They are not wanted here.? If the wimpy mayor won’t let the police do their job, we’ve gotta do it for them.

        (And Seattlegirl, of course I feel for the homeless.? That’s why i spend a huge amount of property and other taxes to fund the shelters here, and why I support the food bank, mental health services?and OFFICIAL (reasonably sanitary!) tent cities.

        Illegal camping by the homeless is a public health hazard.? Want your kid or dog to step in tuberculous phlegm or touch a used needle or meth equipment while playing in the Discovery park sand dunes?

      3. FYI – I spoke to another officer and he explained the other more serious reason why they’re told not to mess with them. I guess a few years ago a single officer by himself encountered about 12 or so folks in the woods who were in a camp. When he asked them for identification and informed them that they’d probably had to leave he was assaulted by the group. Guess the rule is that SPD doesn’t go in the woods (particularly at night) unless they’re in a group of 4 or more. Since getting that large of a group of officers together is no trivial task (as they’re understaffed), they really cant justify going in and dispersing a group.

    2. They may be street youth–kids but this no reason to be taking from society when they can be contributing.
      You are so concerned what society can give them.? What are they giving back?? I mean you want us to give them a garbage bag so they can clean after themselves?? Here is a thought…. let them get there own bag and clean the whole park.? Then we can let them stay in a city shelter because they earned it.?

      Take take take…this is the problem…

  16. In a perfect world, donating time, brain power and money would be a good thing. You can also say, families should stay married, keep their jobs, keep kids off drugs, blah, blah, blah to help keep kids in their homes but it doesn’t happen. It’s like wasting time on sex offenders to rehab them (which doesn’t work) and then hold your breath to see if they re-offend. Would you like to take chances with your child near them? No. Same with this. They don’t belong in the park.

  17. Pooping in your park? That’s nothing, I love to come to Mounger Pool to pee in ‘your’ water.

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