Dear Mayor Durkan,
I’ve hesitated to send this note but after walking through the park this week, I feel it’s important to do so.
As you know, the Cal and Julia Knudsen family had built the small Madison Valley park some years ago in tribute to their mother, Julia Lee Knudsen, after her death in 1990. Much later, in 2016, the family, no longer resident here, gave the elegantly landscaped park to the city of Seattle. Our group, the Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association (SPSCA), thanks to Seattle Parks and the generosity of the Knudsen family, created a Piazza Perugia in the center of this wonderful small park, decorated with special ceramic art shipped to us from our sister city.
I write now with dismay over the occupation of the park by a number of illegal encampments resulting in a fair amount of trash and some — at least so far — minor damage to the ceramic art. More important (my two cents) is that the park itself, given its small scale and the number of tents now lining the perimeter, is now essentially off-limits to Seattle citizens and to our own SPSCA plans for gatherings there and to carry out maintenance (part of our agreement with Parks) of the piazza.
I know this is a tremendously difficult time — with a pandemic, a rise in homelessness, tight city budgets — a challenge for our city. That said, I cannot believe it is impossible to at least protect small and vulnerable public spaces. In a large park, it would be possible to set aside an area for encampments, but a small public space like Julia Lee’s Park is simply overwhelmed and becomes essentially unusable by the public. I send this open letter as an advisory, but also with the question we hear so often: Can anything be done?
All best, with thanks.