A Tradition for Seattle’s Youth Lost
August 26, 2021
Seattle Public Schools starts back in just one week. As this latest Covid-19 surge rocks our state and region, there is a great deal of uncertainty for all, but especially for students and parents.
With that in mind, a column from Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times this past weekend struck a chord as students must change and miss out on another great tradition. In it, he reports that high school runners will not enjoy the incredible “rollercoaster-like” trails of Lower Woodland Park which is located right near Greenlake.
As Westneat points out, “it’s no exaggeration that in a typical fall, 5,000 runners may test the hills of this city park. The Seattle high school league, Metro, has held its championships there for decades, and there are also junior Olympics, Catholic youth leagues, college events, plus masters races all the way down to 7-year-olds with the Rain City Flyers running club. None of it is happening this year, at least not there. Seattle’s cross-country mecca has gone dark.”
You might be asking why not given the rarity of outside Covid-19 transmission. The reason, according to Westneat who spoke with local running coaches is that “the section with the brutal hills, has become, like many city parks in Seattle, an extensive encampment. Most of the picnic shelters have been covered over with tarps and occupied, and there are 30 to 40 tents spread out in the woods and clearings.”
According to coaches and others involved in fall running events, the issue is serious enough that running events are being moved elsewhere. As Westneat raises, “conflicts like this are happening in parks all over Seattle, some of them life-and-death serious. Still, it’s no small thing when thousands of kids quietly lose access to a rich local tradition.”
The people living without homes in that encampment need help. Yet Seattle’s leaders are allowing people to continue to live in unhealthy and inhumane conditions at the expense of residents, including our youth. They are allowing it by default through their failure to design a plan that matches the problem.
It’s time for action by Seattle city leaders before more traditions that make Seattle a city we love go by the wayside. We need a plan that works for all.