News

New park? Not in their backyards

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

Juanne Lockett’s home on 21st Avenue once featured a secluded backyard bordering a grove of trees.

Now, the patch of forest is gone, and with it went Lockett’s privacy and sense of safety, she said. Her property is one of three frequently trespassed upon as people make their way to and from a recently built park nearby. Property owners want the city to construct a fence to keep trespassers off their land.

About four years ago, the city compiled a Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan meant to help determine what areas of Federal Way were in need of public recreation. The plan concluded that residents near South 333rd Street needed a public park.

The city bought the property at 2202 S. 333rd St., and plans to build Cedar Grove Park began, said Betty Sanders, Federal Way park planner.

Nearly eight months ago, construction started. The park is not officially open yet, but that has not stopped children and adults of all ages from using it.

Three paths, marked by worn earth and broken tree branches, are apparent in Lockett’s yard. As she points to the first path, two trespassing children spot her and dart fearfully.

“I like a park like the next person, but I purchased this home 13 years ago,” said Lockett, whose grandson witnessed one trespassing child climbing a tree in her backyard. “It used to be so nice, kind of soothing.”

Another beaten path winds its way from the north side of the park through a second neighbor’s yard. A young woman emerges from this path only an hour after Lockett’s encounter with the trespassing children.

On the east side of the park, pieces of an old treehouse have been thrown across a creek bed as a makeshift path to the park. The trail continues into a third neighbor’s yard.

In early April, Lockett caught a man staring at her from the park as she stood in her kitchen, she said. Thoughts of arriving home to a broken window or intruder in her house keeps Lockett from resting easily.

Lockett has a woodpile in her backyard, some lawn furniture and other miscellaneous possessions that she fears will be stolen by trespassers. She no longer feels comfortable leaving the house unattended with so many people, several of them teenagers, trekking through her yard.

“When I’m at work, what is stopping them from helping themselves to my things?” Lockett said.

Trespassers have left litter strewn across the property where the second path is located. A neighbor who rents the property said she caught a trespasser in her yard and confronted him. The man told her to take the issue up with her property manager.

“I have to call my husband to meet me outside when I get home,” said the neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous.

Fences are not typical installments in Federal Way’s public parks, said Donna Hanson, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

In addition, the city sought input from neighbors as to what they would like to see or not see in Cedar Grove Park, Sanders said.

Nobody voiced concerns about the lack of a fence, Hanson said of the public process conducted in 2003.

A geographic information system (GIS) was used to locate the addresses of residents who may be affected by the park, Sanders said. These people were then sent notices of three public meetings that were to occur as part of the public process. The meetings took place in May, August and October 2003 within Federal Way city limits, Sanders said.

Some residents said they were unaware of the public process and didn’t recall receiving any notices about the park.

“I think a lot of people get public notices and just throw them in the trash, without realizing what they are,” Sanders said.

The city was unaware that Lockett and other neighbors were having problems with trespassers, Sanders said. Within one month, the city plans to post signs on the east edge of the park, reminding users to respect neighbors’ properties, she said.

The city is also willing to meet property owners to discuss possible solutions to their problems, Sanders said. However, the residents are expected to contact the city to arrange such a meeting.

Lockett plans to attend a city council meeting if her request for a fence has not been acknowledged within two weeks, she said. Both Lockett and another neighbor at the north edge of the park fear the upcoming summer season will only bring more trespassers.

Likewise, both have considered moving if the trespassing problem is not resolved soon.

“Kids gravitate toward a park,” Lockett said. “It’s going to get worse as the weather gets better.”

Contact Jacinda Howard at jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Background

Nearly a three-year gap exists between when the city decided to build Cedar Grove Park and its completion. The Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation brought to the city’s attention that the park’s site may have American Indian artifacts in its soil. Several studies were completed to ensure American Indian artifacts were not present on the land, said Betty Sanders, a city park planner. Once the studies were finished and no artifacts found, the design process continued and building began.

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