Thousands of kids unable to run at popular Seattle park due to unsafe conditions

Homeless encampments in Seattle city parks are nothing new, but now, many parents say they can no longer sit back and look away. 

On Tuesday, a group came out to protest at Woodland Park in North Seattle. Their goal: to reclaim their beloved park. 

Woodland Park is known as the mecca for cross country runners, with more than three miles of rolling hills making it a popular destination.  

But parents say the gem of a park is now off limits, deemed unsafe, impacting around 5,000 kids who train in teams across Seattle. 

"I’m maxed out on my frustration," mom Amy Graff said.

They say homeless encampments are blocking trails, but the concerns go beyond that.

"My daughter will come home and say ‘I saw a man and his bottom,’" Graff said.

 "There are people using drugs, there are people who are mentally ill," parent Gretchen Kudla said.

Kudla says the situation is also not humane for the people living at the park as well.

 "There has been assaults to parents and runners since 2017," Seattle resident John Ward said.    

Throughout Woodland Park on Tuesday we saw tents, picnic areas turned into makeshift shelters and bathrooms that were off limits to park goers.

Parents say people have witnessed everything from repeated fires to prostitution.

"When will it stop, like, will we just surrender our parks because the city can’t find safe places for people who are living here?" Kudla said.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is denying permits for running events, and even parking lots are closed because it is has been deemed unsafe.

"Yes the city parks department is doing their best, but it’s the city council who has failed children in our community," Ward said.

Q13 News reached out to Seattle City Council on Tuesday. A spokesperson said the council isn’t responsible for permits at parks so they referred us back to the parks department.

"Someone needs to take some action; if the mayor doesn’t do it, if city council doesn’t do it, then maybe it’s a bunch of kids on a bridge with some signs that say ‘We miss this, we miss this park,’" Kudla said.

Seattle Parks and Recreation says they have identified several other parks as alternatives for kids to run including Magnuson, Genesee and Lincoln Park. The department says they continue to work with Seattle Public Schools on other areas.

But parents say those options are not solving the core of the problem. 

Graff says encampments should simply not be allowed at any parks.

As Graff and other parents held up signs at passing cars Tuesday evening, counter-demonstrators showed up.

Some families with kids left the demonstration early, feeling intimidated by some counter protesters who were acting confrontational towards them.

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