From our sister site The SeaTac Blog:
By Izzy Wallace
The City of SeaTac is hoping to receive official ownership over North SeaTac Park.
The city council sent a council request form to the Port of Seattle on July 12, 2022, for SeaTac to take entire ownership of North SeaTac Park, which the Port currently owns.
The Port first started leasing out portions of the 220-acre park to SeaTac in the early 90s through two leases, which SeaTac today pays $20 a year for.
One expires in 2041, the other in 2070.
There had been previous discussion on SeaTac taking and cementing the park as a permanent public park, and this request form was sent to reopen this topic.
“In addition to the letter, in the past several months the city of SeaTac has taken several actions toward studying the feasibility of the city acquiring parts or the entire 220 acres of North SeaTac Park,” said Kyle Moore, government relations and communications manager for the city of SeaTac. “In May, the SeaTac council passed a resolution, which expressed the council’s desire to explore the feasibility of acquiring North SeaTac Park from the Port of Seattle. The resolution was followed by a May 31, 2022, letter sent to Port Executive Director Steve Metruck from SeaTac City Manager Carl Cole, seeking an order from the Port of Seattle Commission, directing the Port of Seattle staff to explore the feasibility of transferring ownership of North SeaTac Park to the City of SeaTac.”
The Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) then began discussing the future of North SeaTac Park last summer.
The JAC is made up of two Port commissioners and three SeaTac councilmembers. This group has since met several times, and are continuing the discussion around the park, Moore said.
A joint statement from the JAC was released on Aug. 4, 2022, stating that the Port and SeaTac are in agreement to work together and figure out a long-term plan regarding the park.
There have also been raised concerns over the years by parkgoers, regarding the Port of Seattle’s Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP), and environmental impacts that were suggested.
The SAMP is the blueprint for future changes to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to meet growth demand.
The SAMP included a proposed 11-acre employee parking lot, that would be within North SeaTac Park.
This covered a southern part of the park’s bike trails, and came near the Tub Lake bog, creeks, and wetlands.
The city council’s Park and Recreation Committee raised concerns regarding this in December 2018.
“Since then, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has taken the employee parking lot off the SAMP project list,” Moore said.
However, locals are still concerned regarding future projects taking over the area.
“55 acres of the park south of 136th street that are now covered in forested bicycle trails, are still at risk because by agreement between SeaTac and the Port, they can be taken out of park use at any time,” said Noemie Maxwell, a local community activist and volunteer forest steward. “And the Port’s 2020 Real Estate Strategic Plan recommends building 340,000 square feet of aviation supportive use on that parcel.”
Alongside concerns over environmental and wildlife impacts, the park is also a central home to recreational sports and activities.
“The park is one of the largest open spaces in an area that is otherwise heavily urbanized area,” Moore said. “The city and the Port work to heavily program the park with a multitude of recreational activities including, soccer, BMX, mountain biking, rugby, skateboarding, baseball, disc golf, tennis, walking, jogging and other passive, and active duties.”
However, the end goal for many SeaTac locals is for the city to acquire the park, and lock in it’s position as environmental, recreational land that will not be at risk of future demolition.
“It’s not enough to say ‘Don’t build a parking lot there,’ … we need to protect the whole park, and the tree covered land around SeaTac,” said Noemie Maxwell, a local community activist and volunteer forest steward. “SeaTac is 40th of the 45 cities ranked in the county’s 30 Year Forest Plan for tree canopy coverage.”
Tree canopy coverages help reduce pollution in the air, bring down hot temperatures, and provide a good habitat for wildlife.
“It represents so much more than a park. It’s the trees, the filtration, all of these indigenous species… we cannot displace any more wildlife,” said Sheila Brush, a local advocate for the park. “If we’re going to hurt the land, we’re going to hurt too.”
Brush sent a letter to the Port of Seattle commissioners last July, urging the Port to hand over ownership of the park to SeaTac.
And alongside the damages uprooting this area could do to the environment, are also the affects pollution does to people living nearby, Brush said.
“There are much higher incidences of all kinds of health problems around here, and a lot of it has been scientifically proven, to be connected with particulate pollution coming from airplanes,” Maxwell said.
The surface area provided from tree coverage helps catch lots of particulates in the air, helping filter the breathing air from polluting factors.
Due to all this, a group Maxwell is part of- The Defenders of North SeaTac Park- put together a Community Forest Consensus last February for locals to sign.
The consensus calls for three main actions to be made.
“For the park to be permanently protected as a park in perpetuity from any commercial development, … a moratorium for two miles around the park on public land- this is where public health says the impact from the airport is at it’s worst,” said Maxwell.
Thirdly, these would be needed “Until there’s a comprehensive forest plan in place for near airport communities to ensure that we have an adequate health level of tree canopy,” she said.
And handing the park to SeaTac is the best next step for the park’s environmental health, Brush said.
“SeaTac is truly one of the only city’s that is responding to the Port on behalf of it’s citizens,” Brush said. “They’ve time and time again been the leader in appropriately responding to the board, protecting our citizens, and in protecting our green spaces.”
North SeaTac Park is located at Des Moines Memorial Drive S. and S. 128th Street:
Izzy Wallace is a graduate from Highline College, where she got her AA in Multimedia, and her BAS in Integrated Design. She had previously worked at Highline’s newspaper for several years as Editor-in-Chief. You can send her ideas for news stories, or photos of your dogs, at email@example.com.