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Hundreds pack Seattle meeting to oppose playground at LGBTQ+ nude beach

Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

SEATTLE — Hundreds of people packed a Seattle community meeting Wednesday night to oppose a proposal by the city to build a kids playground at a beach park known for decades as a nude hangout, especially for LGBTQ+ folks.

People who swim and sunbathe at Denny Blaine Park, and who view the $550,000 plan initiated by an anonymous donor as an attempt to change the way the space on Lake Washington has been used for decades, held signs with messages like “Don’t Displace Historic And Diverse Community,” “Gay Buns Over Shady Funds” and “Save Denny Blaine.” The crowd was so large it spilled into the street outside the MLK FAME Community Center.

Seattle Parks and Recreation leaders haven’t yet determined whether to proceed with the plan but said Wednesday they would decide within two weeks. At the meeting, Deputy Superintendent Andy Sheffer pitched the privately funded project as an opportunity to address a playground deficit in the upscale Denny Blaine neighborhood without spending public money. He said the city wouldn’t otherwise prioritize adding a playground in such an affluent area.

“The intent of this project is absolutely not to target any community members,” Sheffer said as boos exploded in the MLK FAME center’s auditorium and someone in the room shouted, “No one believes that!”

Then dozens of people spoke against the project, describing the small park with a grass lawn above a secluded beach as a precious place where queer and trans people can be themselves and expressing fears that a playground would alter that environment. Public nudity is generally legal in Washington but can be an “indecent exposure” crime under specific circumstances.

“I started going to Denny Blaine 40 years ago,” one woman said, eliciting cheers as she urged Seattle Parks to reject the playground plan, arguing the city’s choices shouldn’t be dictated by wealthy donors.

 

“I’m a Black transgender man and a homeowner in the city. Denny Blaine is the only park that I feel safe to swim in,” added Vince Reiman, who grew up in Seattle. “When I transitioned, I thought that I would never be able to swim in Lake Washington again … Denny Blaine is my miracle.”

No one who spoke at the microphone during Wednesday’s meeting backed the playground plan, though one neighbor told KOMO-TV he wants the project built and “lewd behavior” reduced for his kids, the outlet reported.

Another neighbor, Sunit Anandwala, said he was initially excited to hear about the playground plan. Then Anandwala learned about the park’s historic use as an unofficial nude beach and now feels differently, he said.

“You have people in the community who support you,” he told the crowd.

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