Six months after the CHOP, Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park has officially reopened, city says

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People walk through Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday.  The park department announced the official reopening of the park on Wednesday.  Officials initially declared the park closed on June 30 when the city grappled with the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in the area.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park has officially reopened after a six-month closure that was sporadically enforced and the removal of a warehouse from the park last week, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation said Wednesday.

The park department will set up ping pong tables and outdoor dining areas in the park to “activate” Cal Anderson, according to a press release. The department will also host a children’s scavenger hunt in the park, the press release said.

Officials initially declared the park closed on June 30 as the city grappled with the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in the area. But after the CHOP was dismantled, people continued to use the space for recreation, gardening and camping.

People walk through Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday. The park department announced the official reopening of the park on Wednesday. Officials initially declared the park closed on June 30 when the city grappled with the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in the area. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

The police came to the park twice in late summer to clear a camp of homeless people and activists. The tents quickly returned to the room and eventually led to another move last Friday.

Some business owners and local residents complained to the city about dangerous conditions in the park, including open fires, while other local residents protested the evictions of vulnerable people, citing Seattle’s housing shortage, the city’s homeless crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The park department said Cal Anderson would need to be evacuated to give way to “intensive maintenance and cleaning”. There was a delay when protesters gathered in the park last Wednesday and the removal was challenged in court, but a judge ruled last Thursday that the city could move on.

The Black Lives Memorial Garden stayed in Cal Anderson Park on Wednesday.  The garden was laid out during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) that summer.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

The Black Lives Memorial Garden stayed in Cal Anderson Park on Wednesday. The garden was laid out during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) that summer. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Police arrested more than 20 people when protesters opposed the removal on Friday. On Sunday, the police in the park dissolved what the participants called “Antifa football”.

Work at Cal Anderson since Friday has included “property maintenance, building repairs, graffiti removal and garbage disposal,” including removing 100 tons of dirt, the Parks Department press release said Wednesday.

The repairs to the comfort stations and in the park’s shelter are ongoing, according to the press release. According to the city, long-term projects will restore Cal Anderson’s fountain, install new works of art and “pilot” a community garden.

Various departments in Seattle have worked with community members to “view this park and the surrounding blocks as safer, more welcoming, and more inclusive, and to honor the protests,” the press release said.

The Department of Neighborhoods held online community discussions in August, September, and October about possible changes to Cal Anderson. The park department will announce “additional engagement” opportunities for the public in early January, according to the press release.

Smriti Srivastava (left) and Anant Chowdhary have lunch at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Smriti Srivastava (left) and Anant Chowdhary have lunch at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

The city’s plan for changes to the park is “reaching out to people homeless on Capitol Hill,” and the park department will be bringing new activities to the space starting this week, including ping pong tables, outdoor dining and the scavenger hunt .

“Cal Anderson Park has been an epicenter for activism and social justice for decades and has been the heart of the Capitol Hill community,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a statement included in the press release. “Through 2021, Cal Anderson will continue to be a hub for the entire community – neighbors and park goers alike.”

Park Superintendent Jesús Aguirre added: “During the pandemic, outdoor access and recreational activities were more important than ever to the physical and mental well-being of so many people in our community. The reopening of Cal Anderson Park will restore important open spaces to this dense and vibrant neighborhood. “

Weston Karnes stretches in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday.  The park department announced the reopening of the park after several months of closure, occasionally enforced, and removal of the camp.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Weston Karnes stretches in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Wednesday. The park department announced the reopening of the park after several months of closure, occasionally enforced, and removal of the camp. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle / King County Coalition on Homelessness, said announcements like Wednesdays “sometimes try to create the illusion that table tennis and outdoor dining are the answer to the desperate circumstances” of people who cannot get shelter can.

“I have no problem with the city trying to make sure the parks are clean, safe and accessible to all,” she said. “But there are people in parks all over Seattle because they have no other place to go.”

Since Friday, outreach workers commissioned by the city have given people in and around the park 12 recommendations on hotels and emergency shelters, according to the press release on Wednesday. In the past few weeks, 51 people in the area have been linked to hotels, shelters and tiny houses, the press release said.

Police removed activists and homeless camps in Cal Anderson Park twice in the summer and again last Friday.  Work at Cal Anderson since Friday has included

Police removed activists and homeless camps in Cal Anderson Park twice in the summer and again last Friday. Work at Cal Anderson since Friday has included “property maintenance, building repairs, graffiti removal and garbage collection,” including removing 100 tons of dirt, the parks department said in a press release on Wednesday. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Daniel Beekman:
206-464-2164 or [email protected]; on Twitter: @dbeekman. Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times staff reporter, covers the Seattle city government and local politics.