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Kids' playground canceled at Denny Blaine Park 'nude beach'

caption: Sophie Amity Debs, 25, is portrayed while wearing a shirt that reads 'stop queer erasure' at Denny Blaine Park on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Seattle.
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Sophie Amity Debs, 25, is portrayed while wearing a shirt that reads 'stop queer erasure' at Denny Blaine Park on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

As of Friday morning, the effort to preserve Seattle's nude-friendly beach has succeeded.

The city of Seattle's Parks and Recreation Department says it will not move forward with a proposed play park at Denny Blaine Park.

Hundreds of Denny Blaine beach-goers turned out in opposition to the playground proposal during a community meeting on Wednesday.

For decades, sunny Seattle days have filled Denny Blaine Park on Lake Washington with nude sun worshipers from the city's LGBTQ+ community. The terraced little jewel box of a park, designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers at the turn of the 20th century, offers grassy and sandy swaths of shoreline surrounded by hedges — perfect for discreet nude sunbathing, swimming and picnicking.

For queer and trans Seattleites, it's been a safe and relatively secluded place to bare it all without harassment, or even passersby. So beachgoers were startled when a sign recently appeared at the park announcing the potential addition of a children's playground.

An anonymous donor had proposed the playground and offered to fund it.

Because nudity is legal in Seattle, the city can't do anything about who goes to the beach or what they wear — but a playground could have created a chilling effect on the park's culture, beachgoers said.

Hundreds of nude beach devotees filled a Parks and Recreation Department community meeting to protest the playground plan. Some said it was the kind of place that drew them to Seattle from intolerant parts of the country.

"This is the only space for this community to survive. Don't let a couple of rich, angry people take it away from us," said Tom Sparks, who attended the meeting.

The city announced that it's scrapping plans for the playground after hearing from community members opposed to the idea.

"While this area of our city still lacks accessible play equipment for kids and families, we understand the feedback that this particular park is not the best location, and we will evaluate other location alternatives," Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said in an emailed statement Friday.

"Many members of the public spoke to the importance of this space and use as a beach, and the cohesion it has brought within the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, community spoke of the unintended consequences adding a play area to this beach site would possibly bring. This is why we have a robust community engagement process, ensuring all people – including those who have been historically marginalized – have their voices heard and perspectives considered," Schulkin wrote.

The statement says personnel plan to meet with leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community to better understand the importance of this beach and the hopes for future uses.

This story was updated at 2:21 p.m. on Friday, 12/8/23.

Hans Anderson contributed reporting.

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