Parks & Rec talk tables

Published 6:03 pm Monday, September 3, 2012

Many of our readers have wondered about picnic tables on the Washington waterfront: what precipitated the disappearance of picnic tables on the waterfront’s western end? And, why doesn’t the picnic shelter in Festival Park have any picnic tables?
There are a few explanations for the picnic table issue, according to Kristi Hardison, director of Washington’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Several reasons contributed to the Parks and Rec decision to relocate picnic tables previously located on the waterfront near the flagpoles, said Hardison. The first was to give the denuded grass beneath the tables the opportunity to grow back. Another was an attempt to discourage people feeding the seagulls in the area, which Hardison said is already against city ordinance. Bird droppings on nearby boats and docks were a major complaint of boat owners with nearby berths, she added.
The boat owners, who pay for long-term dockage, also had complaints about aggressive and threatening behavior directed toward them from people hanging out at the tables at night, which contributed to the tables’ removal.
“They were confrontational with people docking there,” Hardison explained. “During the day, it was never an issue.”
Hardison pointed out that the three tables have not been removed entirely — they’ve simply been moved to other locations: two are now located near the dockmaster’s office; the other, across Stewart Parkway in the grassy space fronting Sloan Insurance. Papa’s Playground in Festival Park will be the site of a table currently on order.
As for the picnic shelter at Festival Park, since its completion, Hardison said the structure has been used as an event area: “We have not had anyone call and ask to have a picnic there … It’s been reserved every time as an event venue.”
Instead of picnic tables, the Festival Park Committee and the Recreational Advisory Committee recommended concrete benches to Parks and Rec. Benches within the shelter will give people a place to sit — and eat — yet continue to provide enough space in which events can be held.
Hardison said the concrete benches are on order and expects them to be installed in six to eight weeks.