Back to where they once belonged

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

It’s a beautiful day in Washington. The sky is the cerulean blue that can only be found on clear September days; the sun is bright. Perhaps you’ve lived in this wonderful waterfront town your entire life or just a few years. Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever visited. Regardless, the beauty of the day naturally draws you down to the waterfront, one of the few places in the area where anyone and everyone has access to the water.
As you walk down Gladden Street, the spicy smell of Bill’s Hot Dogs draws you in. On a whim, you pick up a hot dog and a Coke then make your way down to the waterfront. Only, there’s a problem: it’s too hot to sit in the late summer sun, and, strangely enough, the rare bit of shade on the waterfront is where the picnic tables used to be.
Now, in order to get your view of the water and eat your hot dog, too, you sit on one of the many waterfront benches. And you start to sweat, roasting in the sun. And the ice in your Coke melts immediately. And you drip mustard and chili all over your shirt because you don’t have a table. End result: you leave, disgusted, annoyed, sweaty and sunburned.
Doesn’t really make you want to go back, does it?
Last week, officials at the City of Washington’s Parks and Recreation Department explained why they removed the picnic tables from their place of pride beneath the trees on the west end of Stewart Parkway: boat owners in long-term dockage complaining about seagull poop (from people feeding the birds lunch leftovers) and kids amassing there at night (and how they sometimes felt threatened). Parks and Rec also wanted to let the grass grow back in the area because it had worn away.
But Parks and Rec forgot one thing: to ask what the people who visit the waterfront wanted.
Rather than enforcing city ordinances to prevent people from feeding the seagulls and requesting more police presence to disperse the kids (not gangs) hanging out on the waterfront; rather than move the tables a few yards to let the grass grow back in the area beneath them and rather than ask themselves if moving the tables was best for residents, tourists and boaters, they decided to rid themselves of the problem altogether.
They took the path of least resistance when they removed the tables. And in trying to please a few, they’ve displeased many more. The waterfront is arguably Washington’s major attraction, and it should be seen through that filter rather than one of convenience.
Put the picnic tables back where they belong so everyone can enjoy the water.