Seattle has canceled a proposed plan to build a playground at a nude beach following backlash from the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
As The Seattle Times reported, funding for the proposed $550,000 project to build a children’s playground at Denny Blaine Park, a grassy lawn overlooking a secluded beach on Lake Washington, came from an anonymous donor. At a community meeting earlier this month, Seattle Parks and Recreation Deputy Superintendent Andy Sheffer said that the project would address a lack of playgrounds in the neighborhood without using public funds.
But opponents countered that a playground would jeopardize the beach’s status as a queer haven, where members of the LGBTQ+ community swim and sunbathe in the nude. While public nudity is legal in Washington state, it can be considered “indecent exposure” under certain circumstances, the Times noted, and opponents of the project feared the playground would be used as an excuse to target LGBTQ+ people.
Some even alleged that the purpose of the project was to displace the LGBTQ+ community, despite Seattle Parks officials’ insistence otherwise.
“It’s hard to even come up with a different reason beyond the one that feels most obvious, which is that this is someone trying to shut down the nude beach,” 30-year-old Milo Kusold told the Times.
“If you have a person who’s not in the community showing up with their kids, and there are people around who are naked, they’re probably going to call the cops,” Kusold continued. “This is kind of the weaponization of children to try to exclude or harm the queer community. This is just another example.”
An online petition opposing the playground garnered over 9,000 signatures, and the December 6 meeting was packed with members of the LGBTQ+ community who opposed the project, many of them holding signs that read “Don’t Displace Historic And Diverse Community,” “Gay Buns Over Shady Funds,” and “Save Denny Blaine.”
“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,” said Vince Reiman, a Seattle native. “When I transitioned, I thought that I would never be able to swim in Lake Washington again… Denny Blaine is my miracle.”
Within days of the meeting, Seattle Parks officials announced that the planned playground had been scrapped.
“After hearing from many community members who participated in the community process on the proposed play area project at Denny Blaine Park, Seattle Parks and Recreation has decided not to move forward with the play area project at Denny Blaine,” spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said in a December 8 statement. “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.”
“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,” Schulkin’s statement continued.
According to the Times, Schulkin would not say whether the funds pledged by the anonymous donor would be used to construct a playground at another location. In response to the paper’s public records request to find out who the donor is, the city said that it would provide records identifying the donor in late February.
Sophie Amity Debs, an organizer with the “Save Denny Blaine” campaign, said that opponents of the playground project were “ecstatic.”
“We came away from the meeting feeling like there was absolutely no way they were going to go ahead with it,” Debs said. “I’m glad the parks department listened to the community.”