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Sunday, June 23, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sun Days In The Park -- Enjoy A Summer Of Patrolling & Frolicking

MEL WAS HERE. WITH PEN IN HAND.

Make that a box full of colored flairs.

It's possible Mel just has a hidden artistic talent and likes to express himself in the most private of public places: the bathroom wall in the local park. It's more likely that Mel was trying to impress someone with his hand at graffiti.

But jeez, Mel. Why deface a place that belongs to all of us?

It turns out that Mel is not a closet Picasso. He is a hustler, a guy who hangs around park restrooms. To put it delicately, Mel is looking to get lucky. And he's not alone. Some park bathrooms have become so busy that other park-goers now bring their own Porta-Pottis.

They aren't interested in meeting Mel.

The police understand this. They arrested Mel for lewd conduct - one of many wackos escorted from Seattle's vast network of 380 parks. It's become a big-city fact of life that people do private things in public parks. It's not uncommon to glimpse flashers on skateboards, skinny-dippers, or drunks doing half-gainers off steep, sandy cliffs.

But expect fewer sightings following stepped-up policing with bicycle patrols and a slew of ordinances seemingly written by somebody's mother: No liquor, lewd conduct, cruising, amplified noise or fireworks.

These efforts to civilize (if not sanitize) park behavior answer the table-pounding pleas of park patrons, who just want to stretch out and pick grass with their toes. They've made deep, personal claims on the city's parks - so much so that Seattle communities now identify more with neighborhood parks than they do with local schools. They have become communal back yards, new symbols of community character, each with distinct personality, moods and whims.

As kids break out of school this week and with summer officially under way, consider the following flagrantly unscientific tour of some of Seattle's major parks:

WOODLAND PARK/ GREEN LAKE

No need to give Mel any more publicity just because he left his calling card in the restroom here. He's not the only act in lower Woodland Park. In fact, there's much more excitement down at the horseshoe pits and lawn-bowling greens. When the Senior Sports Festival gets going each June, watch out for flailing arms, grunts and flying half-moons of iron. It takes a lot of uuumph to hoist a horseshoe 40 feet.

At nearby Green Lake the scene is younger and more like a mall on wheels. Luminously clothed strollers, bicyclists and rollerblade-skaters dodge the neon tights of joggers on the 2.8-mile loop. Occasionally, police say, they also pass flashers on skateboards, mooning the crowds.

Car prowls are a more serious problem. Capt. Larry Farrar of the North Precinct shakes his head. "I sometimes think joggers take dumb pills." A typical Green Lake scene: A runner drives up in a car, parks, looks around, steps out, looks around some more, inches back to the trunk, opens it, throws in a wallet or purse, closes it, peeks around once more, stretches, and confidently trots off for a 30-minute run. Of course, this entire act has been watched by half the people in the parking lot, and it takes only one of them to get out and pop the trunk lock. It happens almost every day.

Park address: East Green Lake Drive North.

Park hours: Woodland, closed to vehicles from sunset to 6 a.m.

Common activities: Sailboarding, jogging, cycling, wading, tennis, volleyball, dodging horse shoes, dodging duck doo, pitch-and-putt golf, ogling.

BITTER LAKE

Hormones on parade. In the summer, dozens of teenagers gather for nightly drinking parties at this North End lake. Neighbors report that the parties are loud, the language is crude and the sex is rampant.

"Night after night, week after week, they're screaming," says a neighbor who does not want to be identified because he's afraid the kids will harass him. "You don't know whether they're being raped, are in trouble, or what. There have been fights over there and the language has been terrible. I couldn't even repeat it."

Of course, some of the neighborhood's "dirty old men" enjoy watching all this randy behavior, says Gloria Butts, president of the Broadview Community Council. But most people are tired of the exhibitions and have asked police to increase patrols so more people can enjoy the lighted tennis courts, sports fields, community center and beach.

Park address: North 130th Street and Linden Avenue North.

Common activities: screaming, field sports, partying, playing hooky.

GOLDEN GARDENS

Excitable young people also flock to the long, scenic beach on Shilshole Bay. For years, it was a favorite cruising strip until park officials closed the gates to cars at 9 p.m. Undeterred, teenagers now cruise the sandy beach on foot, looking for the inevitable keggers.

On many summer nights, hundreds of kids gather to flirt and drink, despite pressure from police who know exactly where they smuggle in the bootleg booze: down a wooded trail, over a fence, across the railroad tracks and onto the secluded beach at the far end of the park.

"Alcohol is the major problem that we have at Golden Gardens," says Capt. Farrar. "Get a kegger going and they turn into Neanderthals. They act like fools. If you mix young people on a bright sunny day, on a beach, with alcohol, you end up with a terrible combination: boisterous, obscene, rowdy behavior."

Of course, there are places in this 95-acre park to escape this youthful enthusiasm. Families have laid claim to the picnic areas, fire pits and nature trails. Golden Gardens also draws many scuba divers, swimmers and people who like to ooh and ah at dramatic sunsets.

Park address: north end of Seaview Avenue North.

Park hours: closed to vehicles from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Common activities: boating, fishing, picnics, keggers, cruising, tan-line contests, beach-blanket Twister, sunsets.

DISCOVERY PARK

No keggers here. The Department of Defense sees to that. Federal officers routinely patrol Navy housing inside the park. Also, cars are not allowed in the 520-acre reserve, so an older, more nature-oriented crowd is drawn to Discovery Park - if you don't count the guy who was so drunk he rolled over the west cliff, fell about 130 feet, and bounced.

Other than that, Discovery Park is quite safe. "There's never been anyone murdered here; no assaults or rapes that I'm aware of; it's been years and years since we had a visitor at knifepoint," says Paul Frandsen, manager of natural resources for the park. "The worst problem we've had is flashers."

Indeed, the waggers hide in the brush, along the self-guided nature paths, a fitness trail, and 2.8-mile loop for jogging. They hop out, say something only Mel would appreciate, and then crawl back under their rocks.

Park address: 36th Avenue West and West Government Way in Magnolia.

Park hours: parking lots closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Common activities: hiking, nature study (in every sense of the phrase), bird watching, picking blackberries, playing Tarzan, filming Ivar's commercials, Indian Cultural Center.

MAGNUSON PARK

This sprawling park on Lake Washington was plagued by drug activity for years until police cracked down on the blatant dealing.

"At Magnuson, the druggies are gone," says Farrar. "Every day we had an officer come in and sit there and stare at the druggies, and the druggies stared back at the officers. If I've learned anything, people are going to do drugs, but they're not going to do them in front of an officer."

Today, drug complaints have trickled off and are replaced with calls about unleashed dogs that leave their calling cards along the 5,000-foot shoreline. Magnuson has also become a magnet for jet skiers, and neighbors often complain about the irritating, high-pitched, mind-numbing whine. Who can blame them?

Yet people of all ages flock to the beaches and bluffs. They also spill over to NOAA property to stroll through the gargantuan windchimes - huge metal structures that sound like a pipe organs. On Sundays it's like going to church.

Park address: Sand Point Way Northeast and Northeast 65th Street.

Park hours: closed to vehicles from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Common activities: boat launch, jet skis, swimming, kite-flying, picnics, dodging dog doo, sports fields, tennis, unorganized religion.

CARKEEK PARK

Gone, too, are the drug parties of years past, when people mobbed this 216-acre wilderness park. Neighbors sometimes found hypodermic needles along the 23-acre beach. The community organized and pressured the police to act.

"Today, things are much better," neighbor Nancy Malmgren says of the lush, beautiful setting where people picnic and fly kites overlooking Puget Sound. But the community is still pushing to completely close the park at night to curb beer parties and vandalism. Someone, for example, has been trying to burn down the park shelters.

Park address: Northwest Carkeek Park Road and Ninth Avenue Northwest (at 110th).

Park hours: closed to vehicles from sunset to 6 a.m.

Common activities: picnics, weenie roasts, nature study, playing with matches.

GAS WORKS PARK

For a while, a whole generation of kite-flyers feared they would give birth to mutant offspring when it was discovered that the ground here was contaminated with toxic sludge from the gnarly old gas plant. Fears increased when the grassy knoll overlooking Lake Union was closed in 1984 for testing.

Test results determined that the park was safe and it re-opened to hordes of kite-flyers, sunbathers and political activists who've made Gas Works a favorite rallying place. But the pollution hasn't gone away; next summer or thereafter, the park will be partly closed for a $1.2 million cleanup.

Park address: North Northlake Way and Meridian Avenue North. rallies, admiring Seattle's skyline, trying to figure out the giant sundial, trying to find a spot to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.

VOLUNTEER PARK

Notorious for all-night sex-capades in the bushes and bathrooms. Gay and bisexual men solicit sex from strangers in the public restrooms or in the nearby shrubbery.

Neighbors and park patrons don't like it. "We just don't want sex in our parks," says Leigh Ann Van Dusen, a community activist. "Unfortunately, people have tried to make this an anti-gay sentiment, but people don't want that type of activity between heterosexuals, either."

To encourage more wholesome park use, a children's play area is being renovated east of the wading pool. The $200,000 project includes a new gazebo and more open landscaping. Ironically, the area was heavily planted in the early 1900s to prevent children from running into the trolley tracks on 15th Avenue East. Now it is being removed to prevent children from running into weirdos.

Park address: 15th Avenue East and East Prospect Street on Capitol Hill.

Park hours: closed to vehicles from midnight to 6 a.m.

Common activities: # $@!, picnics, bicycle races, Seattle Art Museum, exotic plant conservatory, bandstand, tennis.

DENNY-BLAINE LAKE PARK

Topless female bathers sometimes draw curious onlookers to this grassy beach on Lake Washington. The police have been summoned, but some of the bathers complain that officers merely add to the gawking. Either way, the scene is low-key and generally tolerated, despite ordinances banning public nudity.

Park address: East Denny Way and Madrona Place East.

Common activities: swimming, sightseeing.

MADRONA PARK AND DANCE STUDIO

West African dance beats often pulse from this brick studio on Lake Washington, near the park's popular barbecue stand. The Spectrum Dance Theater offers a full summer dance schedule for adults. It includes ballet, tap, jazz, conditioning and West African dance. In July, children are taught creative dance, ballet and jazz. The studio emphasizes cultural diversity, a nice buzz phrase for humanity.

Park address: 800 Lake Washington Blvd.

Common activities: Eating ribs, dancing it off, cooling down by the water's edge.

FREEWAY PARK

The ultimate oxymoron, Freeway Park, is popular with those who've always wanted to tell their children, "Go play in the street."

As it turns out, children are rarely seen in this jungle-like downtown park. There are too many trees and shrubs where flashers hide and jump out.

"We've been overly successful in growing things; we didn't expect it to grow as fast and luxurious as it has," says Fritz Hedges, director of parks planning and program development. "We put in special watering and fertilizer and it went gangbusters for us - and consequently, created a little bit of a problem."

Park address: Sixth and Seneca in downtown Seattle.

Common activities: Strolling and getting flashed.

WESTLAKE PARK

You call this a park? It's really a sidewalk linking department stores in downtown Seattle. Yes, there are a few potted plants and a fountain, but there is more greenery in the produce section at Safeway. But hey, this was former Mayor Charles Royer's big dream - to build yet another marketplace stocked with absolutely nothing essential to buy. Westlake is a park, all right - a place to park your buns after shopping all day.

Park (huh!) address: Fourth and Pine, downtown Seattle.

Common activities: Sipping lattes and overextending credit cards.

ALKI BEACH

If there's a muscle beach in Seattle, this is it. Swaggering is the preferred form of transportation here, having replaced cruising since the city began citing motorists who clogged the narrow 2.5-mile roadway.

"The anti-cruising ordinance has changed things radically," says Sue Galvin, secretary for the Alki Community Council. "It was very nice all last summer. The communities and families got their park back."

Sans cars, the area is now clogged with bodies - up to 25,000 people visit Alki Beach on sunny weekends, double that number for special events such as sand-castle competitions, volleyball tournaments and bikini contests. It's an enormously popular spot for teenagers, who are welcome as long as they don't use residents' front lawns as toilets.

Park address: Alki Avenue Southwest in West Seattle.

Park hours: closed to people from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Common activities: Flexing, sunbathing, volleyball, navel gazing.

PARSONS GARDENS

The post-war wedding boom has arrived in Queen Anne. More than 50 couples are getting married in this English-style garden this summer - a 30-percent jump over 1990.

"Weddings are up since the Gulf War ended," says park scheduler August Drake-Ericson. "We'll see if divorces go up next year."

Another Queen Anne park, Bhy Kracke, is the second-most-popular garden spot for weddings because of its vistas and terraced lawns.

Park addresses: Parsons, Seventh Avenue West and West Highland Drive; Bhy Kracke, Bigelow Avenue North and Comstock Place.

Common activities: exchanging vows.

SEWARD PARK

One word can ruin a park's reputation and that's why we're not going to mention recent reports about gun-toting young people who travel in groups. Police have issued warnings about said groups in Seward Park, but some locals say the crackdowns are simply harassment.

On most days the park is subdued, except for a few joggers on the 2.5-mile loop around the peninsula. Jet skis and motor boats make most of the noise until later, when cars come boom-chucking into the lot. But Seward Park is large - 278 acres - and can absorb most of the raucous. Families know this. They frequent the vast forest preserve, amphitheater, picnic areas and beachfront.

"There are loads of families using the park," says Katherine Colwell, a longtime neighbor. "There are women running around the park, couples, parents with their kids on tricycles. So it's just not gangs. In fact, I wouldn't know a gang if I saw one. I'm not aware of any gangs over there."

Park address: Lake Washington Boulevard South and South Orcas Street.

Park hours: closed to vehicles from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Common activities: Picnics, organized runs, nature walks, toe wrestling, tennis, Seward Park Art Studio.

KUBOTA GARDENS

A roaming park that includes secluded trails, a waterfall and moon bridge. It is almost as striking as the Japanese gardens in the Arboretum, but features Northwest plants.

Park address: Renton Avenue South and 55th Avenue South.

Common activities: Nature walks, strolling and thinking.

CAMP LONG

Rock huggers love this southwest nature retreat. It is the only city park with a climbing rock, built in the late 1930s by the WPA. Park officials think it's the first artificial climbing rock in North America.

For nonclimbers, the 68-acre park also boasts the city's only collection of overnight cabins. There are 10 rustic buildings, each with six double beds, and - don't tell Mel this - bathrooms that are right outside.

Park address: 5200 35th Ave. S.W. and Southwest Dawson Street in southwest Seattle.

Common activities: Rock climbing, wilderness programs, cabins, waking up to a nice change of scenery from your everyday life.

ROB KEMP IS A SEATTLE TIMES NEWS ARTIST. ------------------------------------------------------------

If you don't live and play in Seattle or just have a need to roam the wide open spaces, check out these regional deposits of leisure time:

EAST

MARYMOOR PARK

Weekend warriors invade this 500-acre park in Redmond to test their prowess on the exercise course, jogging trail, soccer field, tennis courts or world-class cycle velodrome. For the less ambitious, Marymoor also offers an interpretive trail around the park's edge, picnic shelters and a day camp for kids in the summer.

Park location: where Highway 520 meets West Lake Sammamish Parkway North.

Park hours: closes at 7 p.m. to cars and people.

Common activities: sweating, crashing wedding receptions at the Clise mansion, walking dogs.

NORTH

SILVER LAKE PARK

The movie "Splash" could have been filmed here. Silver Lake is an aqua haven, with a public swim area, boat launch, classes in canoeing and sailing, rental paddle boats and spontaneous efforts at synchronized swimming. Lifeguards are on duty, too, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Park address: 11400 W. Silver Lake Drive in Everett.

Park hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Common activities: swan dives and belly flops.

SOUTH

LAKE WILDERNESS PARK

This Maple Valley park is extremely popular with organized picnic groups who gnash their hotdogs under three shelters and on the beach. Along the lake, there is a swimming beach with lifeguards, paddle-boat rentals, a boat launch and shallow pools for fishing. Inland, the 108-acre park offers soccer playfields, tennis courts, concessions and open space for tossing frisbees.

Groups should reserve picnic areas by calling 296-4281. Families get by on a first-come, first-serve basis at the 64 picnic tables.

Park address: 23601 S.E. 248th in Maple Valley.

Park hours: 8 a.m to dusk, when gates close.

Common activities: group picnics, catsup-pouring contests, dog paddle. ------------------------------------------------------------ Something for Everyone

We're Lucky. Hundreds of public parks pepper this city. Some sprawl around playfields and belly up to water views and vistas; others invite you to simply park your bode and rest up.

If you want a near-complete map/chart/list of the parks, playfields and pools and information on where to do what call the Seattle Departemnt of Parks and Recreation at: 684-4075 and ask.

In the meantime, here's an incomplete list of some special activites and facilities in or around your neighborhood. Go play. ------------------------------------------------------------ Aquarium and Zoo X The Seattle Aquarium, Pier 59, Waterfront Park - 386-4320 . X Woodland Park Zoo, Phinney Ave N & N 55th St - 684-4800 .

Boating classes and/or rentals Green Lake Boat Rentals, 7201 E Green Lake Dr. N - 527-0171 . Green Lake Small Craft Center, 5900 Green Lake Way N - 684-4071 . Mt. Baker Rowing & Sailing Center, 3800 Lk Wash Blvd S - 386-1913 .

Camps/Nature Interpretation X Camp Long, 5200 35th Sw - 684-7434 .

Discovery Park, 3801 W Government Way - 386-4236 .

Carkeek Park, NW Carkeek Pk Rd & 9th NW (at 110th) .

Fishing Piers Commodore Park, W commodore Way & W Gilman (park promenade) . Golden Gardens Park, north end of Seaview N (under development) Green Lake: E. Green Lake Dr & Latona NE. W Green Lake Dr N & Stone N . W Green Lake Way N (north of shellhouse) . Lake Wash Blvd S & S Jefferson. Madison Park 43rd Ave. E & E Madison . Mt Baker Park, Lk Wash Blvd S between Lk Pk Dr S & S Horton Sayres Memorial Park, Lk Wash Blvd S & 46th S . Seward Park, Lk Wash Blvd S & S Juneau . Waterfront Park, piers 57-61 . Lake Washington Blvd S & McClellan .

Gardens Freeway Park, 6th & Seneca St. Japanese Garden, South end of Washington Park Arboretum - 684-4725 . Kubota Gardens, Renton Ave S & 55th Ave S . Parsons Gardens 7th W & W Highland Dr . Seattle Conservatory, Volunteer Park. Washington Park Arboretum, Lk Wash Blvd, between E. Madison & E Calhoun . Woodland Park Rose Garden, Fremont Ave n & 50th St .

Parks Alki Beach Alki Ave SW . Bitter Lake Community Center 13040 Greenwood N - 684-7524 . Camp Long NW Carkeek Pk Rd & 9th NW (at 110th) . Carkeek 5200 35th SW . Denny-Blaine Lake Park Madrona Dr & Maiden Ln E . Discovery 36th W & W Government Way . Freeway 6th & Seneca . Gas Works N Norhtlake Wy & Meridian N . Golden Gardens North end of Seaview NW . Green Lake E Green Lk Dr N; W Green Lk Dr N . Kubota Gardens Renton Ave S & 55th Ave S . Madrona Park & Dance Studio 800 Lk Wash Blvd - 3254161 . Magnuson Sand Point Wy NE & 65th NE . Parsons Garden 7th W & W Highland Dr . Seward Lk Wash Blvd S & S Orcas St . Volunteer 15th E & E Prospect . Westlake 4th & Pine . Woodland & Lower Woodland N 50th & Phinney N. Aurora N & Gn Lk Wy N .

Around the Sound You don't have to be a city dweller to yearn for the wide open spaces. The map below points out three of the region's biggest parks: Silver Lake in the north, Marymoor on the Eastside and Lake Wilderness. (Map not in Electronic) ------------------------------------------------------------ Christine E. Cox Bo Hok Cline

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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