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Friday, February 12, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Feelings On Reservoir Run Deep, Different -- Park Proposal Sparks Debate In Magnolia

To the north, Mount Baker is startling on a clear winter day. Looking eastward, the Cascades loom large, like a child's vision of what a mountain range should look like.

The beautiful views are a mostly unappreciated feature of a reservoir site on the east side of Magnolia that's fenced and locked now, but by next year, could take on a far different appearance.

To some neighbors, that new look might include grass, park benches and baby strollers. To others, it means crowds, broken beer bottles, noise, parties and crime.

The vastly differing views symbolize a neighborhood controversy over what should be done with the two-acre site at 27th Avenue West and West Bertona Street after a protective lid is placed over the reservoir.

Should it be turned into some sort of park, or should it remain fenced, locked and undeveloped?

"Frankly, there's pretty much a split in the neighborhood," says Bart Becker, spokesman for the Seattle Water Department. "We'd like the neighborhood to try to come to some sort of a conclusion."

The lid is necessary for a variety of reasons, according to the city, including keeping sunlight off the water, since sunlight degrades chlorine used for purification. The reservoir also attracts large numbers of waterfowl, including ducks, geese and seagulls, that bring some hygiene problems.

"Once that's done, once this thing is covered, we can put a couple of feet of dirt on top and make it into something," said Becker, envisioning a "passive facility" with a bench and grass.

Ursula Judkins, recent president of the Magnolia Community Club, called the site "a gorgeous piece of property" that should not go to waste. But "it's difficult for the community club," she said. "We do not want to pitch neighbor against neighbor."

Judkins says she sees the site as being a place where residents living near the park might go to fly kites or push baby carriages. "I don't think people would come from other areas," she said.

Other residents aren't so sure. Claire Lesher has lived near the site for 30 years and says it's been a drawing point for litter and partying.

"Of course, the neighbors don't want it made into a park," she said. "When you've lived with the kids and beer bottles for 30 years, you don't want that."

The lidding work is to start in the coming summer and be done by the summer of 1994, said Becker. The project will cost about $5 million.

Becker said he's gotten about 100 comments on the project, roughly equally split between making the lid into a park-like area or keeping it fenced and undeveloped.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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