#City & Town Planning
Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams, City Council Members
United States of America

The current policy at Seattle Parks is to deny any request for fencing of play areas designed for children because the use of fencing is opposed the goal of designing spaces "for all". This makes the places unsafe or unenjoyable for many families with young children or children with disabilities.

We are requesting that Seattle Parks amend the policy so that citizens can request fencing be installed at their local playgrounds.

We, a group of parents and caregivers in Seattle, want to thank the Seattle Parks Department for your work designing, building, and maintaining our city’s beautiful parks.

We also want to make you aware of a safety issue that is affecting some of the parks’ main constituents — children and caregivers across the city — and propose a solution. Currently, most parks with playgrounds do not have complete fencing or barriers to stop children from running into the pathway of cars or away from caregivers. This makes playing on our city’s playgrounds dangerous for children and stressful for parents, nannies, and other caregivers. This issue affects all parents and caregivers of young children, but especially caregivers with multiple young children and/or children with special needs, and caregivers who disabled, elderly, recovering from injury, pregnant, or otherwise unable to dash quickly after bolting children.

Many of us simply avoid playing at the Seattle Parks Department parks altogether, because we do not feel confident that we can keep our children safe without the help of barriers. We would like to propose a review of your park design policy that prohibits fencing around playgrounds, and ask you to update your policy to reflect national and international best practices in fencing for the safety of children and allow citizens to request fencing at their local park.

Here are just a few reasons why we believe fencing would enhance Seattle parks for all:

Fencing is widely used to keep children safe at playgrounds.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook, a dense hedge or fence is recommended if there are nearby accessible hazards such as roads or lakes. Fencing should conform to building codes, which ensure that they are not an entrapment hazard. Fencing is already required for Seattle preschool playgrounds, and in public parks in many other cities.

Fencing is the norm at spaces designed for children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities often experience delays in the development of their executive functioning and impulse control which results in running from caregivers and not responding to calls to stop. Accommodating the needs of these children does not have to be at the expense of their friends with mobility needs. The Playgarden is a wonderful space designed as a preschool and camp for children with disabilities. It is completely enclosed with fencing. Other playgrounds in the region that are designed for children with disabilities are also fenced, such as Meadow Crest in Renton.

Fencing can be beautiful, and still keep parks open to all.
Fences can be lower or see-through, with clear gates, making the space open to all. Many Seattle parks already use partial chain link fencing. For example, fences are used to keep balls from rolling into the street. Additionally, the "for all" policy is already making exceptions for fencing to enclose dog parks and tennis courts.

Increased supervision is not a substitute for safe design.
There are myriad reasons why a caregiver would struggle to keep a child who is prone to running safe without a fence, and none of them are insufficient supervision. These include watching other children and a caretaker’s own limited mobility.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about how we can make our children’s public play spaces safer and more accessible for all. Thank you very much for your consideration.

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The Allow Fencing at Children's Play Areas in Seattle Parks petition to Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams, City Council Members was written by Shana Schasteen and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.