PenMet adds security at Fox Island sandspit park
A private security firm will help monitor activities this summer at Fox Island’s sandspit park.
Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District hired Seattle’s Finest Security & Traffic Control during a special meeting last week for on-site management at Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve. The firm began staffing the site on May 28 and will continue through Oct. 1 or until attendance dips after school starts to the point where it’s not needed. The cost is not to exceed $35,000.
“It’s a really popular park,” said PenMet Executive Director Ally Bujacich. “It gets heavily used, especially in the summertime, so staff initiated this idea because of concerns related to things like parking on Bella Bella Drive, trespassing on neighboring properties. It is a sensitive and natural area so leaving natural items on the beach where you found them and educating park patrons is important.
“We’re providing the service as a way to engage with visitors, educate visitors, to ensure visitors and neighbors both have positive experiences.”
Not the first year for security at park
Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve is a 3.56-acre park on the northeastern tip of the island, at Nearns Point. It is named for the international fraternal organization for young men ages 12 to 21. PenMet purchased it in 2010.
The Tacoma chapter had used the property since the 1930s as a getaway for recreational and outdoor educational activities. Eventually, both its use and group membership declined. It is managed to protect plants and animals while allowing low-impact use.
This isn’t the first year the service has been added. In 2017, PenMet staff recognized a need to provide a daily, on-site presence to manage park operations during the summer, and allocated funding that was used in 2018. Seattle’s Finest Security & Traffic Control was also contracted last summer.
Duties and responsibilities listed in the agreement include keeping cars and people off private property, pets on leashes, fires and alcohol away, noise below the nuisance level, nature on the beach, and fishers and picnickers within the rules.
Guards will supplement PenMet staff
The firm is contracted to work eight hours a day, seven days per week. As that doesn’t cover park hours of 7 a.m. until dusk, the service is a supplement to PenMet operations staff.
Staff members open the gates and clean the restrooms in the morning and make at least a couple rounds per day, according to Park Services Director Denis Ryan.
The independent contractor will primarily work later in the day and evening.
“We’ll still have a presence at the park as we always do,” Bujacich said. “We just recognize that because of the high use of DeMolay, located in a residential neighborhood, that there be a full-time presence.”
Last year, PenMet staff heard complaints from neighbors about parking, which is limited, until the security firm showed up.
“It appeared to be well received,” Bujacich said. “The concerns went away. It appears that it is effective. We think it’s an important part of being a good neighbor.”
Park host controversy
Last summer, besides the security firm and PenMet employees monitoring the sandspit, a park host also helped to keep an eye on things. The host received no pay, but got an RV parking space and paid utilities in exchange for watching over the park at night, opening and closing the gate and performing minor maintenance.
The sandspit host and another at the fishing pier were told in July that their services would no longer be needed, as of Oct. 1. The decision wasn’t well received by some islanders. PenMet staff researched park host programs at similar day-use parks and recommended not to reinstate the program.
“We determined that the park host program wasn’t the most effective way to operate within our parks system,” Bujacich said.
Comments about the added security service were all over the board on the Fox Island News Facebook site.
Many stemmed from not being aware that it had begun. One man said he felt he was being monitored too closely. Another person suggested a sign be posted so visitors know the guard is not an imposter.
Others agreed that employing a security guard is a good thing, but that notice was lacking. PenMet posted on its Facebook page about the new onsite attendant on May 31.
Board President Steve Nixon hopped on a Fox Island News thread on May 31 to confirm that the district had hired the security firm. He said he’d follow up with staff to improve communications with park users.
Community members will soon have a new means of communicating with PenMet staff. The district is implementing a customer service system that allows residents to download an app or phone in with requests, comments and concerns. Look for forthcoming information on its website.
“We’ll be able to track history, understand trends of what we encounter and see in the parks, better plan maintenance and needs,” said Ryan. “We’re getting away from being so reactionary to being more proactive. My goal is someday we take care of everything before anybody has to call about it.”
PenMet seeks input on strategic plan
PenMet wants the public’s help in developing a multi-year strategic plan. The plan will guide decision making, policy development, annual strategic goals and objectives, long-range planning, and services the district provides for the community.
“Community input is an essential component of developing the strategic plan,” said Bujacich. “The mission of PenMet Parks is to enhance the quality of life by providing parks and recreation opportunities for our community. Engaging the people we serve with developing the strategic plan will ensure the future of the district aligns with the community’s vision.”
People can provide input by attending a community open house on at 5 p.m. June 6 via Zoom. Click here for information on how to join the open house.
Or they can visit the district’s interactive strategic plan website to join the conversation and share ideas. It is open from now through June 18.