The under-construction extension of the Mountains-to-Sound Trail through Rizal Park and along the northwest slope of Beacon Hill will run through an unofficial homeless encampment that can get pretty rough. Unfortunately dubbed “the Jungle,” the steep-banked greenbelt has seen grisly murders and is notorious for drug use and troubled living.
Lined with fences and well-lit, the 12-foot trail will run from the Jose Rizal Bridge where I-90 Trial currently ends to Beacon Ave S on the west side of the Hill. In addition to providing a far less-hilly way to travel between the west side of the hill to the Jose Rizal Bridge, the city hopes the trail will open up the green space to more city citizens and help to calm the area’s troubles.
People live in the Jungle for as many reasons as you can imagine. Life there can be hard, especially if WSDOT comes through unannounced and hauls everything you own to the dump. Several murders there remain unsolved, and officials have signaled their intent to clean the area up.
“The upside for us is that it provides a solution to the jungle issue. We can take a space that previously was known for drug use and crime and convert it to a new public amenity,” SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan told KIRO.
A well-lit trail through the greenbelt will certainly change the space, but the KIRO reporter sticks with the safety angle and suggests the trail should be closed at night when it would be too dangerous to be in the area. I really hope the city is not considering doing that.
The Jungle is an urban space that can be very negative. This trail could be a chance to redefine the space. Driving out the homeless doesn’t need to be the goal, but creating a level of visibility that helps makes the space less inviting for dangerous and violent elements would be a good thing. Studies show that bike trails can bring lower crime, largely do to the increased visibility they bring.
In the meantime, the neighborhood will get a new way to acess green space and people riding bicycles will have a new way to get where they’re going. Sounds like a good community project to me. I hope fear does become an impediment to the trial’s success.