Shootings fail to deter visitors as park reopens

July 20, 2010

By Staff

More than 1 million people visit 512-acre Lake Sammamish State Park during the summer months for hiking, picnicking and swimming.

On July 19, the day the park reopened after deadly shootings, some people said the incident gave them pause about returning. Others took a defiant tone against the violence.

The afternoon sunshine brought Carol and Joe Haldeman, 81, to the trails for a walk the day the park reopened.

“There’s nothing you can do with those gangs,” Joe Haldeman said. “When they get too close, they start shooting.”

Issaquah resident Victoria Law joined her 13-year-old son Dyllon Nguyen and two friends. The group made reservations for paddleboards more than a week ago. The shootings could not stop them from heading to the park.

“We were worried that the park would be closed for a while, but we got here about 11:15 this morning,” she said. “Something like this is unusual for Issaquah, or anywhere on the Eastside.”

Jim Bittermann eats lunch at the park most days. The incident hit close to home for the Renton resident.

He grew up in Rainier Valley and often went to sleep to the sound of gunfire in the tough Seattle neighborhood.

“I think it’s sad, there’s nowhere to go anymore,” he said. “We used to go to Seward Park until 3 p.m., but then we’d go home, because it became dangerous.”

Mercer Island resident Janet Elliott, 63, headed to the park for dog rescue training July 19.

“We were worried that the park wouldn’t be open today,” she said. “We were surprised about the shooting and also the drowning that they had here.”

In late June, a Seattle man drowned in the lake, not far from where the shootings later occurred.

The shutdown altered Sunday plans for would-be parkgoers.

People had reserved at least three picnic shelters for events, but Park Manager Rich Benson said the groups rescheduled or moved to other venues.

The daylong closure forced the 5th District Democrats to hastily relocate a planned summer picnic to state Rep. Marcie Maxwell’s Renton waterfront home.

Some families, like the Sharpes from Kenmore, had not heard about the shootings. Janel and Ted Sharpe trekked to the park July 19 to play with their 8-year-old and 10-month-old children at the playground.

“We wanted to go to the zoo, but it was closed, so we thought we’d try something else,” Ted Sharpe said. “I looked on the BlackBerry, and we found this.”

Officials encouraged people to use common sense to stay safe at Lake Sammamish State Park and elsewhere.

“Like I tell everyone who is going anywhere, you need to be cautious and be aware of your surroundings, in a park or anywhere,” Benson said.

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