Nowhere to Run

Rising rates of homelessness impact the cross country team


Photo: Matthew Sage

Dozens of tents lie between lower Woodland Park and Green Lake Way.

As homeless encampments grow in the Woodland Park and Green Lake area, the University Prep cross country team finds ways to continue training.
“There’s huge stretches of areas with just tons of tents,” sophomore and member of the cross country team Griffon Ou said. “And lots of garbage on the ground and things like that.”
As of Sept. 21, the city reported 68 tents and 18 structures at Woodland Park, according to KIRO7 News. KIRO7 also reported over 60 tents and vehicles at nearby Green Lake Park.
“Right now, we still have practices there very regularly and it hasn’t had an impact yet,” senior Nick Rosenthal said. “I’d say we still feel safe, but there are areas of the park that we avoid.”
Rosenthal has participated in every cross country season since his freshman year, and is now a varsity captain.
“The future is a little uncertain,” he continued. “We’re not totally sure; [the encampments] could keep growing and become more of an issue or it could just stay the same.”
Seattle has been experiencing an ongoing homelessness crisis, a hotly debated topic in the mayoral election race.
“We are doing our best to be respectful and mindful of unhoused community members,” cross country coach Kayla Robertson said. “We always do the buddy system, especially since coaches can’t always be there with the athletes. If we notice something, we don’t need to stay there. Keep running.”
Robertson said that the cross country team usually participates in at least one race at Woodland park every year, but the Seattle Parks Department is no longer distributing meet permits to local sports leagues.
“The cross country course goes through homeless encampments, so it totally makes sense,” Robertson said. “I’m not sure what they have planned for encampments and supporting unhoused people. But I just kind of wish that they [the city] would value the youth in our community and recreation and sport. Discovery Park is so iconic and beautiful; I’d love to have a race there, but we can’t.”
With Woodland park and other city parks not open for meets, leagues are looking for alternative locations for races.
“We’ve got Magnuson park, but it’s pretty concrete heavy and [doesn’t have] very many hills,” Robertson said. “That’s why everyone loves the iconic Woodland park because of all the hills and sometimes it gets muddy.”
Robertson reported that the cross country team has done two volunteer trash pickup days at Green Lake and Dahl Field, and plans to do more in the future.
“That’s been another reminder to our team that we are stewards of the local environment and community” Robertson said. “Even if it’s not our trash, we’ll help pick it up. And that way, we have that sense of ownership. These are our trails too.”