LAKE STEVENS — Two new endeavors by law enforcement and the city are aimed at increasing safety on the lake and at a popular swim beach where complaints of obnoxious and at times criminal behavior have gained attention.
Last month, Lake Stevens police and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office launched a plan to crack down on issues at Willard Wyatt Park, located at 10508 Chapel Hill Road. The park, with an expansive dock, swim area and boat launch, is owned by the county, but city leaders have expressed interest in bringing it into the city. County and city law enforcement decided to partner on an effort to clean up the beach there.
Usually, complaints about Wyatt Park center on teens or young adults who are being disrespectful toward other park-goers.
“There’s been a lot of complaints there with fights breaking out, people getting upset, people smoking marijuana and controlled substances,” Lake Stevens Police Cmdr. Jeff Beazizo said. “We’re just trying to think outside the box and really try to get this under control.”
The plan includes increased visibility of officers, with more marine patrols near the dock, foot patrols in the park and drive-throughs by police. More plainclothes cops plan to be at the lake, too, and surveillance cameras are to be installed.
In a monthly letter to the community, Mayor John Spencer wrote that bad behavior such as fighting and bullying at the park has grabbed everyone’s attention.
Most calls to the sheriff’s office about Wyatt Park are for security checks, spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. She suspects that incidents at the park involving teens using foul language or being disrespectful aren’t all that different from past summers.
“What has changed is the community’s tolerance for this behavior,” she said. “Our approach is zero tolerance for bad behavior that makes the park unfriendly to families.”
She and Beazizo encourage people to call 911 if they see problems at Wyatt Park or in other public places. Often, people post on social media after the fact. It’s more helpful if police can respond right away, Beazizo said.
Safety concerns go beyond the park and onto the water.
The Lake Stevens City Council recently approved a lake safety pilot program geared at teaching people about lake rules and preventing collisions between those engaged in paddle and motor sports. Both have gained popularity, and the increased use of the lake means an increase in the risk of accidents on the water, according to the city.
The pilot program includes the installation of buoys, signs and maps at high-use locations. Signs with rules and maps would go in at Wyatt, Lundeen and North Cove parks and at Sunset Beach. Mailers also are to be sent to homeowners with rules for boating and lake use.
The plan is to place 20 buoys in the water near Wyatt and Lundeen parks, about 100 feet out from the nearest dock and 200 to 300 feet apart from each other, closer in busier areas. The city’s budget for the pilot program is $7,700, most of that for buoys. The goal is to install them by the end of the summer, assistant planner Jill Meis said. They would mark a no-wake zone for boaters between the buoy line and the shore.
Some lake users have worried that buoys could increase the risk of collisions by crowding motorboats toward the center of the lake and adding the buoys as another physical obstacle on the water.
A volunteer task force, including homeowners, boaters, rowers, water skiers and others with an interest in the lake, is being assembled to keep tabs on how the pilot program works.
“Before we do anything, we want to make sure what we’re doing has some science behind it,” Meis said. “We are really going to rely on the outcome of the pilot program and our statistics that we’re studying to shape the way that this continues or whether it’s discontinued.”
People can email email@example.com with questions or ideas about the lake safety program.
“Our big thing is preventing an accident from happening,” Beazizo said. “It’s starting to become a busy summer. We just ask people to stay safe on the water.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.