Seattle planning to clean up Beacon Hill 'jungle'

SEATTLE -- Seattle leaders are planning a sweeping cleanup of "the jungle," one of the city's most notorious areas.

Neighbors say the greenbelt on Beacon Hill harbors drug deals and dangerous activity, even in broad daylight.

At first glance, the area may ook very peaceful. But people nearby say you don't want to go into those woods alone, no matter the time of day.

Community activist and area resident Craig Thompson said a jaunt around the jungle is no ordinary nature walk. Liquor bottles litter the leafy path, he said, and sometimes weapons can be found strewn about.

Thompson said he's found "a couple of guns, knives" when he and other volunteers occasionally gather to clean up the area.

"There's danger to residents but also danger to people who are homeless," he said.

Seattle police say the area is a haven for the homeless. They say sexual assaults, drug deals and even murders have all plagued this area overlooking Interstate 5.

State Department of Transportation spokesman David McCormick said his department routinely cleans up, but some issues are beyond its scope. Now the city of Seattle is stepping up its efforts.

"I fully expect people from all over the city to be able to use this, a very well-lighted space and run and exercise," said Seattle Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith.

Smith is putting together a team of Seattle police officers, homeless outreach workers and neighbors to transform this into a community park in the next year.

"The more resources we can apply to the area, I think, the better result we'll have," he said.

"There's a real need to preserve our forests, and this is a place to start," said Thompson. "Our forests can be preserved for everyone's use."

The deputy mayor is holding a meeting next week to start laying out a plan for the project.
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