Pharmacy looks to cure problem area

The Vashon Pharmacy is collaborating with the Healthy Community Network to clean up the small, park-like area on the pharmacy’s property, an effort they hope will discourage public drinking at the site and make the town a little more pleasant.

Tom Langland, who owns the pharmacy with Dave Willingham, said the small spot with trees and benches directly south of the pharmacy, which he calls a “passive mini-park,” has been troublesome for about five years.

It attracts the homeless and other individuals, and while some simply hang out, others leave trash, drink there on a weekly basis and have been known to be publicly drunk. 

“Clearly it happens, because I go out there and pick up alcohol bottles,” Langland said.

Last year the pharmacy trimmed back bushes and removed dilapidated chairs that had been placed there, efforts Langland said seemed to make a difference.

But problems persisted, and after a trash can placed there to discourage littering was vandalized a few weeks ago, Langland said they decided something more should be done. And when Vashon’s Healthy Community Network offered to get involved, he jumped at the opportunity for some direction.

“We would like to see it maintained for public use, and we are open to experts that know how it should be laid out and what should be in there to lead to the best possible use,” he said. “Because we’re pharmacists. We don’t know.”

Luke McQuillin, project coordinator for the Healthy Community Network’s Drug Free Communities Coalition, says the pharmacy’s efforts fit with a project the coalition recently began to identify hot spots for teen drinking on Vashon and make physical changes at those spots to make them less inviting, an approach known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Though the pharmacy’s mini-park hasn’t been identified as a spot for teen drinking, McQuillin said, it has clearly been used for illegal activities, including smoking marijuana, and would benefit from a redesign. What’s more, McQuillin said, when efforts are made to remove public drinking from the town core, it sends a strong message to those of all ages.

“It sends a message to the community that we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior,” he said.

McQuillin recently identified a landscape architect on Vashon who is familiar with the principles of CPTED and hopes that by collaborating with him or a similar expert, the coalition can come up with some suggestions for the pharmacy.

Though the group is still in the planning stages, McQuillin said possible solutions could include installing more lighting or a security camera, clearing vegetation or removing seating options. He hopes that something will happen there by the end of the summer.

Langland said he is looking forward to learning what could be done at the spot to discourage its misuse. It’s a tricky situation, he said. The area is owned by the pharmacy, and they could simply bulldoze it, but they’d like it like to keep it as a park-like area open for public use.

“I think people would miss that little spot of green,” he said.

Langland also hopes the group can find a solution that’s affordable for the pharmacy. He said if the best solution proves to be too expensive, perhaps concerned community members could donate the time or money needed.

Other business owners in Vashon town have mixed feelings about the plan. 

Anja Moritz, owner of Island Quilter, said she is bothered that some individuals drink and loiter there, but worries that the homeless who simply need somewhere to go will be affected by the changes.

“We can’t expect them to vanish off the face of the earth,” she said. “I know how hard it is for them to get back on their feet. …. There isn’t a good answer.”

But Eugenie Mirfin, co-owner of Kronos, said she was pleased when the pharmacy first made efforts to clean up the mini-park. She would like to see the area become a more inviting place for everyone, she said, as there are very few nice places to sit in town.

“It would be nice if we all beautified the Island a little bit,” she said.


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