Rules & Regulations

The items below highlight our frequently asked about park rules and regulations. A full list of Parks and Recreation rules and regulations can be found in the Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 18.12 Parks Code.

Rules & Regulations

Alcohol and Drugs

Use of alcohol, cannabis, and illegal drugs is prohibited in our parks. See Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.255 and 18.12.257 for more details on our alcohol policy and the Revised Code of Washington on for information on cannabis and illegal drugs (possession, sale or use of drugs in violation of RCW 69.50).

Permits are required to serve alcohol at special events. The State Liquor Act and Criminal Code covers all of our facilities regarding alcohol consumption. This statute allows alcohol to be served under certain circumstances with the permission of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Balloons and Sky Lanterns

We do not allow balloon launches or sky lantern launches in our parks.

Balloon releases are fun to participate in and fun to watch, but at some point balloons fall and become litter. Even biodegradable balloons take six months to decompose (and the tassels or ribbons attached are not biodegradable). The deflated balloons create unsightly litter and also get ingested by wildlife-usually either fish or water birds-who can be injured or killed by it. 

Sky lanterns pose severe fire hazards and also pose similar problems to balloon launches with litter and environmental impact.

Beaches and Swimming Rules

Beaches

Municipal code regulates swimming along shorelines in Seattle. There are two sections of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) that address this activity. SMC 16.28.010 indicates that swimming is prohibited except:

  1. in designated swimming areas
  2. within 50 feet from shore, unless the swimmer is accompanied by a boat that is designed for both swimmer and boater, is within 25 feet of the swimmer and have lifejackets for all persons on the water

SMC 18.12.180 states that watercraft cannot operate within 75 feet of a swimming beach, and powered watercraft cannot operate within 300 feet of a swimming beach.

To maintain a clearly defined swimming beach, lifeguards discourage swimming immediately outside the lifeguarded area. In the interest of public safety, there is need to maintain a defined perimeter buffer of 75 feet from the swimming area on Green Lake and 150 feet from the swimming areas on Lake Washington. These perimeters are established in SMC 18.12.040 under the Superintendent's rulemaking authority.

Swimming within 50 feet of shore is consistent with the law. Wading or swimming at a distance away from the swimming beach would not have an impact on the operation of the lifeguarded area. The lifeguarded swimming beaches offer maintained bottom conditions, are free of aquatic weeds, and do not have boat traffic, all of which are possible concerns in other parts of the parks. Lifeguards do not want to push open water swimmers out into boating traffic; they will allow swimmers to pass through the beach area if necessary, but will talk with them about the boundaries of the lifeguarded swimming beach and remind them about the 50 feet from shore rule (SMC 16.28.010), which is near the shallow water piling line at most beaches.            

Seattle Parks and Recreation's beaches are here for you to enjoy. Please follow these rules that help everyone stay safe and healthy.

  • Children younger than 10 must have a responsible adult supervising them at all times.
  • We require bathing suits, and babies must wear tight plastic pants or diapers designed for swimming.
  • Please don't bring food, drinks, or glass containers to the beach.
  • If you have a contagious disease, please stay home from the beach.
  • Please leave Fido at home; dogs aren't allowed on beaches (SMC 18.12.080).
  • Please, no bikes on the beach.
  • No running or water fights are allowed.
  • Alcohol isn't allowed in Seattle parks (SMC 18.12.257).
  • Please swim only in the area supervised by the lifeguards.
  • Novice and non-swimmers must stay inside the ropes.
  • Every child must pass a lifeguard-administered swim test before going outside the ropes.
  • Please keep face masks, fins, snorkels, and floating toys inside the ropes.
  • Please shower and towel dry right after swimming to help prevent swimmer's itch.

If you have questions, please ask a lifeguard--they're here to help!

Swimming Safety and Tips

Insist on Adult Supervision

  • Swim in areas where there are lifeguards when possible.
  • Constantly watch your children in or near the water.
  • Keep young children within arm's reach.
  • Assign adults to watch children at social events.
  • Never drink or allow the use of alcohol or other drugs during water and boating activities or while supervising children.

Learn to Swim

  • If you don't know how to swim well, find someone to teach you.
  • Learn to tread water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Make sure your children learn to swim. Upgrade their swimming skills each year. Check about lessons at your local pool or lifeguarded beach.

Know the Water

  • Make sure the water is safe for diving. When in doubt, don't dive or jump.
  • Check for hidden objects, currents and water plants.
  • Be aware that cold water can kill, even on hot summer days. Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.

Wear a Life Vest

  • Always wear a life vest when you are on a boat, inner tube or raft, even if you can swim. Children also need life vests on docks and when they are near the water.
  • Wear a life vest if you are swimming in lakes and rivers. It's easy to misjudge the water and your swimming skills. Trouble can happen quickly.
  • Life vests allow you to swim and cool off. They allow a full range of motion to do all your strokes (except swimming under water).
  • Make sure your life vest is U.S. Coast Guard approved.

Know what to do in an Emergency

  • Learn child and adult CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Bring a cell phone with you or know where to find the nearest phone.
  • Dial 911 in an emergency.

Swimmer's Itch

Swimmer's Itch is caused by a tiny parasite, found in waterfowl and snails. If water is allowed to dry on the skin, the tiny parasite penetrates the skin and dies shortly thereafter. It can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Although irritating, Swimmer's Itch is not dangerous and cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Small red spots may appear and begin to itch. The rash usually lasts about five days. Contact your physician for medications to reduce itching.

Prevent Swimmers' Itch

  • Tests have shown that liberally applied waterproof sunscreen before swimming may reduce the risk of Swimmers' Itch.
  • Towel off or shower IMMEDIATELY after leaving the water (including the area under your swim suit)
  • Swim away from shore. Most parasites are found in shallow water. Swimming, rather than wading reduces the risk of contacting the Swimmers' Itch.
  • Do not feed geese or ducks. Human food is not good for waterfowl. Parasites from waterfowl cause Swimmers' Itch.

Beach Fire Rules

Enjoy a campfire on the beach at Alki Beach Park or Golden Gardens!

In Seattle parks, bonfires are an activity people have enjoyed year round for decades, whether it's to watch a sunset in the summer or to stargaze in the winter. Because of air pollution and other issues, we must limit them to two sites, Golden Gardens Park in Ballard and Alki Park in West Seattle, both of which are long and narrow and can accommodate multiple fire pits (structures that keep fires contained).

Please light a fire ONLY in the designated fire pits, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Burn only clean firewood (NO pallets please!), and douse your fire completely before you leave. Acceptable firewood is natural, bare, clean, dry cord-wood. It's against the law and it's unhealthy to burn yard waste, wood with nails or paint, refined lumber of any kind (whether treated or not), construction debris, or anything else one would burn just to dispose of it. Fire pits at Golden Gardens are unlocked at 4 p.m. each day.

Beach Fire Rules

Beach fire rules are outlined in detail in the Seattle Municipal Code section 18.12.270 and in our our Beach Fires Policy.

  • Light a fire ONLY in one of the installed fire containers
  • Use only clean, dry firewood
  • Please douse your fire with water, not sand
  • Fires are not allowed during air pollution alerts; we will post sign
  • Please don't remove any materials from the park, beach or dunes
  • Please dispose of trash and ashes in the containers provided for each. (SMC 18.12.260)
  • Be considerate of others--please, no loud or amplified music! (SMC 18.12.170)
  • Remember, no alcohol or smoking are allowed, and parks are drug-free zones.

If you see an illegal fire, call 911. For current burn ban and air quality questions, contact Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Boating Rules and Regulations

Speed Regulations

The Seattle Harbor Code outlines speed zones within the boundaries of the City of Seattle. The Seattle Police Harbor Patrol has the responsibility of enforcing the ordinances and regulations of the city upon the waters of the harbor.

As a boater, it is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations which apply to safe and legal boat operation. Among the rules that apply to all boaters are adherence to speed limits. All persons using the waterways of the city should be familiar with the following speed limits:

7 KNOT AREAS (7 Knots is equal to 8 mph)

  • The Lake Washington Ship Canal which runs between Lake Washington and Shilshole Bay has a general maximum speed limit of 7 knots. This includes the waters Westerly from the Webster Point Light, in Lake Washington, all portions of Union Bay, Portage Bay and Lake Union, the Fremont Cut, the Locks and west to the entrance buoy at Shilshole Bay.
  • Within 100 yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation in Lake Washington.
  • Within 200 yards from shoreline in all other waters of the city. This includes the waters of Puget Sound off Shilshole Bay, Elliott Bay and within the Seattle City limits.

4 KNOT AREAS

  • Government Locks: From the western end of the west guide pier of Hiram N. Chittenden Locks to the eastern end of the east guide pier.

3 KNOT AREAS

  • Andrews Bay, South of the outermost headlands of Andrews Bay, on the northwest side of Seward Park, (Lake Washington).
  • Rainier Beach: Within 100 Yards of the shoreline of Lake Washington in an area bounded on the north by an extension of South Henderson St. and bounded on the South by an extension of South Carver St.

LAKE UNION TEST LANE

Within Lake Union there is a "Speed lane" marked by 4 yellow Buoys. The course runs east and west. Its purpose is for the operational testing and demonstration of vessels. Contact the Seattle Harbor Patrol for further information regarding the use of the Lake Union speed lane.

Reduce Your Wake

The speed zones within the city are in place to prevent accidents and protect persons and property against injury or damage.

Nothing in the preceding sections shall be construed to exempt any person from liability caused by wake action or from liability for negligent or reckless operation of a vessel in the areas designated therein.

Be a courteous boater. Reduce your speed around small boats such as kayaks and canoes. In the close quarters of Lake Union Houseboats and boats moored at the many marinas around the lake are susceptible to wake damage.

AS A BOAT OPERATOR, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR WAKE! For additional information please contact Seattle Police Department Harbor Patrol or the Seattle Municipal Code section 16.20.132.

Personal Watercraft Operation

What is a personal watercraft?
Personal Watercraft are considered to be Class A inboard vessels as defined by the U.S. Coast Guard. It uses an internal combustion engine powering a water jet pump as its primary source of motive propulsion. It is designed to be operated by persons sitting, standing or kneeling on rather than the conventional manner of boat operation.

A Personal Watercraft is also subject to all the rules and regulations that govern boat operation in the State of Washington.

THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY VIOLATED LAWS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR PERSONAL WATERCRAFT OPERATORS.

Registration: All Personal Watercraft must be registered with the State of Washington and the operator must have available for inspection the vessel registration (Similar to a car registration). Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.210

Speed: Vessels are limited to a maximum speed of 7 nautical miles per hour (8mph): Within 100 yards of any shoreline, pier, shore installation or restricted area in Lake Washington. Within 200 yards of any shoreline upon Puget Sound. Upon all the waters of Lake Union, Portage Bay, Union Bay and the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Shilshole Bay to Webster Point.

A speed limit of 3 nautical miles per hour is enforced in Andrews Bay (Seward Park) and at Rainier Beach. Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.130

Personal Flotation Device: Operators and passengers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life vest. Revised Code of Washington 88.12.145.

Vessel Numbering: All Personal Watercraft must have registration numbers, in contrasting colors, displayed on both sides of the forward section of the hull. (A yearly decal must be displayed in conjunction with the numbers). Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.030

Age Limits: The operator of a Personal Watercraft must be at least 14 years of age. It is unlawful for a person to lease, hire or rent a Personal Watercraft to any person under 16 years of age. Revised Code of Washington 88.12.145

Fire Extinguisher: Every Personal Watercraft must be equipped with a Fire Extinguisher (Usually carried in a compartment at the rear of the machine). Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.030

Negligent Operation: Operating a vessel in a manner so as to endanger or likely endanger any person or property or operate at a rate of speed greater than will permit him/her to exercise reasonable care or control of the vessel. (Such as wake jumping too close to boats, speeding too close to other vessels, the shoreline, swimming beaches or launch ramps). Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.090

Mufflers: It is unlawful to operate any engine on the waters of the city of Seattle without a muffler or silencer of sufficient size to prevent excessive or unusual noise from the exhaust of the engine. Seattle Municipal Code 16.20.040

Hours of Operation: Personal Watercraft may be operated from sunrise to sunset. Revised Code of Washington 88.12.145

What are the rules for operation?

Federal, State and City laws govern the operation of all boats, including Personal Watercraft.

Rules of the Road: On Seattle waters, all vessels must comply with the International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Commonly called 72 COLREGS).

  • Use protective equipment: Wear your personal flotation device but also use eye protection, gloves and deck shoes. A wet suit will help protect against hypothermia.
  • Use care when wake jumping, Stay well clear of other vessels. Wake jumping produces a large percentage of the complaints of negligence directed at personal watercraft operators. It also accounts for a number of injuries incurred by personal watercraft operators.
  • Don't Drink and Ride: Alcohol and drugs affect your judgment. The added effect of sun and physical exertion compounds the effects of alcohol and increases your risk of being involved in an accident.
  • Whistle: Carry a whistle for signaling and warning.
  • Tow Rope: Store a long rope in good condition on the vessel.
  • Lanyard: Wear the kill-switch safety Lanyard when operating your personal watercraft (PWC). The Lanyard attaches to the operator and the vessel to automatically shut off the engine if the operator is separated from the craft..
  • Take a boating safety course offered by organizations such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron.

The best way to become familiar with the rules and regulations is by taking one of the numerous boating safety courses available. Contact the Seattle Harbor Patrol or the Coast Guard Auxiliary for information on specific boating courses.

Camping in Parks

As outlined in the Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.250, camping is not allowed in city parks. The only exception is the 10 rustic cabins at Camp Long in West Seattle.

Code of Conduct

A full list of Parks and Recreation rules and regulations can be found in the Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 18.12 Parks Code. If you see illegal or threatening activity in a park or facility, call 911.

These activities are prohibited in any park or Parks and Recreation building:

  • Blocking entrances, exits, fire exits, handicap access areas, public walkways or roadways, obstruction of pedestrian traffic or otherwise interfering with the provision of services or use of park property (SMC 18.12.070c, 12A.12.105b)
  • Illegal gambling (Revised Code of Washington [RCW] 9.46)
  • Defacing, destroying or vandalizing park property (buildings, fixtures, grounds, signs or other structures (SMC 18.12.070b)
  • Assault or fighting (SMC 12A.06)
  • Firearms violations (RCW 9.41)
  • Abusive or harassing behavior, including use of obscene language or gestures (SMC 12A.06)
  • Conduct that creates an unreasonable and substantial risk of harm to any person.
  • Conduct that unreasonably deprivers others of their use or enjoyment of a park or building.
  • Disruption of any Seattle Parks and Recreation business, event or other sponsored activity.

Violations of Law

Conduct that would constitute a violation of civil or criminal law may result in 1) citation or arrest as provided under applicable law; 2) issuance of a Parks Trespass Warning or Exclusion Notice as provided in SMC 18.12.1278 and Parks and Recreation Policy and Procedure 060.P 7.15.1; and/or 3) an authorized City employee's notification to a person that his or her permission to remain on the premises has been withdrawn for 24 hours or up to one year, depending on the severity of the offense. If you see illegal activity in a park or facility, call 911.

Criminal Trespass

Criminal trespass is entering or remaining in an area not open to the public, violating a Parks Notice of Exclusion or remaining on the premises after being notified that permission to remain has been withdrawn. Violators may be subject to arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass.  If you see illegal activity in a park or facility, call 911.

Rules for Dogs

Seattle Parks and Recreation welcomes you to explore and enjoy most parks (on a leash), and we offer 14 exciting Off-Leash areas for dogs to run, exercise, and play.

Animal Control officers are charged with providing a safe, healthy and caring environment where animals and people can co-exist. To carry out their mission, Animal Control staff help to educate dog owners and actively enforce Seattle's leash, scoop and license laws. Officers patrol in Seattle parks to ensure the safe and appropriate use of both the off-leash and on-leash areas. Fines for off-leash, license and scooping violations range from $50 to $150, and can be $500 at a beach.
To report violations, call Animal Control at 206-386-7387.

Dogs are not allowed at organized athletic fields, beaches, or children's play areas in Seattle parks, per the Seattle Municipal Code. Outside of off-leash areas, dogs must be on a leash at all times.

  • You must leash your dog when it is outside the off-leash area; you must carry a leash for each dog while you are inside the off-leash area (SMC 9.25) and (SMC 18.12.080) .
  • You are liable for damage or injury inflicted by your dog(s) (SMC 18.12.080).
  • You must be in control of your dog(s) at all times (SMC 18.12.080). 
  • You must muzzle dogs that exhibit dangerous or aggressive behavior; biting, fighting, and excessive barking are not allowed (SMC 9.25).
  • You must clean up after your dog(s) and deposit feces in the containers at the site, and you must visibly carry scoop equipment (SMC 9.25) and (SMC 18.12.080) .
  • You must closely supervise young children.
  • Bring food into off-leash areas at your own risk.
  • Leave bicycles outside off-leash area.
  • Unattended dogs are not allowed in off-leash areas.
  • Female dogs in heat are not allowed in off-leash areas (SMC 9.25) .
  • Puppies younger than four months of age  are not allowed in off-leash areas.
  • Dogs must be licensed and vaccinated to visit off-least areas (SMC 9.25) and (SMC 18.12.080) .
  • Pinch or choke collars must be removed in off-leash areas.

If you see unattended dogs or other rule violations should call Animal Control at 206-386-7387.

Drones and Flying Devices

City law prohibits drones and other remote-controlled aircraft in parks (SMC 18.12.265)

Noise and Amplified Sound

The Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.170 states:

Except as authorized by the Superintendent for specific events and times, or except as necessary for the preservation of public peace or safety, it is unlawful to use any public address system, loudspeaker or other sound-amplifying device in any park. It is unlawful to exceed noise levels prescribed by Section 25.08.520.

For everyone's enjoyment we ask our park visitors to keep noise levels down and limit activities that generate excessive noise levels.

Removing Material from Parks

As outlined in the Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.070:

It is unlawful for any person except a duly authorized Department of Parks and Recreation or other City employee in the performance of his or her duties, or other person duly authorized, to remove, destroy, mutilate or deface any structure, lawn, monument, statue, planter, vase, fountain, wall, fence, railing, vehicle, bench, shrub, tree, geological formation, plant, flower, lighting system, sprinkling system, gate, barricade or lock or other property lawfully in any park, or to remove sand, soil, sod, or water from any park.

Please leave plants, artifacts, flowers, and features for everyone to enjoy!

Smoking Ban

As of July 6, 2015, all of Seattle's public parks are smoke-free!

Smoke-free parks further Seattle Parks and Recreation's mission by creating a safe, welcoming environment for all park users, promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing litter.

Smoking is allowed in public rights-of way, including sidewalks.

Enforcement of the new rule will primarily be a matter of education and reminders from Park Rangers and police officers. To report a non-emergency nuisance activity, use the non-emergency number 206-625-5011.
Did you know?

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease both locally and in the U.S.
  • Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with an estimated five trillion discarded each year.
  • Filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic, and can take countless years to biodegrade.  

Right to Dispute

Park visitors who have been given a written trespass warning for smoking in a park can set up a meeting to dispute the claim by emailing Right2dispute@seattle.gov or by calling 206-684-4075.

Smoking cessation resources:
If you would like to quit smoking, here are some resources:

English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669
Spanish: 1-855-DEJELO-YA or 1-855-335-3569
Chinese 1-800-838-8917
Korean: 1-800-556-5564
Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440
TTY Line and video relay: 1-877-777-6534 (for hearing impaired)

Have Medicaid? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to be connected with your FREE resources.

Skatepark Rules and Best Practices

Because skateparks are unsupervised, please note these safety rules. You skate at your own risk. Skating, skateboarding and rollerblading can result in serious injury: broken bones, paralysis, brain damage or even death.

Under Washington state law, the City of Seattle assumes no responsibility and incurs no liability for any personal injury, loss or damage resulting from the use of a skatepark. Parents and guardians are responsible for their children’s safety and for ensuring that their children comply with park rules.

We strongly recommend you use helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. Skateparks feature areas with different levels of difficulty suitable for persons ranging from novices to experienced skaters. Know your abilities and stay within them. Be prepared for greater risk before you try a more difficult area within the parks. We want everyone to have fun, and these rules are meant to protect you and to keep the skateparks safe.

  1. Only skateboards, in-line skates and roller skates are allowed. These are prohibited:
    • BMX or other bicycles
    • Anything with a motor
    • Animals (SCM 18.12.080)
    • Food or drinks
    • Alcohol, tobacco products or drugs (SMC 18.12.255)
    • Glass containers
  2. Help keep skateparks clean! Use the trash containers and don’t litter.
  3. Show respect for your fellow skaters and people who are watching.
  4. No threatening, abusive or offensive language.
  5. No radios or other amplified music (SMC 18.12.170).
  6. No reckless or dangerous skating—don’t intentionally charge or collide with other skaters. 
  7. If the skateparks are wet, icy or covered with snow, or if there is debris, litter or other obstacles on the surface, don't skate.