By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The Port of Port Angeles hired Juliet Vong from Seattle-based landscape architectural firm HBB to develop the $150,000 Lincoln Park Master Plan, which lays out how the park could be upgraded if City Council members approve.
The full-scale improvement option for the 147-acre city park is one of three presented to the public at past city Parks, Recreation & Beautification Commission meetings and, most recently, an open house Wednesday at the Vern Burton Community Center.
“These are not small improvements,” Vong told a crowd of about 30 at the open house.
“It’s a big chunk to talk about.”
Vong said she used public comments from previous open houses to develop the current master plan proposal.
The proposed plan includes an improved system of bike and foot trails throughout the park, an expanded wetland, additional parking, playground areas and a new entrance off Lauridsen Boulevard.
It also calls for removal of a number of diseased evergreen trees in the eastern portion of Lincoln Park and all trees tall enough to obstruct or possibly obstruct flight paths into the adjacent William R. Fairchild International Airport, which the Port of Port Angeles owns.
The removed trees would be replaced with others that will not grow as high, Vong said, in addition to ground vegetation.
She said the number of trees to be removed has not been determined.
The other two options Vong has presented are leaving Lincoln Park as is — the “do nothing” option — and removing only trees that currently obstruct the flight path into the airport.
Richard Bonine, the city’s recreational services manager, said park commissioners still are accepting public comment on the master plan.
They will discuss the price tag and most recent public input on the park improvements at next Thursday’s meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. in the Vern Burton meeting room, 308 E. Fourth St.
Bonine said the commission could offer a formal recommendation on the plan to the City Council as early as its November meeting.
The City Council could decide on the plan as early as next year, Bonine said.
The proposed Lincoln Park Master Plan as presented is far from a given, Bonine said, and represents a possible way forward if City Council members decide park improvements are needed.
“The master plan is there if City Council says they want park improvements,” Bonine said.
“City Council can’t make an educated decision if they don’t have all the options available to them.”
At Wednesday’s open house, which was not an official parks commission meeting for lack of a quorum, Vong laid out the potential costs for each of the seven phases the park improvements have been broken into.
Vong said she broke the project into phases to make clear different portions of the full-scale improvement plan could be completed in the near term or long term depending on funding availability.
“[There are] lots of ways to make things bigger if we have funding and smaller if we don’t have funding,” she said.
The first portion of the project would cost about $6.7 million, Vong said, and would remove diseased trees and those higher than 30 to 40 feet.
This phase, the most expensive proposed, would be eligible for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Cayla Morgan, an environmental manager with the FAA — which supports the option to remove all trees obstructing the flight path to the airport — said at Wednesday’s open house that the FAA is prepared to help pay short-term but not long-term tree-removal and revegetation costs.
The FAA said the Lincoln Park project is considered a priority for the agency, though funding for it is dependent on many factors, including how much money Congress appropriates to it in the coming years, Morgan said.
Doug Sandau, the airport and marinas manager for the Port of Port Angeles, said the FAA knows the proposed costs of the project, and he will apply for funding as soon as possible if City Council members give their go-ahead to the plan.
“But if you were to ask me today, is the money there, it is not,” Sandau told the crowd at the open house.
Concerns over funding, tree removal and the public’s involvement in the master plan’s development were the most common from those attending the open house.
During the public comment period, Port Angeles resident Deborah Wilson said the master plan as presented does not take into account the natural beauty of Lincoln Park.
Wilson, who supports only minor improvements to the park and is against tree removal, said the master plan seems to represent what the Port of Port Angeles wants and not what the public wants.
“We need to preserve [the park’s natural beauty] instead of thinking of the almighty dollar,” Wilson said.
Mel Rudin, Port Angeles resident and pilot, spoke in favor of the master plan as presented, saying tree removal would improve the usability of the airport.
“The airport has importance to the community,” Rudin said.
Lois Danks, whose property borders Lincoln Park, said she is concerned tree removal in the park would expose trees on her property to the full force of the wind, leading to them possibly being blown over.
The master plan does not call for removal of any trees on private property, Vong said.
If the City Council approves the plan, the proposed tree-removal process would go through an environmental assessment to determine possible side effects before removal would be approved.
To comment on the Lincoln Park Master Plan, contact Bonine at 360-417-4551 or email@example.com, or Corey Delikat, the city’s acting deputy director of public works operations, at 360-417-4566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments also can be mailed to the city of Port Angeles, 321 E. Fifth St., P.O. Box 1150, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
For more information on the master plan, visit http://bit.ly/T9EEcY.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.