Port Angeles City Council shoo-ins talk Lincoln Park, Civic Field
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Council members Brad Collins, Patrick Downie and Dan Gase also told a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast audience of about two dozen participants that the city is making incremental upgrades to drainage-challenged Civic Field.
“Right now, we are working on the lights to make sure they don't fall down,” said Collins, Port Angeles deputy mayor.
“We need to work on drainage to make it more usable.”
But the city won't go all-out on improving the facility because it lacks funds to do what needs to be done to make comprehensive upgrades, three candidates said.
Collins and Downie are incumbents, while Gase is a newcomer to the council.
In response to the question from Necessities & Temptations store owner Edna Petersen, “Yes or no, do the trees get cut at Lincoln Park?,” the three members from the seven-person City Council said yes.
Trees need to be cut that present a hazard to the safety of air flight at the airport, Collins said.
“That's been the practice for the last 20, 30 years, even longer,” he said.
“You won't see a clearcut of Lincoln Park.”
But without a Lincoln Park plan, the problem will continue, he said.
“The city does not have a lot of resources to replant trees,” Collins said.
Downie advocated for tree removal under “a carefully crafted plan to remove trees that are a hazard to the detriment of the airport” and added that Lincoln Park is underutilized and inhospitable.
The park, he said, needs to be redeveloped.
Gase acknowledged the controversy surrounding the issue, which as of mid-July had generated 2,100 names on a petition against cutting the park's trees.
A lower tree canopy would facilitate activity at the only regional airport on the North Olympic Peninsula, he said.
“We have to leave some of the emotions out of this and see what is really going on for the betterment of Port Angeles,” Gase added.
Council members have said no trees will be removed until after an environmental assessment funded by the Port of Port Angeles is completed and will occur only with council approval.
The council has approved a master plan for cutting the trees and developing the park.
Tree-cutting is estimated to cost $6.7 million and park redevelopment $7.5 million.
The city will not commit funds to redevelopment, and the Federal Aviation Administration has committed only to funding tree-removal, revegetation and regrading but has not agreed to spend a specific amount, port Airport and Marina Manager Jerry Ludke said later Tuesday.
“They still want to go ahead with the environmental assessment,” he said.
“But they say they do need an agreement between the port and the city, to basically agree to enter the environmental assessment process and abide by whatever preferred alternative comes out of it,” he said.
“The FAA has committed to that process, but they have not committed to the $6.7 million,” Ludke said.
“They say they need to look at things they may be able to reduce the cost on.”
Trees are now blocking the approach to about 1,350 feet of Fairchild's 6,350-foot main runway.
The earliest the port could obtain an FAA grant to fund the environmental assessment would be 2014, and the first trees would not be cut until 2016 “at the very, very earliest,” Ludke said.
The three council members also weighed in on Civic Field.
A 20-year, $4 million improvement bond failed to gain the 60 percent supermajority needed for passage in the August 2012 primary election.
“There may be a point in the future when people are prepared to go out for another bond issue to make the whole thing happen,” Collins said.
“The city expects the community will step up at a time when a bond issue can be floated.”
Downie said a regional solution should be found for Civic Field's problems.
“Many events happen at Civic Field that bring other entities to the community,” Downie said.
Calling the facility “an economic generator,” Gase said the city does not have the funds to make all the necessary improvements.
Gase was appointed Sept. 3 to fill former Councilman Max Mania's position until one of two candidates, Peter Ripley or Lee Whetham, wins the position in November.
Gase, a real estate broker who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for 24th District state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege's seat, is running unopposed Nov. 5 for former Councilwoman Brooke Nelson's four-year position.
He was to attend his first full regularly scheduled council meeting as a council member Tuesday night.
“The more I am there, the more I realize how much more there is to know,” he said, describing himself as “a pro-business fiscal conservative.”
His plan: “To listen to as many people as possible in as many venues as possible and try to make the best decisions for the most people,” Gase said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 17. 2013 6:12PM