By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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But council members made it clear Tuesday night that the port, not the city, will be responsible for securing funding for the work before proposed improvements begin on the city's largest park.
Final decisions won't be made until after a port-funded environmental assessment is finished, which won't happen for at least a year, according to a port official.
In adopting, with conditions, the Lincoln Park Master Plan on a 6-1 vote Tuesday, council members assured the public no trees will be removed from the 147-acre park on the west side without the environmental assessment and additional council approval.
“We're not going to go out tomorrow and tear down trees,” Councilman Patrick Downie said at the meeting.
“There will be additional public input.”
Council members adopted the master plan subject to negotiations with the port to develop a comprehensive approach to replanting any trees removed from the park.
The plan lays out a bevy of possible improvements for the park. It does not call for tree removal but has three options for the possibility.
The city park just north of Lauridsen Boulevard and west of South F Street is just east of the William R. Fairchild International Airport.
Jerry Ludke, airport and marinas manager for the Port of Port Angeles, said the port is working with the city and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a permanent solution to the issue of tall fir trees in Lincoln Park, which prevent full use of the port-managed airport's main runway.
Ludke said trees in the park block pilot access to the runway so that about 1,350 feet of the 6,350-foot runway isn't being used.
“A permanent solution for removing the obstacle trees and revegetation would allow the use of the full runway,” Ludke said.
Removed trees would be replanted with those that wouldn't grow as high and other vegetation, according to the master plan.
City Councilman Max Mania voted against the master plan, saying that members of the public he's spoken with do not want any trees removed.
“There's a huge section of the community whose concern is not to take the damn trees down in the first place,” Mania said.
“I think we have a lot more to lose in going forward with this plan than we have to gain.”
Resident Devon Graywolf said during the public comment period at Tuesday's meeting that she and her group, Save the Trees, had collected 2,100 signatures on a petition in support of keeping the trees in Lincoln Park.
“Hopefully, you will vote to save the trees, but if not, we're prepared to use nonviolent resistance and will put our bodies in the way,” Graywolf said.
“But hopefully, it doesn't come to that.”
Graywolf was one of about a half-dozen area residents who spoke on the Lincoln Park issue at the meeting, with most favoring keeping the trees.
The first phase of the master plan, estimated to cost $14.2 million, calls for new trails, a rebuilt clubhouse and restrooms, playgrounds, new parking areas and improved lighting.
The first phase also includes some degree of tree removal and replanting, which is estimated to cost $6.7 million.
“No city funds are going to be part of this project, as far as rebuilding this park,” said Corey Delikat, the city's parks and recreation director.
Delikat said final council approval of the Lincoln Park Master Plan hinges on the city receiving an environmental assessment from the port detailing how best to implement the plan.
“[Council members are] not going to approve the plan until [city staff] can come back and give them more information,” Delikat said, adding that council members could decide to take no action on the plan after the assessment is done.
Ludke said the port has paid out most of a $145,513 contract to the Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Hough, Beck and Baird to develop the draft version of the master plan.
Jim Hallett, president of the Port of Port Angeles commission, said at Tuesday's council meeting that the port is working with the FAA to secure money for the environmental assessment and eventually the tree removal and replanting process, though such funding is not yet a guarantee.
“We expect that environmental assessment process could take close to 12 months,” Hallett said, adding that the port likely wouldn't be able to start such a process until later this year or early 2014.
Ludke said the environmental assessment could pave the way for the port negotiating the purchase of an aerial navigation easement over the park from the city that would prevent future trees from growing into the airport flight path.
“That's something that has to be negotiated between the city and the port, with the FAA involvement,” Ludke said.
“There haven't been discussions on that yet.”
Delikat said how much the city would be paid for the easement also would be a key factor in final City Council approval of the master plan.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.