PORT TOWNSEND — A crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord is expected to decide Monday how to remove a fallen 60-foot Douglas fir that smashed at least three headstones at the Fort Worden Military Cemetery during a windstorm.
The number of headstones damaged in the Dec. 20 storm won’t be known until after the area is examined closely next week, according to Gary Dangerfield, spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
The tree, which was located inside the historic cemetery’s iron fence perimeter, was uprooted and fell into the southeast corner of the area.
It landed mostly between the rows of headstones, coming down at an angle. Some of the markers were damaged from the weight of the trunk and its limbs. It isn’t known yet whose headstones have been damaged.
“We will have a team from the JBLM Department of Public Works-Fish and Wildlife intern program out to determine what needs to be done and how we will remove the tree and the root ball,” Dangerfield said.
Although the site is located on the Fort Worden campus, the cemetery is managed by JBLM and ground maintenance is performed by a privately contracted company, Skookum.
As of Wednesday, limbs had been removed, but the felled tree and yellow caution tape remain. The ground is saturated because of the wet weather Port Townsend has experienced throughout the past few months.
Brian Hagerman, Olympic View area manager for Washington State Parks, alerted JBLM to the damage.
Dangerfield said representatives from JBLM visited the site Dec. 28 to view the damage first-hand and determine next steps.
The intern team expected to be at the site Monday is from a special unit that helps transition military members out of active duty to civilian life and provides them a skill set in the forestry sector.
“The team will work with Fort Worden’s ground crew to get this done,” Dangerfield said.
Four additional firs along the fence will be investigated and considered for removal because of their proximity to the fallen tree.
Part of the assessment will be to erect temporary markers for headstones that were damaged.
“We can’t promise that this will happen on Monday, but we hope to get it completed as soon as possible,” Dangerfield said.
A military funeral is scheduled for the Fort Worden Military Cemetery the following weekend.
Established in 1902, the historic cemetery has 442 interred military personnel, civilians and unknowns on a little more than 1 acre. Its first interment was June 2, 1902.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]