“Gliding Great Blue Heron” by Kerry Tremain pictures one of the scores of avian species at Kah Tai Lagoon. The nature park is the topic of a free illustrated talk today at Port Townsend’s Jeanette Best Gallery. (KERRY TREMAIN)

“Gliding Great Blue Heron” by Kerry Tremain pictures one of the scores of avian species at Kah Tai Lagoon. The nature park is the topic of a free illustrated talk today at Port Townsend’s Jeanette Best Gallery. (KERRY TREMAIN)

Kah Tai wildlife, history takes stage Wednesday

PORT TOWNSEND — Kah Tai Lagoon’s storied past, present and future will step into the spotlight this week.

Rick Jahnke, president of the Admiralty Audubon Society, will give a free presentation about the lagoon at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery, 701 Water St.

The public is invited to this multi-media discussion, which accompanies the gallery’s “Outside In” art exhibition. That show, mixing photography and sculpture, celebrates natural places including Kah Tai Lagoon.

“The history is filled with fascinating controversy,” Jahnke said.

From the 1960s to the 1980s up through the current decade, factions in Port Townsend have battled over how to use the land once called qatáy. This was home to the S’Klallam people, and it was a place Capt. George Vancouver wrote about in his 1792 journal.

The 20th century brought massive change: Sims Way was built at the mouth of the lagoon. Later the southern end was also filled in.

“In 1976, (the Port Townsend) City Council rezoned 12 acres of the southern portion for development. Safeway built a 40,000-square-foot store on the property. Haines Street Park and Ride occupies a corner of that property,” according to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

“This park is what remains,” the tribe notes, “of qatáy wetland and tidal flats.”

Jahnke will speak about the struggles over the land, including efforts to build a strip mall at the lagoon site.

“The hippies didn’t want it, the downtown business people didn’t want it, the environmentalists didn’t want it,” Jahnke said.

To protest the development, musicians wrote songs, poets held readings and lawsuits were filed. Jahnke said his presentation will include recordings of those distinctly Port Townsend protest songs.

As local residents know, Kah Tai Lagoon was ultimately protected as a nature park. It covers nearly 76 acres, bordered by Sims, Kearney, 19th and Landes streets.

“It’s just a jewel in terms of wildlife … with 185 species of birds,” along with numerous native trees planted by Admiralty Audubon, Jahnke said.

Kah Tai’s paths, according to the city’s website, are part of the Great Washington State Birding Trail.

This fits with the “Outside In” show at the Jeanette Best Gallery. Local wildlife, from coho salmon to great blue herons, appear in Kerry Tremain’s photographs, which share the exhibit with Sara Mall Johani and Tom Jay’s sculptures of birds and other animals. Brian Goodman’s photos of local landscapes are also part of the show.

For more about “Outside In” and other Northwind Art programs, see https://north windart.org.

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