PORT TOWNSEND — The first Port Townsend City Council meeting of 2022 on Monday night brought a gift from a local businessman: some $15,000 worth of landscaping services for the park beneath the Fire Bell Tower.
The 75-foot wooden tower, constructed in 1890 at Jefferson and Tyler streets Uptown, stands over a front yard that’s looking “pretty rough,” Public Works Director Steve King said.
The small city park is “overgrown with weeds” and in need of rehabilitation, according to his report to the council.
And the good news: Jess Norton of Wildflower Landscaping has offered to prune, trim and mulch the place, repair the irrigation system and add more rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.
The $15,000 figure is an estimate, Norton said in an interview Wednesday; “any overruns or underruns are on my shoulders.”
Norton had been talking with city parks lead operator Bre Ganne about this donation. Since any gift valued over $5,000 requires City Council approval, King brought it to Monday’s meeting and got a unanimous yes.
“It’s fantastic,” said Mayor David Faber.
Staff time and material from the municipal composting facility are the city’s only contributions to the project, King said.
“The vision for the area is to rejuvenate the large garden bed on the western side,” his report notes.
Compost tea treatment for the rhododendrons and skilled pruning of the aging ones are prescribed.
“On the eastern side bordering 929 Jefferson Street, the donor proposes to remove the English laurel hedge that has been decimated by drastic pruning and replant a privacy hedge of wax myrtle/dwarf arbutus and rhododendron,” the report adds.
Council member Libby Wennstrom asked whether the city had run this plan past the neighbors who live adjacent the Fire Bell Tower park.
One of the two neighbors hasn’t been reached yet, King said. The space is a city park, so permission isn’t required, “but we want to be good neighbors,” he added, so the city will keep trying.
Norton predicted his crew will start work next month and finish up in March.
The park-rehabilitation process “will look like an absolute disaster” to the surrounding residents, he said, adding his landscape equipment is “obscenely loud.”
“I’ve always donated some of my time and energy toward good causes,” Norton said.
“My parents have done that as well. I grew up being community-minded,” and wanted to be involved in city affairs in some way.
This was a case of seeing something that needed doing and offering to get it done, he said.
Landscaping the prominent park, Norton added, is a way to advertise for Wildflower Landscaping.
“It’s going to keep my crew busy; it’s going to be fun. We’re going to be able to show off some of our techniques.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]