The Sims Way entrance to Port Townsend is lined with scores of Lombardy poplars — alongside power lines and the Boat Haven. The city and port plan to remove the trees to make room for boatyard expansion. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

The Sims Way entrance to Port Townsend is lined with scores of Lombardy poplars — alongside power lines and the Boat Haven. The city and port plan to remove the trees to make room for boatyard expansion. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Iconic trees to be replaced, but with what?

Future meetings to give public chance to comment

PORT TOWNSEND — With city and port officials having made the decision to fell some 130 Lombardy poplar trees along the entry to Port Townsend, now comes the process of re-envisioning that corridor.

So said Steve King, city Public Works Director, in an interview Friday.

For much of September, as the poplars change from green to gold, King has been hearing from the public about them.

After the city Parks, Recreation and Tree Advisory Board and the City Council Infrastructure and Development Committee both heard reports on the trees — and why they need to be cut down — calls began coming in.

Residents emphasize the tall poplars, bordering the Boat Haven on one side of Sims Way and Kah Tai Lagoon on the other side, are beautiful and iconic.

“No one disagrees with that,” King said.

But this species, native to northern Italy, is the wrong tree for Port Townsend in the 21st century, he said.

They were planted some six decades ago, King estimates, though it’s not clear who put them in the ground.

“I’ve heard a number of different stories: the Port [of Port Townsend] or private individuals” may have chosen the poplars.

He’s also seen a 1986 report calling for replanting with native trees — for a variety of reasons.

The tall, columnar Lombardies do not provide nesting refuge for birds; native species with lower water uptake and good carbon sequestration would make good replacements.

With the power lines running close to the branches on the Boat Haven side, “there’s a safety issue there that needs to be dealt with,” King added.

The port has reported problems with arcing; scorched leaves can be seen along those lines.

During the City Council’s business meeting last week, Port of Port Townsend Deputy Director Eric Toews discussed yet another argument for removal: economic development.

If some 60 poplars bordering the Boat Haven are taken out, the yard can expand — as much as an acre — and accommodate more vessels, Toews said.

“We’re chockablock right now. We’re absolutely full,” he said, adding more Boat Haven space could mean expanded jobs in the marine trades sector.

The City Council voted unanimously last Monday to seek the first piece of funding for what’s called the Port Townsend Sims Gateway and Tree Management Project.

That piece includes applying for a public infrastructure fund grant through Jefferson County while committing $100,000 in matching dollars from the city’s general fund reserves.

In so doing, the council authorized an interlocal agreement with the Jefferson County Public Utility District and the Port of Port Townsend to finish the whole project, expected to cost a total of $2 million.

Next summer

Work to remove the poplars, plant new trees and reconfigure the area alongside Kah Tai Lagoon and the Boat Haven could begin as soon as next summer, King said.

Council members asked about various possibilities: Owen Rowe wondered if a path could be built along the boatyard to connect with the waterfront Larry Scott Trail, while Mayor Michelle Sandoval mentioned the idea of a food forest with apple and cherry trees. She also was interested in a safe wheelchair- and bicycle-friendly path on the Boat Haven side of Sims Way.

Future meetings will give the public a chance to comment on such ideas.

“The public process is on how to replant, and what do we want this to look like for next 50 to 100 years?” King said in a later interview.

Council member Monica MickHager acknowledged cutting down the poplars is like “rip[ping] the Band-Aid off.”

Native trees are already established behind them on the Kah Tai side, she added.

Sandoval, noting two power outages have recently hit Port Townsend, agreed that the older trees present an unnecessary hazard.

“Things change. And sometimes we don’t like [it],” added the mayor, who will finish her long service on the council when her term ends in December.

Yet, “trees will grow,” she said. “And we can make the area beautiful again.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

More in News

Officials brace for sixth wave of COVID-19

Effects could be mitigated with proper precautions

Newspaper carrier sues county over sheriff’s actions

A newspaper carrier confronted by Pierce County… Continue reading

Port Townsend residents Corbin Meyers, 5, and his mother Laura enjoy the Mountain View Pool in Port Townsend on Tuesday morning. The pool reopened to the public on Monday. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Townsend pool reopens under YMCA management

Fours hour a day Monday through Friday

Federal judge rejects bid to stop vaccine mandate

A federal judge in Eastern Washington on Monday denied a… Continue reading

Duane Miles
Search continues for Beaver man missing in park

A search underway in Olympic National Park for a… Continue reading

Jeffery Evalt of Sequim and his dog Rex look for agates and other interesting rocks along the shore of Sequim Bay as wind-driven waves churn behind him on Tuesday. Blustery winds, the remnants of a strong storm system that visited the region on Sunday and Monday, rolled across the bay, pushing water against the shoreline. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Choppy waters

Jeffery Evalt of Sequim and his dog Rex look for agates and… Continue reading

FILE - Kim Wyman, Washington state's Secretary of State, poses for a photo on Sept. 15, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. The Republican secretary of state who challenged former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud in 2020 is the frontrunner for a job heading the Biden administration's effort to protect future elections. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
GOP election chief who rejects fraud claims up for fed job

By Colleen Long, Rachel La Corte and Eric Tucker The Associated Press… Continue reading

Volunteer nurse Karen Easterly-Behrens of Port Ludlow, left, talks with Eliana Rose of Port Townsend at Saturday’s Pfizer booster clinic at Quilcene School. The county Department of Emergency Management worked with dozens of volunteers to organize the clinic. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Long-term care facility resident dies of COVID-19

Woman in her 90s was in vulnerable population, health officer says

Most Read