PORT TOWNSEND — The poplar meetings are back underway.
The official name for the subject of these meetings is the Sims Gateway and Boatyard Expansion Project. The focus, however, is largely on some 130 Lombardy poplar trees lining the Sims Way entrance to the city.
Last year, incidents at the Boat Haven involving nearby trees and arcing power lines spurred the project, whose goals include removal of the towering poplars.
The city of Port Townsend has posted a detailed description of the $2 million endeavor on its webpage, https://cityofpt.us/engagept.
Other project goals include replacing the poplars with other trees, both along the Boat Haven side and along the Kah Tai Lagoon side of Sims Way, and expanding the Port of Port Townsend’s boatyard, to create more jobs in the maritime industry. Undergrounding the Jefferson County Public Utilities District power lines is also a potential part of the plan.
In February, the Port Townsend City Council approved the formation of a stakeholders committee to examine the plan.
The group includes Arlene Alen, director of The Chamber of Jefferson County; Ron Sikes of the Admiralty Audubon Society; past consulting arborist Forest Shomer; residents Dan Burden, Russell Hill and Steve Mader; permaculturist Jennifer Rotermund; and Joni Blanchard, who works in the Boat Haven and has been a vocal skeptic of the poplar-cutting plan.
The committee’s introductory meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday was broadcast online. But since this was a session for the members to get acquainted with city, Port of Port Townsend and PUD staff, no public comment was taken.
That input will be heard in later meetings of the city’s Parks, Recreation, Trees and Trails Advisory Board (PRTTAB) and of the City Council.
The committee will be a fact-finding body, City Public Works Director Steve King told members. They will advise the PRTTAB, which in turn advises the Port Townsend City Council as it decides how to move forward on the Sims-Boatyard project. Be careful about your conversations and emails outside public meetings, King told them, as this process must be a transparent one.
The city also will engage a consultant to investigate various plan alternatives — and the committee will work with that person as it meets monthly.
The next stakeholders meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. May 10, and King estimated the plan-selection process will take until fall.
After a plan is chosen, Sims Way construction work could begin this winter and continue into spring 2023.
Community members who want to join the next city meeting on the poplar plan can attend the PRTTAB session at 4:30 p.m. April 26. To attend online, see cityofPT.us, use the Government link and then go to Boards and Commissions to find the parks board.
On another front, the Gateway Poplar Alliance, a group devoted to preserving the Sims Way poplars, will have its own workshop at 2 p.m. April 23. That Saturday meeting will be held at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St.
The alliance and the newly formed Quimper Conservancy will “share important information about the wholesale removal of these culturally significant trees, including a design that meets everyone’s needs,” alliance cofounder Andrea Hegland said in a news release.
This alternative design will keep the trees, she noted, while expanding the boatyard and undergrounding the power lines.
“This workshop is about whether this community is committed to saving its historic trees,” said Quimper Conservancy board member David Goldman, adding the conservancy is a state-registered nonprofit organization.
More information can be found at poplaralliance.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or email@example.com.