Weekend workshop to explore plans for poplars

Groups oppose proposal to remove ‘heritage’ trees

PORT TOWNSEND — The Gateway Poplar Alliance and the newly formed nonprofit Quimper Conservancy will host a workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St. Uptown.

In the wake of plans by the city and Port of Port Townsend and the Jefferson County Public Utilities District to redesign the tree-lined Sims Way stretch — and remove the Lombardy poplars — the alliance (www.poplaralliance.org) is seeking to preserve the treescape.

The workshop’s purpose “is to share important information about the wholesale removal of these culturally significant trees, including a design that meets everyone’s needs,” the alliance said in a news release.

“In addition, people who have been left out of the process controlled by the City of Port Townsend, Port of Port Townsend and Jefferson County PUD will be offered a grassroots way to be involved.”

For several months, staff from the city, port and PUD have convened online meetings and town-hall discussions about the $2 million project, which is designed to expand the Port Townsend Boat Haven and cut the Sims Way poplars on the boatyard side and the Kah Tai Lagoon side.

Replacing the non-native trees with other species, building a pedestrian path and undergrounding PUD power lines have been part of the discussions.

Earlier this month, the Sims Gateway and Boatyard Expansion Project stakeholders committee, an eight-member group formed under the city’s auspices, had an introductory meeting. At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Parks, Recreation, Trees and Trails Advisory Board will discuss the project in a meeting accessible via cityofPT.us.

The city of Port Townsend has posted a description and timeline for the Sims Gateway plan on its webpage, https://cityofpt.us/engagept.

Saturday’s workshop, meanwhile, “is for those in this community suffering a form of whiplash from the top-down, authoritarian edict issued by these three public agencies that the heritage poplars will be cut down with no broad community outreach or input,” said Andrea Hegland, Gateway Poplar Alliance co-founder.

She called the plans presented so far “a laundry list of agency misinformation, bait-and-switch tactics, and deceptive practices that don’t live up to our democratic expectations.”

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro, when asked whether he or Public Works Director Steve King would attend the meeting at the community center, said neither he nor King had been invited.

“So we were not planning to attend. We have heard that there is a proposed design from the Gateway Poplar Alliance, but they have not requested any specific feedback or input,” Mauro wrote in an email to the Peninsula Daily News.

“So it’s confusing to understand how the workshop can be successful in meeting everyone’s needs,” he added.

“We’ve worked hard with our PUD and Port partners to provide both a place where all information and background can be viewed [on the engagePT webpage], as well as a clear way for the community to engage with the project and help shape a positive outcome.

“We’ve made repeated calls inviting everyone and anyone to participate, regardless of perspectives or views. Inclusivity in our process is paramount, but people have to show up to participate,” Mauro said.

“Ultimately [the gateway plan] will be presented to the governing bodies of the City, Port and PUD for decisions, but public comment will be collected and reviewed, as it has from the very beginning, and anyone is welcome to engage and make comments at any of these governing body meetings even if it’s not on the agenda.”

The Gateway Poplar Alliance’s Hegland, in contrast, said the three entities have paid too little attention to public input.

“We plan to illustrate that the publicly provided reasons for cutting down these poplars have all been disproven, yet these agencies are proceeding as if it doesn’t matter, giving many in our community the impression that there is more to this story than disclosed,” Hegland said.

The workshop on Saturday “is about whether this community is committed to saving its historic trees,” added David Goldman, a member of the Quimper Conservancy board.

“We have formed a state nonprofit, an organization working for our community,” he said of the conservancy.

“Let’s see if our community will recognize this threat and our offer to challenge these misguided agencies.”

________

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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