Letter to the editor: Save our Puget Sound views

Editor:

As active members of the Edmonds community and residents in the “Bowl”, we were recently given a copy of the new Landscape Plan for the new Civic Park between 6th and 7th Avenues.  The plan looks great! The park is a dream come true and for those of us fortunate enough to live neighboring the park, it will be a glorious addition to our community. Indeed, it will be a wonderful meeting place for all of Edmonds and visitors, alike.

However, once we saw the selection of the trees from the landscape architects, we became quite alarmed. We did some research, carefully looking up the botanical names to make sure I was looking up the correct varieties.  Over half the trees will reach heights of over 50 feet. One could reach 100 feet (the Bald Cypress).  Do you realize how tall a 50-foot tree is? We do! It’s essentially the same height as the tall light poles in the current playing field. We counted almost 60 trees that will reach at least 50 feet. That’s a forest, not a park! These trees will unfortunately create a significant barrier to the views of Puget Sound for residents and visitors. It may take a few years to happen, but it will eventually happen! Trees just naturally want to do their thing and grow!

There are so many beautiful trees that are in the 20 to 25-foot category. We don’t want to come across as people who hate trees because we love them! As we all know, homeowners’ views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range are highly valued. We understand the Parks Department is doing some research to find trees that are in the 30-foot category at maturity, but that is still too tall. We would hate for our children and grandchildren who live here long after we’re gone to hear there was once a beautiful view of Puget Sound but now they can’t see it for the trees.

These are what we researched and are the trees in question:

Bald Cypress – 50-70′  (Taxodium distichum)

Western Red Cedar – 40-50′ (Thuja plicata ‘Hogan’)

Black Gum – 30-50′  (Nyssa sylvatica)

Bonfire Sugar Maple – 50′ (Acer saccharum ‘Bonfire’)

We will be attending the next city council meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 250 5th Ave. N, Edmonds (due to the election, they changed the regularly scheduled day from Tuesday to Monday). For those of you who are concerned about the selection or height of the trees, this is your chance to be heard in three minutes or less.  Hope to see you there.

Maxine and Bill Mitchell
Edmonds

19 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Save our Puget Sound views”

  1. Even though the sound and mountain views from our neighborhood would probably not be adversely affected by the proposed Civic Park tree planting plan, we are very supportive of your comment. This is an issue of concern for all Edmonds neighborhoods, especially in the bowl. Our sound and mountain views have already been significantly compromised by 50 foot plus size trees planted on the grounds of our nearby elementary school. Smaller, more diverse trees would have actually provided a more attractive and shade providing landscape. Some of these taller trees are already malformed and even dying because they were not appropriate for the location where they were planted, which is an added cost for us the taxpayers when they have to be removed and replaced. Very tall trees planted in our increasingly dense urban core are also an unneeded and unwise, potential added danger to lives and property during major storms in our changing climate world.

    Our city and school leaders need to be educated on the need to take into account the serious adverse impacts that poorly planned, excessively tall trees can impose on surrounding neighborhoods. There is also a very significant loss of property tax revenue to the city and school district created by this type of poor landscaping decision making. A significant loss of residential views for just 50 homes can easily reduced the average assessed tax value of each home by $200,000 or more. This could result in a total loss of $ 10 million or more in assessed tax value and resulting tax revenue to the city and school district.

    It is also very ironic that while the City of Edmonds very strictly limits building heights (especially in the bowl area), it totally fails to regulate (or evenly evaluate) the heights of trees planted on public property which can create much more cumulative damage to our beautiful public and private property than dozens of new buildings twice as tall as currently permitted. Ask the condo owners living along 5th avenue about the loss of their views to city permitted street trees about that.

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    1. Statement from those who reside at The Seville Condo 217 5th Avenue North, Edmonds
      We have lived across the street to the west side of the courthouse for nearly 18 years on 5th Ave North. Our view to the west is not impacted by what is planned for trees to be planted in the civic park area. However, our view has been impacted by city trees boarding the 3rd Avenue arterial located between us and the sound. We have watched helplessly as those trees have grown in height above the 30 foot height limit put on building construction to protect views. Once the trees go above the building roof lines, they obscure our view of the water and even the Kitsap Peninsula. It is so discouraging to know the City of Edmonds has no plans for maintenance of trees planted on parking strips of our city streets. We paid plenty for the view when we purchased our condo and the value diminishes as the trees continue to grow into our view.
      So we do support the concern of neighbors behind us to the east who are alarmed about the plans to plant such tall trees in the civic park. These neighbors have every right to be concerned and ask you not to plant trees that may grow 100 ft tall like Bald Cypress, Bomb Fire Sugar Maple, Western Cedar and so forth. Some species of trees can grow 6 feet a year, so it does not take long for obstruction to occur.
      There are many benefits to having trees to cleanse our environment and provide sanctuary for birds, but choose slow growing trees that provide a lower canopy and PLEASE have a plan for maintaining the height of these trees. We live in an area of the bowl that offers some stupendous views of the sound and mountains that should not disappear for the sake of tree growth.
      Sincerely,
      Larry Temple
      The Seville Condo HOA President

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  2. The comments from the Mitchells and Mr. Derickson are very well presented, and I believe are factual as well.

    Until about 10 years ago the city allowed many improper trees to be planted in the downtown. The residents pay for views there that are gradually taken away by the growth of the trees, and pedestrians have to deal with the uneven sidewalks caused by the growth of the roots of those trees.

    We have a tree immediately across the street from us in the city right-of-way that is a good example of this issue. It probably was planted 15 or 20 years ago and is now at least 40 feet high with its roots lifting the adjacent sidewalk.

    The remedy for this issue is for the city to continue disallowing the planting of improper trees in any location, and to start a program to remove the improper trees when they are relatively small and easier to deal with.

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  3. Please think about what what have been in this area, naturally and originally. Tall, beautiful evergreen trees, not giant houses.

    “Improper trees,” would be non-native trees, not from this area and not appropriate for our NW environment.

    Trees benefit all in so many ways. The “views” you all refer to benefit few.

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    1. The only species listed in the letter that is native is the cedar. Cypress is from the southeastern US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxodium_distichum), Gum is from the eastern US, east of the Mississippi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyssa_sylvatica) and sugar maple is native to the northeast and Great Lakes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_saccharum). I was surprised this summer to see that the signs posted by the Tree Board (which I think has a worthy mission, I’m *not* criticizing them) downtown indicated trees that were almost exclusively non-native.
      If you’re going to the city council, I suggest going with a list of native species that would be more appropriate. You might also enlist someone from the Tree Board to join your cause. There are lists of native species on the web, the first that popped up for me was http://soundnativeplants.com/nursery/species-descriptions/trees-and-shrubs/?doing_wp_cron=1572477422.5719308853149414062500.

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  4. We also have trees around town that are dangerous for various reasons. The code is not easy to use to remove, or trim dangerous trees even when the city says the trees are dangerous.

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  5. Re: Trees – read THE OVERSTORY by Richard Powers. I love the view as well but I also love the trees native to our area. A stark view is ok but a view framed with trees is healthy for our city, cleans the air, attracks eagles, and nesting for many birds.

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  6. Lake Forest Park is a great place to live to experience the tall beautiful native trees. I lived there for many years. I moved to Edmonds to be able to have a sunny garden and a view. It is good to live where your needs are met.

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  7. The only reason I now have a decent water view is that 99% of the native 2nd. growth trees have been removed in the bowl to create views and giant houses, condos and apartments. You can’t have it both ways. The bring the $$$s to Edmonds and protect the property value crowd runs the show. The price to pay to not be Deadmonds I guess.

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  8. I’m a little concerned about some of the comments here. I think we should keep in mind that well chosen trees, in a good design plan, don’t block the view but rather become part of the view ~ and an attractive part. And I’m talking real trees, not overgrown bushes.

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  9. If you plant a potentially tall tree in a view corridor that will benefit you, but not your neighbor, you are going to get some serious push back and hard feelings even though you are within code and your rights. Voice of experience talking here. No one wants their neighborhood to be a battleground or bastion of hard feelings, so let’s just be real here for once. As a city we have chosen water views and profits over native tall evergreens, maples and Alders. That’s just a fact and a choice. I would suggest it’s a little late to be so worried about the tree canopy and being sure we plant “the right” trees.

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  10. The Civic Park is a public asset, and an amenity for all – not just those who live beside it and lament the potential loss of their view from trees on public spaces. Having expressed that, I do think that the park should (mainly) have plants and trees that are native to the Pacific Northwest (including the Western Red Cedar), and not trees that are native to some other region of the country. I too have looked at the Master Plan, and there is a way to position these trees in such a manner that, while they impede some views they do not “block” views with an impenetrable barrier of green-space.

    The bottom line is that the park is for ALL, the vast majority of whom don’t have any view of the water. This park is to be a jewel in our city, and a point of pride for ALL who will use (and pay) for it. Accordingly, the park should reflect the interests, values, and desires of ALL who will use it, and not just those who live beside/near it.

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    1. Very well said, Mr. Gill! This fits with my vision of well-planned trees being part of the view; they “frame” the view. Nobody is proposing a wall of trees that would truly block views.

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  11. I totally agree with the two comments above. Native trees in a public park totally trumps any private view issues that might be presented. Knowing Edmonds, I think you can plan on some irate view proponents however, if tall trees are planted. I will not be one of the complainers on this issue, I can assure you.

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  12. While Douglas fir and cedars are tall there are natives such as mountain hemlock, Pacific wax myrtle, madrona, red twig dogwood, vine maple which stay a reasonable height. It is just finding trees which like the wet conditions at civic park. The city has added natives to city park, Yost Park, the Shell Creek access mini park and the park at Meadowdale. Again “Right Tree, Right Place”. Keeping Hutt Park healthy to promote the health of the old natives is important.
    The periodic removal of ivy to keep trees healthy at Hutt Park and City Park is an effort promoted by the city.

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    1. I agree with you Barb, that all these local plants should perhaps have a home in our new Civic Park. I note however that while the Red Twig Dogwood and Pacific Wax Myrtle are essentially shrubs, the Mountain Hemlock and the Pacific Madrone easily top 70 feet, and can hit 100 feet (or higher). I also agree that there is nothing “unreasonable” about those heights, although based upon the original posters’ comments you are sure to get a debate about that.

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  13. I think we should include natives which are not trees. The madrona tree was not a recommendation. It is very difficult to grow and would not like the wet conditions of civic park. The western hemlock grows tall but the mountain hemlock stays much lower in this area. So much depends on soil conditions, altitude etc. Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree) is a relative of madrona and can take wet conditions and is evergreen. So much to consider…

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  14. Taking into consideration the soil type and draining capacity of the soil when selecting what tree to plant in the new Civic park is essential. Right Tree ,Right Place. If the soil and physiological make up of the soil doesn’t fit the needs of the trees planted they will fail. Natives are the best solution. If I want an unobstructed view of the water and mountains, I can go 2 blocks west from where I live and enjoy it all.

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