Committee forming for poplar project

Laura Jean Schneider
Posted 12/22/21



In the second town hall meeting centered on the removal of the iconic poplar trees buffering Sims Way from the Boat Haven, Port Townsend officials said a stakeholder committee …

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Committee forming for poplar project




In the second town hall meeting centered on the removal of the iconic poplar trees buffering Sims Way from the Boat Haven, Port Townsend officials said a stakeholder committee would be formed to help negotiate a long-term plan for the future.

Matt Klontz, capital projects director and engineer for the Port of Port Townsend, took the lead to share a brief visual presentation that delineated the various areas of responsibility around the port and Sims Way boundary.

“[It’s] truly an exciting project, in my opinion,” Klontz said.

Integral to the new design, which would remove the existing stand of poplar trees along Sims Way and extend the boatyard by approximately 70 feet from its current space, was the maneuverability of the travel lift unit. The massive machine is used to haul out and transport boats.

The ability, Klontz explained, to have more room to navigate a lift with a large boat can mean using a space up to 63 feet wide, even more allowing for turns.

Boats of this size are of “tremendous economic benefit” to the boatyard, Klontz said.

The next steps, he determined would be to survey the corridor and come up with ideas for redeveloping the Sims Way entryway to downtown that is now bordered by stands of poplars.

Those options will involve getting feedback from the community.

“We heard loud and clear… the public’s desire to be involved last time,” said City Public Works Director Steve King.

King noted that the aesthetics of landscaping, and planning what to do on the opposite side of Sims Way were “minor” compared to the boatyard expansion.

“We need some professional design help,” he said.

It’s the city’s intention, King said, to form a stakeholder committee of around 10 members of the community to help field ideas and develop proposals to pitch to the city parks board, whose meetings are open to the public.

Ideally, King said, there would be  two or three local arborists or landscape architects, as well as people representing tourism and the marine trades, plus a person from the park board, and someone from the Jefferson County Public Utility District.

“We’d really like to have Admiralty Audubon at the table,” he said, noting their involvement with Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.

About 42 participants participated in five separate breakout rooms on Zoom to provide input.

In Group 5, Mayor Michelle Sandoval said, “If there’s 42 people on here, there’s 42 sides” to the conversation.

After 10 or 15 minutes, the breakout rooms were dissolved, and a spokesperson from each group shared takeaways.

Klontz spoke on behalf of Group 1, saying his cohorts had generally agreed with the idea of a stakeholder committee, and brought up ideas for fencing and public art.

King answered a question posed by Group 2: Where was the money for the $2 million project coming from? He said $1 million would be coming from a public infrastructure grant, with the port, the city, and PUD covering the rest.

Eron Berg, the port’s executive director, said there were questions raised about saltwater intrusion on under-grounded electrical lines, and the idea of reconnecting the lagoon to the bay to renew its purpose as a saltwater estuary was also broached.

Other questions from the public included the designation of Sims Way as a state highway, the need for additional permitting, where fill for the project would come from, and how much would be needed.

As Mauro took the floor, Julie Jaman, an outspoken opponent of the removal of the poplar trees, was present via phone. Although her virtual hand was raised and remained so for most of the meeting, she interrupted the conversation to call out to specific people on the meeting, and asking those watching to email the so-called “poplar alliance.”

Mauro halted her, saying, “Sorry, I’m gonna mute folks until I’m finished here.”

Jaman, in turn, critiqued the lack of design review before the decision was made to remove the trees.

Russell Hill wondered if ferry traffic planning had been accounted for.

King said, “a lot of this work would be done outside of the actual street,” and noted that routing decisions will be made as plans go into effect.

“The PUD would like to see the trees removed as soon as possible,” Streett said.

He noted that the power lines had been turned off after electrical arcing from the lines into the trees was witnessed during the summer, but the lines had been recently reactivated due to weather-related power outages.

With cold weather and storms ahead, he pointed out, it was critical to use those lines safely.

“So when are the trees coming down?” Andrea Hegland asked.

There was a long silence.

“At this time we don’t have an exact date,” Streett answered.

“The main issue here is not the trees,” Hegland pointed out. “It’s port expansions.”

Lastly, Joni Blanchard, who is a boat owner who works in the boatyard, said that the months of April to June were critical to peak work at the yard, and asked the planners to take note that the highest pollen season could adversely affect the yard if certain species were planted.

The meeting ran over the allotted hour, and City Manager John Mauro closed with optimism.

“I don’t want to be too rosy here, that’s kind of my nature,” he said, adding the project is an opportunity to unite the community.

Poplars, Sims Way