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Thursday, August 07, 2003

Attendance
Open Space Trust Board members present
Ira Appelman, Vice Chairman, Bill Duvall, Rita Moore, Gail Magnuson, Jim Pearman and Marguerite Sutherland

Open Space Trust Board members absent
Jim Owens

Staff
Pete Mayer, Director, Parks and Recreation, Paul West, Arborist, Stephanie Cangie, Administrative Assistant

Appearances

There were no public appearances.

Approval of Minutes

Motion made by Trustee Duvall and seconded by Trustee Moore to approve the minutes of the July 1, 2003 meeting with the following changes:

Page 4 under Northwest Quadrant: should be changed to read: An encroachment by a neighboring property owner.

Page 4 under Ravine Trail from East Mercer Way: should be changed to read: The ravine bridge location – The trust discussed the logistics of getting the bridge footings poured and the safety of using teenage workers.
Motion unanimously approved.

Old Business

Starbucks Grant Application

The application was submitted on June 30, 2003. Trustee Moore was commended for her work in helping to prepare the visual portion of the application. Paul reported that the City of Mercer Island was not accepted as one of the finalists for the grant. Starbucks did not give a reason for its decision.

Ravine Bridge Trail

Paul reported that construction has begun on the connecting trail from the south side of the creek to the where the bridge will be installed. Sahale, LLC, the bridge construction company, still needs to provide an adequate insurance certificate before their contract with the City is finalized and construction begins. The plan is to begin construction on Thursday, August 14, 2003. V.O.I.C.E. (Volunteer Outreach in Communities Everywhere) volunteers are assisting in the construction.

Trillium Update

Trustee Moore has submitted an article for the Fall Parks and Recreation Guide. The guide will be available to the public by August 28, 2003. Refer to Appendix I attached.

Summer Celebration! Booth

Vice Chairman Appelman advised that Trustee Moore, Owens, and himself met with Paul West as a sub-committee and coordinated gathering the materials that were on display at the booth. Next year there need to be more volunteers to work the booth. Those who worked the booth said the photographic display prepared by Trustee Moore was very helpful in explaining the park’s assets. The public who stopped by the booth were very interested and enthusiastic. Trustee Appelman suggested more advertising.

Forest Management Plan Review

The draft of the Forest Management Plan was presented to City Council on Monday, August 4, 2003. Vice Chairman Appelman distributed a transcript of the questions and answers between the City Council and Paul West from the August 4, meeting.

Paul referred to his memo to the Trust dated 7/31/03 in which he raised several issues that need to be resolved by the Trust Board before he can move ahead with the Management Plan.

Jim Owens suggested framing the Forest Management Plan as more of an ecosystem model rather than a structural model. Paul thinks these are compatible. This would require supplying more information in the plan about wildlife and vegetation in terms of habitat. He commented that this is not necessarily an unfriendly amendment, it is just a lot more information to put into the plan. Trustee Duvall commented that Jim Owens’ concern is implicit in open space and a forest. Trustee Duvall’s question is what would the Trust do differently if it includes this. He commented that as part of its educational efforts, the Board should start talking about the connectivity of open space.

Vice Chairman Appelman asked how the Board wants to get this on the record. He was hoping at tonight’s meeting the Board could bring forth its concerns taking two or three meetings to get the concerns out in the open, and then Chairman Owens could direct the Trust in how the plan can be used.

Trustee Moore stated that there already is a statement in the Forest Management Plan about habitat. She would like the Plan to mention how the habitat connects with other Mercer Island park habitats emphasizing that Pioneer Park is part of a broader habitat.

Paul said that he and Chairman Owens have discussed the idea of how much of the Forest Management Plan is going to be used to educate the public, and if the plan is going to be used to educate the public about Pioneer Park then probably more information should be included on the ecosystem function and the benefits of urban forests. He reminded the Board that the Pioneer Park Natural History Book contains a lot of this type of information and could be reprinted as an Appendix to the Forest Management Plan.

Paul said that if the Board wants the Forest Management Plan to be used as an educational piece, he could use the City Green software to provide statistics on benefits of the Pioneer Park forest and the affects on air pollution and stormwater run off. If the Board wants the Forest Management Plan to be used as a management plan, the pieces are already written except for the Fire Management Plan which is forthcoming.

Trustee Moore sees this document as a Forest Management Plan that could also be applied to other Mercer Island parks. She believes that it should not be used as a general educational piece. Trustees Duvall, Sutherland, and Appelman agreed with her.

Vice Chairman Appelman asked how the primary use of the park for walking or jogging affects the forest management plan. For example, if you want to create views of the ravine, does that affect the forest management plan? If you want to look into the park from the trails, does this affect the forest management plan.

Paul West replied that there is no consideration for this in the current plan. Trustee Appelman suggested that there’s a conflict between the park being looked at as an ecosystem and the park being looked at as a recreational area. How do we resolve this within the forest management plan? There’s a conflict if you spend money on the ecosystem, then you aren’t spending it on the recreational aspect. Trustee Moore pointed out that the City does spend money on the trails. Vice Chairman Appelman asked if the Trust is going to open up the inside so people can see into the forest or if it’s okay to have medium height plants blocking any views into the forest. Trustee Moore said that it depends on which forest management options are chosen.

Paul directed the Trust Board to look at:

Page 7, #9, “The vegetation of the park will be managed to enhance park users’ passive enjoyment of a native forest setting.” On Page 37, at the top under “Edges. Edges must contain dense vegetation to protect the forest interior from wind and sun. Edges along public right-of-way should also allow some views into the forest.” Paul reiterated that edges along the trail, having views off the trails, is not being managed as part of this draft forest management plan. Trustee Appelman asked if it would be useful to include managing the views of the trails as part of the forest management plan. Paul stated that this is up to the Trust Board.

Trustee Sutherland commented that the Trust Board has generally considered Pioneer Park to be a passive park, that people going into the park don’t expect it to be managed for a cosmetic-like or showcase-like look. In her opinion, she believes that most users of Pioneer Park expect a forest experience.The City has a limited budget for maintaining Pioneer Park and the Trust Board needs to be judicious in its recommendations for maintaining the edges along the trails.

Trustee Duvall referred to Paul’s memo in which two issues are raised: “Does the Trust Board want to strictly prohibit funds from going towards resolving encroachments and what would you want to spend money on for education of the public?” Trustee Duvall suggested that money would be better spent on a demonstration project along the trails in the NW quadrant so all park users would see and enjoy it rather than on an encroaching neighbor’s back yard where he alone would see it.

Trustee Moore pointed out that park property currently encroached upon has to be restored and this costs money. Trustee Duvall agreed that the City has to provide some plants and some labor to Pioneer Park neighbors who are encroaching into the park. Trustee Sutherland suggested that encroachers need to be fined and the encroacher pay for the removal of any structures and restoration. Trustee Moore suggests that the City supply plants at cost to the encroachers.

Paul asked if there is some interest on the part of the Board to have a little bit of help available to encroachers if they show good faith in restoring the property back to park standards. The draft forest management plan states that the City will negotiate with encroachers. The plan does not commit to any monetary funding for restoring encroachments. Paul has written the plan to read “neighborhood partnerships” rather than encroachments, so that the City could have partnerships with citizens anywhere in the park, not just along property lines.

Trustee Duvall pointed out that some of the border areas are of high priority areas for reforesting, however, if the choice of tasks was between working adjacent to one of the trails versus restoring an encroachment, he would support spending the money where everyone can enjoy the results.

Director Mayer asked if there are specific parameters when the Trust Board would decide to be firm about encroachments, making the removal and restoration the responsibility of the property owner, versus other times when the City will work with the citizen to accomplish the restoration, i.e. providing plants, labor.

Discussion was held regarding the difficulty of obtaining an accurate survey showing exact lot lines of the properties that neighbor Pioneer Park.

Trustee Pearman suggested a letter to the property owners informing them of a current survey and the City is cleaning up the park encroachments. Trustee Moore believes any letter sent should go to all neighbors who abut the park, not just those encroaching so that those who, for example, are dumping their yard debris in the park, would get the message as well.

Vice Chairman Appelman wants the Trust Board to see the letter before it is sent out and have staff confer with the City Attorney concerning the language of the letter.

Director Mayer suggested that the letter have a defined timeline for removal of encroachments and a grant program for removal of encroachments, offering money on a first-come-first serve basis with grant applications to be reviewed by the Trust. Paul West commented that based on the current budget, the amount of money available to help neighbors with the encroachment is very minimal.

Director Mayer and Paul West agreed to come back to the Trust Board with an updated letter, after talking to the City Attorney.

Referring again to Paul West’s memo of July 31, 2003, one of the questions posed by Vice Chairman Appelman is whether the Trust Board would sell or not sell the wood from a fallen tree, a tree removed for another reason such as a dead tree, or trees that have been thinned. Vice Chairman Appelman believes that a decision about selling or not selling the wood needs to be part of the Forest Management Plan. Trustee Sutherland suggested waiting until a situation occurs and have the Trust Board made a decision then. Trustee Moore stated that generally in an open space, such as Pioneer Park, when a tree falls for whatever reason, it’s left on the ground.

Trustee Pearman recalled that in the past when there’s been a tremendous storm the trees have been left on the forest floor. Sometimes when alders have come down, the maintenance crew has piled them into firewood piles and citizens have taken those. He questioned whether, when a tree falls over a trail, you make a bench out of it, push it to the side, or cut it into small sections so it can be removed? He believes there should be no precedent for people going into the forest to harvest anything.

Paul suggested that the Trust can decide this question on a case-by-case basis. The Forest Management Plan specifically has a project planning form and process so that the Trust Board will be involved when trees are being removed for non-hazard purposes. The project plan would include what’s going to happen to the wood and the Trust Board could decide then. There’s a mechanism built into the Forest Management Plan to allow this. Paul suggested that there be a statement somewhere in the plan about the possibility of selling the wood, if it’s not disruptive to the forest. One of the projects that’s in the work plan now is the power line corrider on SE 68th where there are a lot of topped conifers that are dangerous and were scheduled, in phase two of that project, to be taken out. They are on the path and harvesting them won’t disrupt the forest. This is merchantable timber and the question about whether to sell it or not will probably come up.

Trustee Appelman wants a fuller discussion of the option of selling the wood from fallen trees and using the money to do other tasks in the park, such as removing ivy.

Motion made by Trustee Pearman and seconded by Trustee Moore that all trees that fall in the forest due to a natural course of events will be left in the forest. Motion passed 5-1 with Trustee Appelman voting no.

Motion made by Trustee Pearman and seconded by Trustee Moore that if a tree needs to be removed along the park perimeter for forest management or maintenance, the Open Space Conservancy Trust Board will determine the disposal of the wood. Motion passed 5-1 with Trustee Appelman voting no.

Trustee Appelman asked if the forest management plan includes management for clearings where a person could walk into an area in the forest where it opens up. Paul commented that the forest management plan says that canopy gaps are a natural part of forest succession; the only time the plan calls for getting rid of gaps is when there are excessive gaps. Most of the clearings are extremely dense. Trustee Duvall says he doesn’t think it fits with the natural idea of the park. Trustee Moore does not think the plan should create gaps—there will be gaps created naturally by the forest and those will have to be managed to keep away the invasives. The Board agreed to not include managing for clearings in the forest management plan.

Trustee Sutherland questioned the width of the brushing done on the trails that have been maintained in the middle of the northwest section. The trails are being brushed wider than what was originally agreed on in the master plan. Director Mayer and Paul West will check with the maintenance crew to be sure they know the guidelines to be used for brushing the trails. One suggestion was that the brushing is more evident due to the dry summer weather and very little new growth has appeared.

Paul asked about Jim Owen’s desire to have a tree overhang on the roadway on Island Crest Way where feasible and safe included in the Forest Management Plan. Paul commented that the forest edge is set back from the roadway on Island Crest Way. The Board decided to wait until Jim returns to discuss this topic.

Paul asked about the pictures of the three typologies included in the forest management plan. He asked if the Trust wants another illustration included in the Forest Management Plan showing the typology that represents the one main strategy for Pioneer Park. The Trust did not come to a conclusion about adding another illustration in the Plan.

Off Agenda Items Trustee Pearman informed that City Council is working on the plans for the new community center. Discussions by the Parks and Recreation ad hoc committee will be held next week concerning a long-term financing strategy for maintenance and operations of Luther Burbank Park. The committee includes Council Member El Jahncke, Pearman, and Cairns. Eventually work will be done to develop a master plan for Luther Burbank.

Director Mayer reminded that the Forest Management Plan is going to City Council by October 2003. Paul reminded that a public forum for presenting the Plan needs to be accomplished by the third week of September in preparation for presentation to City Council in October.

Trustee Moore asked if the Board will make a decision on which type of forest management plan will go to the public. Paul advised that the current plan is a hybrid between purely native and planting conifers to maintain the character of the forest. It is his intention to go to the public with the current draft plan.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 4, 2003, 7:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers.

[Important Note: The proceedings of the Open Space Trust Board meeting were recorded on tape and are filed in the Parks & Rec Department. The complete agenda and official minutes of this meeting are also filed in the Parks & Rec Department.]

 

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