Open Space Trust Board members present
Marguerite Sutherland, Chairperson, Ira Appelman, Bill Duvall, Gail Magnuson, Jim Owens, Jim Pearman
Pete Mayer, Director, Mercer Island Parks and Recreation
Paul West, Park Arborist
Stephanie Cangie, Administrative Assistant
Call To Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:30 p.m. in the Council chamber of City Hall, 9311 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, Washington.
Approval of Minutes
The minutes of March 7, 2002 were unanimously approved with the following correction:
Page 4, under New Business, the sentence should end with February 10, 2002, rather than February 10, 1992.
Trustee Appleman reported that at the city council meeting on April 1, 2002, the mayor extended the term of board members from 3/31/02 to 4/15/02.
There were no appearances.
Master Plan Implementation – Progress Report
Presentation by Terry Reckord of MacLeod Reckord Landscape Architects: Reduced-in-size draft copies of the construction drawings were distributed. These drawings are used to communicate information to the contractors so bids can be prepared. A specification book accompanying the drawings will include all the conditions of the contract and a narrative description of the work elements. All the pieces of work will be described graphically and in a narrative form. Both become part of the contract document.
The layout drawings are the plans of the three quadrants with the individual details denoted on the last pages. Three or four things are changing from what the Board saw last. They are as follows:
Crosswalks – Originally the Board discussed installing a crosswalk to connect the northern corners of the northeast and northwest quadrants at SE 63rd across Island Crest Way. The City’s Development Services Group has plans to make improvements along Island Crest Way. They think the crosswalk is a good concept but they are not prepared to do that right now without doing more traffic volume studies. This crosswalk may still happen but it won’t be part of these improvements to Pioneer Park. (Paul added that if the studies are done, the City might do it as part of their striping projects this summer or possibly next summer. In any event, it will be separate from this capital project.) Terry Reckord said that this is a public Call for Bids. He has a list of contractors he has worked with in the past and he has confidence in their work.
There was also discussion at one time about a mid-block crosswalk across from the entry to the riding club across 68th. The Development Services Group thinks this is a good idea but has not endorsed the mid-block location yet. There may be funds available from the City for doing some of the work that is involved in building the crosswalk.
Ravine Trail – This is the only area where a new trail is being built. At the moment the plan is for a self-contained loop on top of the ridge above the creek. A GIS system has been used to locate the trail. It will be flagged, and it has some places that are tricky. It is on the side of a steep slope. At one place in particular a low retaining wall may be built to support the bottom edge of the trail. At another place that crosses some low areas, it is proposed to build a short length of boardwalk which will be a timber deck the width of the trail without handrails, supported on piles that will cross the wet area and allow the water to pass through. The plan is to build a viewpoint that looks out over the creek and the ravine. The elements that have been included will be flagged in the field ahead of time. Part of the pre-construction process will include staff going out into the field with the contractor to stake the location of the signs, benches, drainage repairs, and the ravine trail.
Other Issues – A place needs to be designated for the contractor’s job shack with a temporary fence. The contractor will work in one quadrant at a time rather than working in the entire park all of the time. It is suggested to use a spot in the southeast corner of the northwest quadrant near the intersection of 68th and Island Crest Way. Paul West has looked at the trees in relationship to proposed job shack sites to determine if the contractor’s vehicles would damage trees.
Terry Reckord said the landscape architect’s role during construction is to serve as the owner’s representative--to be at the work site for a weekly progress review, to attend events, such as pouring concrete, and to insure that the contractor is following the drawings and specifications. Paul West will be the City’s project manager and will manage this contract. The documents and plans will be finished by the end of April. The estimated schedule is to have bids opened on May 22, four working days for review and analysis, and then the preparation of the agenda bill to go to City Council on June 3. The contractor needs approximately ten days to prepare for the start of construction.
Paul West pointed out to the Board that in the handout, #11 on D1 shows what is being suggested to delineate where parking is allowed and not allowed. These are 10 to12-inch peeler logs. It is intended that the ravine trail will be a single track, two foot wide. The Board needs to consider the width of the boardwalk and the lumber to be used—pressure treated or plastic lumber. Plastic lumber encourages recycling and is the most durable. Pressure treated lumber is less expensive and easier to prepare and simpler to install. Both surfaces can become slippery. One option is to install a handrail.
The retaining walls will be treated timber the size of railroad ties. The wall will be located below the trail. The wall won’t be visible from the trail. If there were more than a 30” drop a handrail would be required.
Shoulders of Island Crest Way – Terry Reckord reported that the pullouts on Island Crest Way are graveled so that Puget Sound Energy can get to the power poles and so the City’s park maintenance vehicles can get to the area. At the south end of Island Crest Way near the 68th Street intersection a graveled shoulder has been created to allow big trucks to make the turn. Another issue the Board needs to consider is whether something should be done to discourage people from parking randomly along that shoulder, and if so, should it be plantings, logs, or signing. The City may create a narrow gravel shoulder in the future.
Paul West said that north of S E 68th the right of way is about 10-15 feet wide on the east side and 30 feet wide on the west side. He has been working with the right of way staff to make the area look uniform rather than defining it as the City’s property versus the Trust Board’s property.
Jim Owens questioned if signs could be on the power poles on the east side.
Director Mayer said that the City’s transportation planner would probably tell us that signs have to be on 4 x 4 posts. The utility poles are not the property of the City.
Terry referred to the viewpoint trail. There is interest from City staff in making the viewpoint trail the primary pedestrian trail. This would take the primary route further into the park and it would make easier viewing. It would have to be a couple of feet wider to become the primary pedestrian trail. It would allow easier maintenance access into that part of the park. Terry Reckord said that some tree roots would have to be cut and there are roots on this trail that are expendable. Hazards caused by the roots need to be considered in the construction specifications. Paul West will judge on a case-by-case basis what roots can be cut.
Bill Duvall said that a good example of successful root removal is the trail at the south end of the Island, the Fleury Park trail where roots were cut and caused no detriment to the trees.
Trustee Sutherland asked how to ascertain which roots are vital to a tree and which are expendable. Paul West informed that in determining if a root should be cut or not, you look at all the roots that are holding up the tree and question if structurally the tree can be held up without the root you want to cut and will the tree be able to defend itself against disease entering through that cut. The size of the root and the soil conditions around the root will affect the decision. Most cut plant surfaces are best left untreated because plants don’t heal their tissues; they wall them off and discard them when they are damaged.
Trustee Magnuson asked if roots have to be removed if it’s not a primary trail. Paul answered no. Primary trails will be getting a mineral soil surface which will cover roots just on the surface. Secondary trails do not get any special surface. Paul commented on the idea of converting the viewpoint trail to a primary trail and subsequently taking the south loop trail to be a secondary trail. The ravine trail will be a dramatic and beautiful trail and usage of the viewpoint trail will increase. The Board liked the idea of a primary trial through the middle of the quadrant.
Pete Mayer said that it will be very important to have good communication with Stevenson’s and the Saddle Club before and when construction begins and during high traffic times. Staff will need help from the Trust to get people informed. These will be short-term impacts, but he is concerned about the safety issues with equestrians.
Ravine Trail/East Mercer Way Connector Paul West reported that based on the discussions from the Board’s walk through the park on March 23, 2002, staff has investigated the potential acquisition of property between Pioneer Park and East Mercer Way. He is currently working on an application for King County Conservation Futures Funding for acquiring one or more of the parcels. Appraisals of those parcels are being obtained. He is also having the stream survey of Pioneer Park as part of this application. A trails consultant was asked to evaluate making a connection on the south side of the stream from East Mercer Way to Pioneer Park. Most of the connection between East Mercer Way and Pioneer Park is perched wetlands and would require a 250’-300’ turnpike or boardwalk. A perched wetland along a stream adds value to the stream in terms of habitat and water quality. In terms of a trail connection it is more problematic. The idea of bridging the creek needs to be explored.
Director Mayer and City Attorney Lindell have met with one of the property owners. Ms. Lindell has had conversation with the attorney of the other piece of property. The City Attorney will act on behalf of the City to broker the details of these acquisitions.
Forest Management Paul referred to the handout titled “Assumptions and Options for Forest Management in Pioneer Park.”
The basic assumption of this document is that the choices for Pioneer Park are limited by the ecology and by the resources. Paul has created a list of items that create the context for a forest management plan.
In terms of resource management, the current City parks maintenance staff does not do very much vegetation management in Pioneer Park. They mow the grass, clear the trails of fallen trees, and brush the trails once or twice a year. This allotment of staff time will not change because of funding. The other resource provided by the City is CIP (Capital Improvement Program), which has been set at $50,000 for Pioneer Park. The planning calendar extends to the year 2008. City staff does not know what will happen after 2008 and there is no guarantee of the current funding extending that long.
Under community framework, which is how citizenry responds to the park, Paul believes that this is the piece that is the biggest “black box”. He does not know what the potential is for the community to be involved in the park. There has been some public involvement and the Open Space Conservancy Trust Board represents a large involvement. Is there potential for more involvement such as schools committing to service learning in the park, or for businesses to commit resources on an annual basis, such as Starbuck’s does, with their park granting program.
Under vegetation resource, the assumption is made that the Board wants a forest that is representative of a typical Pacific northwest forest. He has created criteria for having an age distribution of trees, a multi-layered canopy, and managing diversity to replicate the qualities of the native northwest forest. One of the items under vegetation resource is the issue of edge effects. The park is a remnant forest. This forest plan requires mitigating the surrounding urban environment. This makes it more difficult to conceive of what kind of forest might eventually develop. Parks employees and citizens who have lived here a long time say the understory of the park has become much brushier whereas it used to be mostly salal and lower growing plants. This is a result of the edge effects, where the light levels are higher and result in the taller deciduous shrubs overtaking some of the ground covers.
Another issue is that exotic plants will continue to exist and require management. The question is to what level they are to be managed. Paul has addressed that issue in the three typologies.
The three typologies addressed in this plan are Deep Forest, Purely Native, and Basic Canopy. The goal of the Deep Forest is to try to create an interior forest experience similar to a forest in the back country by supporting a dense edge planting and allowing less light into the interior. This Deep Forest alternative gives more of a pure conifer forest. In order to get the Deep Forest effect, he suggests that the Deep Forest alternative requires the use of some non-native conifer species or quasi-native conifer species because we are limited by the rot root problem. He believes the use of Douglas Fir as a widespread plant choice is not a good idea. It could be interspersed with other species even though the life span may be limited to approximately 70-80 years.
The Purely Native typology assumes the use of only native plants. To control the root rot problem, instead of using non-native plants use the existing deciduous trees and deciduous regeneration to supply some of the needed canopy. In terms of understory, this forest management plan encourages the use of native regeneration that is cost effective and creates less disturbance and artificiality in the park.
After the project in the fall of 2000, where blackberries were cleared in the southeast quadrant, we saw a great regrowth of red elderberry. This was good news. There’s a great seed bank of natives in the park that need to be released. This example of plant regeneration is cost effective. One of the disadvantages is the regeneration of taller shrubs in higher light situations that will outcompete the salal, sword fern, and oregon grape that are more typical of an interior forest.
The Basic Canopy typology is a lower level of management which would address the invasive exotics only as needed to keep the multi-age, multi-layered canopy functioning. The Basic Canopy strategy would be similar to how the park is now. It would be a mixture of conifer and deciduous trees and mixtures of native and non-native understory but would be managed in a way that it could stay that way for a long time. Another provision is to think of the Basic Canopy strategy as an aesthetic enhancement strategy. More openness would be achieved.
Paul said that he wants to preserve as many of the trees as possible and mark some of the biggest trees in the park so we know where they are and can take extra care around them. Trustee Owens asked if the forest management plan includes looking at each quadrant and envisioning a variation of the typologies depending on the conditions of that quadrant. Paul answered yes. Paul also commented that the northwest quadrant might be the best candidate for planting new Douglas Fir. The root rot is the worst in the southeast quadrant.
Paul said that there is a question of strategies. Do you maintain the level of quality in the best quadrants or do you go for the restoration of the worst quadrant trying to bring it up to the level of the other two quadrants? The northwest quadrant is in the worst condition, and the northeast and southeast quadrants are in better condition in terms of canopy and native composition. The southeast quadrant that is primarily Douglas Fir will be a difficult quadrant to get new regeneration planting going because it has the most root rot.
Paul was asked what needs to be pinned down now in the forest management plan document to maintain over time the present vision of the Board and the Parks and Recreation Department. He stated that he is getting close to finalizing the plan, but it depends on how closely you manage the invasive exotics and non-natives and how aggressively you manage for the next generation of canopy.
Trustee Owens suggested the need for public review of this plan. Paul West reminded the Board that the purpose of the Forest Management Plan walk-through on May 11, 2002 is to allow public review. He prefers to get people out in the field and look at the actual problem and discuss how to solve it on-site than to have it be a theoretical argument on paper.
Trustee Appelman stated that he’d like the statement under Resource Management, “The City will continue to support the vision of Pioneer Park as a forest” removed. He believes this statement suggests the possibility that tomorrow the City might decide not to have the forest there. On the third bullet, “City Council approves CIP funding with each biennial budget. Funding for Pioneer Park is not certain in the long term.” He wants this statement removed because it suggests the money might be taken away. A bullet under Resource Management reads, “The position of the Park Arborist will be responsible for implementation of this plan.” He thinks it means that the Park Arborist implements the plan without coming back to the Board. He thinks the Arborist will have to come back to the Board even after the plan is approved.
Trustee Appelman stated that before summer he wants a formal document from the Fire Department stating why there is no fire danger and what the plan is if a fire occurs. He believes it is the responsibility of the Trust Board to know what the fire plan is.
Trustee Appelman asked what is the issue of safety in the park. If crime happened in the park, it would damage the reputation of the park. Previously he suggested phones in the park. He believes there should be a record of the Board evaluating safety in the park.
Paul was questioned about the bulleted item under Resource Management referring to 50/50 maintenance. Paul stated that he used the 50% figure to emphasize the fact that half the citizen’s budget will go to maintenance; Paul stated that it has been his experience that maintenance cost is equal to the cost of installation.
Trustee Appelman requested seeing the ANSI A300, ANSI Z133, and ISA Pruning Guideline standards mentioned in the forest management plan before approving this plan.
There was a discussion concerning how the Board will respond to the public in regard to the removal of trees. Chairman Sutherland suggested a City phone number dedicated to providing explanations to the public when something is being done in the park that might seem controversial, as well as any other non-park issue that affects the public, i.e. an earthquake. Trustee Appelman suggested an on-sight self-informing method to provide explanations to the public.
Trustee Appelman asked if the Board wants to consider managing the forest in any of the quadrants to encourage a meadow or clearing, a place where there is no canopy. Paul responded that if you look at where the canopy gaps are there’s nothing close to a meadow in those areas.
Trustee Magnuson asked if one type of forest plan management is better for the ravine area than another to encourage soil stabilization. Paul commented that there are active slides in the ravine caused by a combination of geology and soil moisture. Vegetation plays a minor role in soil stabilization. The type of vegetation currently in the ravine is an indication that the natural process is doing what it can to stabilize the soil. There are big leaf maples growing in the ravine that is one of the best trees for root reinforcement of soil. There are also a lot of sword ferns that are good for holding surface soil. He commented that there is an ivy forest, approximately 100 feet square, in the ravine area that will need to be controlled.
Trustee Owens suggested including under Vegetation Resource a statement that says that the forest management plan’s intent is not to maintain a continuous canopy.
Paul West confirmed with the Board that he would continue to work on the forest management plan and develop some clear materials for use at the public walk- through on May 11, 2002, at 10 a.m.
Chairman Sutherland and Trustee Duvall have met to discuss topics to be included in the Trillium, including the master plan, new trails, improved old trails, policy on dogs off-leash, horse trails, effect of ground cover, and issues the public should be commenting on such as the forest management plan. They suggested a 8 ½” x 11” trail map inserted with two quadrants on one side and one quadrant on the other side. The Board members were solicited for suggestions. The Board suggested waiting until the trails are upgraded and the new trails finished before preparing a map. It was further suggested that the map not be sent out with the Trillium but placed at strategic places in the park.
Transfer of Additional Properties Staff displayed a map showing the locations of open space properties. The Board was also provided with a handout showing a list of open space properties. Trustee Appelman expressed concern that the Trust Board has only Pioneer Park in its Trust and in his opinion the Trust Board should be looking to ask City Council to place other properties in the Trust such as Mercerdale Hillside, Gallagher Hill, S E 53rd and maybe a couple of smaller ones. He suggests later considering the western portion of Island Crest Park. He stated that the City Council decides if property will be placed into the Open Space Conservancy Trust Board’s care.
Trustee Duvall questioned the reason for making such a resolution at this time.
Trustee Appelman said he has been suggesting this action for two years. He reminded the Board that past Board member Bryan Cairns thought the Trust Board should wait until the master plan was finished to show more credibility to the City Council.
Trustee Duvall questioned if it would be more appropriate to make such a request after the master plan is implemented and the forest management plan is finished and approved.
Trustee Appelman stated that he thinks the matter of placing the properties into the Trust is a technical matter. It would be done by staff and he thinks, based on what past Chairman Tove Lund said previously, that it would not be a large encumberance of staff time.
Chairman Sutherland thinks it is a good idea to ensure that someone is watching over the open space properties that belong to the public, but she said that the City Manager will also have to evaluate if moving properties to the Trust means more staff time. She suggested talking to some individual council members and the mayor to ascertain their viewpoint on such a proposal, to see if there is any support for this.
Trustee Pearman said that this type of proposal would be discussed at length if brought to the City Council. He asked what ultimately would be accomplished by this? What would be changed in the way things are occurring now by moving the properties under the Trust Board’s umbrella?
Trustee Appelman replied that someone would be taking care of the properties and this is suppose to be an all-Island Trust Board not just a south end Trust Board. It’s difficult to attract members from other areas of the Island because the Board is viewed as a Board concerned only with properties at the south end.
In his opinion there is pressure all over the Island on what to do with these open space properties.
Trustee Pearman commented that at the inception of the Open Space Conservancy Trust Board, there was the assumption that other properties would go in the Trust. When someone is watching over these properties he makes the assumption that staff and resources and monies are needed. It is a budgetary issue.
Trustee Appelman said that business has already come before City Council regarding the property at 53rd and putting a trail there, as well as the issue of ivy growing up on trees all over the Island.
Trustee Pearman suggested talking to Director Mayer regarding the budgetary commitments by the City staff before going to City Council. He questioned adding more work to the Trust Board’s current task list. He reminded the Trust Board that the acquisition of Luther Burbank would present a substantial list of tasks for the City staff.
Chairman Sutherland and Trustees Owens, Magnuson, and Duvall agreed that the Trust Board has enough to do right now and the proposal to have other open space properties transferred to the Trust should be brought up at a later time.
A motion was made by Trustee Appelman that the Open Space Conservancy Trust Board request that City Council transfer open space properties, specifically, Mercerdale Hillside Park, Gallagher Hill, and SE 53rd, to the Trust. The motion died for lack of a second.
Trustee Magnuson reported that people were observed cutting salal in Pioneer Park. Chairman Sutherland reminded everyone that this is against the law and if anyone sees people cutting salal in Pioneer Park, they should call the police. It was suggested that a small article be included in the Trillium regarding this subject.
Trustee Appelman received feedback from someone who is concerned about encroachments on Pioneer Park. He hopes that people who are encroaching will be advised in a tactful manner. Paul assured the Board that he and Director Mayer are two very sensitive guys and will handle advising those whose property use encroaches on Pioneer Park with grace and tact.
Director Mayer told the Board that there is a report released by the Department of Ecology about an arsenic and lead plume which, for many years, drifted northward from the now-closed Asarco smelter in Tacoma. Test results from around King County have been reported. Two sites were tested on Mercer Island, in Pioneer Park and Island Crest Park. The results for Mercer Island were very minimal, indicated no cause for concern, and no mandated clean up will be required. The State is asking that community education be provided. The City is developing a plan to educate its citizens.
Next meeting is May 2, 2002. The meeting adjourned at 10 p.m.
[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.]