By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Starting as soon as next week, Seattle Parks crews will remove at least 91 trees from Lincoln Park.
Even if you’re a regular park visitor, you aren’t likely to have heard about this unless you saw one of a few fine-print signs scattered around the park, like this one by the Fauntleroy Way entrance near the north play area:
We found out by hearing about it from local arborist and advocate Michael Oxman, who is on the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition board. This morning, he and reps from the Seattle Nature Alliance and Friends of Lincoln Park took a walking tour with Christopher Rippey from Parks’ Urban Forestry division, and we went along to find out more.
Some of the trees targeted for removal will look obvious when you see them – even a non-expert would describe them as dead. Some aren’t so obvious, until damage and disease signs are pointed out; others are still undergoing tests.
The 91 trees – with 170 more scheduled for pruning – are of all types, from firs to madrones to deciduous trees. Rippey said that by a rough count, the park likely has about 4,500 trees, so this represents two percent of them.
He explained that consulting firm Bartlett assessed and numbered trees in the park. The ones they assessed are marked with small blue metal tags – some of which, he said, have been vandalized or removed.
But you need the city’s list and map (the latter is added above, 9:31 pm) to know which trees will be taken out – just because a tree is tagged does not mean it’s doomed.
Why so many? The city hasn’t engaged in this kind of “preventive maintenance” in many years. And because the city asked that they be evaluated with a view toward a seven-year maintenance cycle, some were assessed as a little worse off than they really are – looking at them as if they are likely to fail sometime within the next seven years. Tree failure can be deadly; last year’s Seward Park death was a tragic reminder.
The local advocates say they just want to know what’s planned and why; they say they have been trying for months to get details on the tree-removal plan: “Our concern is a lack of communication and transparency.” While they agree it’s clear at least some of the trees have to come down for safety reasons, they are worried about the work happening during nesting season – Lincoln Park just served as the backdrop for the announcement a month ago that Seattle is participating in the Urban Bird Treaty, for example. And they’re worried about workers possibly not being mindful of areas where volunteer forest stewards have been doing painstaking restoration. Rippey asked the tour participants to get him information about those areas. He said that while the tree assessment was done by consultants, the removal and pruning work will be done by him and other Parks employees.
Ideally, Oxman said, Parks would have money for routine maintenance, so crews don’t just have to take on a huge job like this every seven years, or worse.
It was also suggested that the trees targeted for removal be individually marked. (Private citizens with tree removal plans, for example, are required to put a large-lettered sign on each tree and keep it there for at least two weeks.) Rippey said he’s been working on some other more-general signs that would include bar/QR codes to point people to more information, although where that would be, is not clear yet – while the recent project to remove 35 trees and prune 134 at Green Lake was described on the Parks website, there hasn’t been anything about the Lincoln Park work yet. Rippey thinks the work is likely to last about two months.
You can find Parks’ tree-management policies here.