City plans to remove at least 91 trees from Lincoln Park

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.

26 Replies to "City plans to remove at least 91 trees from Lincoln Park"

  • North of Admiral June 7, 2017 (2:00 pm)

    A hot topic that is sure to attract many commenters – TREES!!!

    Please go easy on Mr. Rippey.

  • Jon June 7, 2017 (2:03 pm)

    What’s there to know? Trees are coming down because they are either dead, a danger, or both. I don’t think people understand how heavy and destructive a falling tree truly is until they’ve worked in that business or have been unfortunate enough to experience it themselves; be it via property damage or loss of life.

    If a bird happened to nest in any of the marked trees, while unfortunate for the birds, there’s really nothing to be done. If chicks or nests are tampered with, the chicks will be rejected. It doesn’t change the fact that the trees need to come down.

    The fact that an “Urban Bird Treaty” is taking any sort of priority over the timely removal of trees which could potentially crush human beings in a public park is absurd. Then again, it’s apparently also a concern that “unleashed cats” do what cats do: hunt small creatures (in this case, birds), so — priorities might be a bit skewed, to say the least.

    • Kersti Muul June 7, 2017 (3:05 pm)

      How exactly is the treaty taking priority over this? I was part of the treaty signing, I am also a certified arborist, utility forester and ecologist. 

      I am the site leader as well for the NBP at Lincoln. 

  • Chuck June 7, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    If I give you my address, would you please deliver and stack a cord of lovely madrone? My taxpayer dreams will all have come true :) 

  • Brace Pointer Sisters June 7, 2017 (3:11 pm)

    Good!  Most of those trees are just blocking the lovely view anyway (and there’s the safety issue too).

    • Carol June 7, 2017 (4:58 pm)

      Spot on!

  • AA June 7, 2017 (3:14 pm)

    Will there be an equal number of trees replanted to replace those coming down?

  • anonyme June 7, 2017 (4:02 pm)

    As an arborist and tree hugger, I do know that dead or diseased trees need to be removed.  However, given that many of these trees have been in this condition for quite some time, it will make no difference if the work waits for a few weeks or months for nesting season to be over.   Taking out the dead ones first should eliminate this conflict (unless they happen to contain flicker nests!).  I’m a little puzzled as to why the work was not scheduled for fall and winter…less impact all around.

  • Buzz June 7, 2017 (5:29 pm)

    What about dead trees that are used as nests for hole nesting birds…….I thought there was scientific evidence that snags were a natural part of the living forest….Ya I know that LP is not a natural forest.

  • Raye June 7, 2017 (5:40 pm)

    Brace Point Sisters, trees ARE the view! It’s big ugly Hummer houses that block the view of trees, water, and mountains.

  • Gene June 7, 2017 (7:20 pm)

    Brace Point Sisters-

    am hoping you’re comment was facetious- it’s a PARK- a beautiful oasis- with the view  being the prize as you walk inside . 

  • Jim June 7, 2017 (7:22 pm)

    To bad they couldn’t put a notice on the bulletin board.  I was in the park for an hour this morning and didn’t see a single tag.  Maybe a little community feedback would be nice too.

  • anonyme June 7, 2017 (7:38 pm)

    Buzz, you’re correct, which is why I mentioned flicker nests (they often use snags, as do other woodpeckers, and owls).  Snags provide important habitat, and I see no reason why they can’t remain if they’re in no danger of falling…

  • Treesallneed June 7, 2017 (8:04 pm)

    There are many stages of dead trees, and some are a danger, and many are not- and they’re all needed by some creature. Perhaps the “Dead Danger-Lite” trees can remain until such time they become “Dead Danger-Verite”..?

  • Mark Ahlness June 7, 2017 (8:31 pm)

    Jim, the blue tags have been on hundreds of trees in Lincoln Park since last July/August. Here are pictures of 49 of them:

    • Jim June 8, 2017 (6:21 pm)

       I was refering to one of these.  I should have been more specific.

      • Brenda June 9, 2017 (9:09 am)

        I hope the woodpeckers were able to read those signs and choose different foraging/nest sites.

  • Rose June 7, 2017 (8:47 pm)

    If they wait another year or two the ivy will take a  few trees down for free.

  • Tamsen June 7, 2017 (11:18 pm)

    Thanks for this notice. I saw a tree fenced off there today and was afraid it was being poisoned like the trees at Me-Kwa Mooks park!! Was going to be on the phone to parks!

    • WSB June 7, 2017 (11:42 pm)

      Since you and I had an exchange about that before, I’ve asked about that, and indeed it seems to be one way that “invasive” trees are removed. These aren’t invasives, though – they were assessed as dead or in poor condition.

  • Rhoda June 8, 2017 (5:14 pm)

    I think that the trees should be preserved some how,  there is to much of the wild life, and natural life around getting taken out to build another high-rise to line some man’s pocket.  I rather see nature and hear birds and not hear all the other mess. 

  • cjboffoli June 8, 2017 (6:55 pm)

    I’m curious about what happens to the lumber the cull will produce.  Could the parks department or other municipal services possibly reuse it for maintenance in other areas of the city?

  • Morgan June 8, 2017 (10:54 pm)

    Mill it for park picnic tables?

    puzzled by time of year, too.

  • Greystreet June 9, 2017 (2:13 pm)

    I agree with Chuck, I’ll gladly take some free firewood for my recreational firepit that is vehemently contested on these boards LOL

  • Virginia Michelsons June 11, 2017 (1:33 pm)

    Lincoln Park is a treasure because of its trees and a haven where developers can’t mess it up.  Old trees even dead ones that have been standing for decades are habitat for wildlife, a fact the managers should know.  

    How many people have been injured by falling trees?  HOW MANY?  Can you answer that?

    I see trees all over West Seattle coming down for more square boxes of condos.  Why can’t we preserve all the big beautiful trees that take  a lifetime to get big? 

    This generation will not see the beauty old trees have given us, homes for wildlife and of course our oxygen and air cleaning capabilities. 

    Sincerely  A lover of Lincoln Park,  Virginia Michelsons

  • Kersti Muul June 14, 2017 (7:58 am)

    I have submitted a formal letter of opposition to the timing and intensity of work:

    June 12, 2017

    Attn: Jon Jainga, Carol Baker, Jesús Aguirre, Rachel Acosta, Seattle
    Parks Department


    Letter of opposition in regards to timing, intensity and
    scope of tree removal in Lincoln Park


    My purpose in writing this letter is to request further
    consideration of the timing and scope of this work in Lincoln Park (tree
    removal and heavy pruning). I also feel that there was a major lack of
    transparency, which [purposely] allowed for no reasonable amount of time for
    commenting or considering other options. I am heavily involved in Lincoln Park
    with many groups, including being the site leader for Seattle Audubon’s Neighborhood
    Bird Project.
    Finding out about this just last week was shocking to
    me as well as a lot of West Seattle residents; this is reminiscent of the ‘Go
    Ape’ zipline debacle (which the public found out about via the West Seattle
    Blog also). I have a history as an arborist and consulting utility forester,
    with experience in hazard tree identification and management. I also teach
    phenology, conservation ecology and medicinal and edible plant classes within
    the park.

    Lincoln Park is an urban park, but it is also a fragile
    ecosystem in a unique setting; affording it diverse plant, and animal life.
    Just two examples are that it is home to Seattle’s only nesting pair of Common
    Ravens (Corvus corax), and the rare, saprophytic Phantom Orchid (Cephalanthera
    We continue to lose canopy cover as well as habitat, as our
    lovely city grows; we should be more diligent than ever when it comes to
    protecting our shared natural spaces.  I
    do understand the need for public safety as a priority, but after examining the
    blue-tagged trees, I would say that the need for removals is exaggerated. 

    I would like to request the data sheets with the rationale
    for each tree to be removed, and to meet with you, on-site if possible.

    I will outline my reasoning below for my recommendation for
    reconsidering the timing and intensity:

    Timing. Several species of birds are nesting
    right now. Cutting down trees and/or heavy pruning interferes with this
    process. Not to mention birds that are already fledged-that are using trees as
    they learn and navigate. Chain saws and chip trucks are loud; birds need to
    hear each-other to breed, survive and learn their songs. The Common Raven
    fledglings aren’t ready to leave the park/parent’s care until the end of August
    (one example).

    Many species of birds prey upon the nestlings of
    smaller song birds. This makes up a large part of their chick’s diet. If the
    nests of some birds are destroyed, it also destroys a food source that is
    relied upon by others. A nice feature of Lincoln Park is the diverse food web
    and species variety.

    Summer is a poor time to be doing heavy pruning.
    It opens the tree up for stress and burn. The park’s trees are already heavily
    stressed due to several droughts in recent years.

    If a tree warrants removal, it MUST be
    ‘wildlifed’ (made into a snag) and the cut wood remain in situ (unless
    detrimentally infested or infected) to encourage cavity nesters and create more
    diverse habitat. Decaying trees are an integral part of any ecosystem. This
    also allows for a healthy insect and fungal population; a natural process that
    should be allowed to happen.

    Some species of trees in decline can stand for
    another 100 years without posing a safety risk.

    Species of trees fail in ways that are usually
    unique to the species. Not all trees just fall over, not all trees have heavy
    , not all trees chunk away over time. This should really be
    a factor in re-assessing the threats, in a realistic way, not a fear-driven and
    promoting way. It is actually difficult to predict when a tree will fall; most
    fallen trees in the park are not ones that were tagged. There are actually trees
    in the park that I have found having the fugal pathogen Phaeolus schweinitzii, which is indicative of butt-rot, however they are
    not tagged for monitoring. 

    Trees that have some dead parts do not
    necessarily need to be removed. Good practice would dictate removing the threat
    and monitoring.

    Why can’t some of this budget be used to
    actively manage the Ivy problem that is choking out large, elder trees all along
    the bluff? If things are maintained over time, there is not usually a need for
    dramatic measures later on. This problem will result in a lot of large trees
    dying, on a very precarious angle

    It would be beneficial to get other arborists’
    opinions as well


    My main concern is timing, coupled with what seems to be a
    disregard for habitat and how the ecosystem of Lincoln Park actually works, as
    well as setting a dangerous precedent with how we deal with controversial
    issues in our urban spaces.  I have had a
    long-term, very close relationship with this park and its inhabitants and I
    would like to see the best option acted upon.


    Thank you for you time and consideration,

    Kersti E. Muul


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