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WSDOT Has Poor Vision

February 27, 2024

Our Diador in 2015

Something is missing at the north end of our orchard. Before December, 2023, when I walked around the north loop, there was vegetation on the north side of the WSDOT fence, including our beautiful Deodar Cedar that we transplanted in 2015. I didn’t realize how that sweeping tree added a peaceful touch to the circular walk. The view now is stark and unnerving.

In early December, 2023, WSDOT cleared the vegetation and butchered the Deodar. The beauty of a Deodar is the graceful flowing lower portion. As you can see in the photo, this tree was limbed up to the point where it lost at least 2/3rds of its branch area. WSDOT employees did not want to have to get out of their trucks and walk up a path to see if there were homeless people living up on the embankment. They have better vision of the embankment all right, but their project showed they need a better overall vision.

For their(our) very expensive gain -two crews, two full days, several very large trucks – FECO and the neighbors lost a lot.

There was no prior communication with the neighbors to discuss the impact this large clearing would have on the neighbors or on the environment.

WSDOT will come by very infrequently to view the space from their truck but now we must look at the sound wall every day, rather than evergreen viburnum and other trees and vegetation.

We lost an animal corridor. We have a lot of wildlife in this area including coyotes, which are precious to us in that they help reduce the rat and eastern cottontail rabbit population.

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Birds do not like wide open spaces because they have no cover. They lost nesting habitat and food. The viburnum bloom in the early spring, providing food for the hummingbirds, a resting area for migrating western tanagers, and a wonderful scent in the early spring. They require no maintenance.

Four other trees that a neighbor planted were pulled out or severely damaged. This vegetation removal was disheartening for neighbors who take an active role to keep the public area in good shape for all.

The vegetation behind the WSDOT fence acted as a buffer from the view of the sound wall and also from the noise of the freeway. Furthermore, the vegetation acts as a coolant during the hot summer months, especially important with warmer summers. The vegetation removal also results in the release of stored carbon.

This area has some very steep slopes and the scouring could exacerbate soil erosion and make it even easier for invasive plants to thrive.

The WSDOT Roadside Manual, on page seven, states that desirable existing vegetation should be protected. Additionally, their Roadside Policy Manual states that trees that are significant to travelers or neighbors should be preserved, if possible. In my communication with crew members, it was shocking how little they seemed to know about the plants that they were using their chainsaws on.

I wrote a detailed letter to the head of WSDOT asking that, in the future, WSDOT consider the broader impacts of a major landscape adjustment, communicate to the public what they are planning to do and why, and also consult with WSDOT arborists, the canopy and green space goals of the City of Seattle, and the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.

The response to my email, in a nut shell, was that they did the right thing and that they would do it again if needed. There email was void of any assurance that anything would be done differently in the future.

FECO has a lease with WSDOT. They don’t charge us money and, in exchange, we transform and maintain the property, from that north fence south to NE 60th St. There attitude makes me wonder how fragile our lease is.

In my experience, the City and State employees are moving further and further away from relationships with the public. The one way we can counter is to keep building stronger relationships with each other. I am so grateful for all of our volunteers, assisting neighbors, and appreciative visitors.



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