Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ron Sims, Ed Murray, Ken Jacobsen endorse effort to save Ingraham tree grove

Note from the Executive Director: The following is a guest post authored by our good friend Steve Zemke of In the last few weeks Steve has been heavily involved in a neighborhood campaign to stop the Seattle School District from destroying a greenbelt in north Seattle.

Because this is is an important issue that needs more attention, we've asked Steve to share his story and perspective with you, our readers.

I also want to mention KING5 is airing a report tonight that will feature Steve's work. Please tune in to the five o'clock broadcast if you're able to.

Efforts to save sixty two old Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar trees from being cut down at Ingraham High School in North Seattle are gaining momentum.

Neighbors have collected over six hundred and fifty signatures for a petition urging Ingraham High School, the Seattle School District, the Seattle School Board and the School Design Team to develop an alternative design for Ingraham High School that protects the sixty two large Douglas Fir and Western Cedar trees that are slated to be cut down on the west side of the property.

Recent signatories to the petition include King County Executive Ron Sims; State Senators Ed Murray and Ken Jacobsen; and State Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Phyllis Kenney.

Others include Estella Leopold, Professor Emeritus in Botany at the University of Washington, Joan Thomas, a former President of the Washington Environmental Council, and Marilyn Knight, a former President of the League of Women Voters of Washington.

Four Democratic candidates for state Legislature are also on board – Gerald Pollet and Scott White in the 46th LD, John Burbank in the 36th LD and Tina Orwall in the 33rd LD.

Senator Ed Murray was the prime sponsor in the Senate of the new Green Cities law that calls on municipal governments to create an inventory of existing trees and develop plans to conserve and retain green areas.

Last week both the Seattle Community Council Federation and the Haller Lake Community Club voted to endorse the petition.

The school district's plans are thoughtless and ignorant.

The state has just enacted a law to preserve trees in towns across the Evergreen State and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently issued an executive order to protect existing trees within the city and plant new ones.

The Ingraham grove is merely one place, however, where trees are threatened. There are others. If we cannot stop the destruction of dozens of trees on public property, then no tree in Seattle is safe.

It is ironic that Seattle students are learning about environmental protection and the value of trees inside their science classrooms while the school district that is charged with preparing them for life as adults is quietly preparing to chop down an entire grove to add facilities that could easily be sited elsewhere.

It's a terrible message to be sending to kids.

Trees and forests are incredibly valuable. Even a small forest makes a wonderful habitat. Trees remove pollutants from the air, control water runoff, filter greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, and provide a scenic, shady area for students and neighbors to enjoy.

Neighbors do support the effort to renovate Ingraham High School and build new classrooms to replace the old portables that will be disassembled.

But anyone who takes a look at the Ingraham campus could identify better locations for the classrooms to be built. No trees need be cut down.

For example, there is a large grassy open space on the north side of the school that could easily accommodate the expansion.

What is outrageous is that the Seattle School District did not involve members of the public or neighbors in the planning process.

They apparently didn't consider that the larger community (which is paying the bill to build the new classrooms) would not approve of the complete eradication of one of the few large groves of trees still existing in the city.

Since the school district has been so thoughtless, it is clear that citizens need to be more vigilant. Voters should scrutinize school renovation proposals more closely before voting for bond issues. And the public should demand a more open process that involves stakeholders from the very beginning.

Copies of the petition will be delivered to the Seattle School Board at their Wednesday night meeting. Both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have featured stories about the fight to stop the Seattle School Board from cutting down the trees. I also wrote a post at MajorityRules Blog about the school district administration's decision that cutting down the trees was insignificant.


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