Ballard District Council talks trees and celebrates 25 years of serving the community

By Annie Wilson – UW News Lab

Gathering together to create a voice and representation for their district, 12 Ballard locals came together 25 years ago to form the Ballard District Council. Today the group is comprised of mostly different members besides the one standing original associate—Rob Mattson. The Council met last night to discuss important district issues while also celebrating this monumental 25th anniversary.

Ten past Council presidents attended the meeting last night to celebrate the milestone. Council president from 2005 – 2007, Mary Hurley acknowledged her connection to the district and residents: “Ballard is one of those places that we have come together as a community for so many years…it always felt to me like a small town, and it’s not, but it always has had that wonderful small town feeling.” First Council President Tom Molson also shared his thoughts.“The Ballard Council was effective from the beginning,” said Molson. He continued, “and it looks like it’s even more effective now.”

Of the many issues discussed last night, the Ballard locals showed huge concern about recent tree clearing by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, along the shore of the Salmon Bay natural area. A worried resident asked City Arborist, Nolan Rundquist for a rationalization.

Ranquist explained that the Dept. of Planning and Development did try to stop the Railroad by presenting several violations of critical areas; however, the Railroad’s Federal Council defense allowed them to continue without a permit, since it was their private property. “They found out where their property lines are and then they basically took care of everything on that property. Excessive, yes, in my opinion, but they didn’t ask for my opinion,” Runquist said.

Several committee members suggested some sort of signed agreement between the Railroad and Ballard to communicate any future plans, even if it is on private property. “In my opinion there needs to be some signed agreement between the city and the Railroad because if there isn’t something in writing I feel that the railroad will go ahead and do this again because there was no repercussion from it, no recourse for their actions,” said Dawn Hemminger, a member of the Groundswell NW Board.

Runquist also covered many other tree issues, particularly the issues of tree responsibility between private owners and the city. He explained that for people who plant a tree, even on a public strip of land, it is inferred that they are responsible for the tree’s maintenance. The same standard transfers to sidewalk damage; an increasingly prevalent problem in Ballard. To check if a tree is owned privately or by the city, Ranquists encourages people to look online at the city tree map.

Also, member of the Seattle Board of Park and Commissioners Brice Maryman explained a new process to restore the park system: the Parks Legacy Plan. This new process invites public opinion on the park system and how to maintain its upkeep in order to sustain the Seattle parks’ “envy of the country,” Maryman said.

He explained that one of the most compelling needs is to secure a reliable funding source to fix the facilities and maintain them. Traditionally when in need of funding, the Parks Dept. has asked for more levies. However, Maryman explained that levies are often used to build more parks rather than being maintenance oriented.

Members of the Parks Dept. are looking at alternative funding opportunities including an additional state funding that the state legislature gives to cities, such as Renton and Kirkland, called a Metropolitan Parks District.

Previous Ballard District Council President Stephen Lundgren said that the newer parts of Ballard, such as the Ballard Commons, have developed with a significant amount of participant participation money, matching fund money, sweat money etc. Maryman acknowledged that the Parks Dept. favors that type of funding and is looking for more public/private partnerships.

The Parks Dept. will continue to present the new Parks Legacy Plan throughout the month of May.

We will keep readers updated on the progress of the plan when it is presented in more detail next month.

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