Community collaboration saves 94 mature trees along Dayton Ave N

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Trees on Dayton were marked for removal.
Photo by Jamie Holter looking south.
How WSDOT, the City of Shoreline, and Save Shoreline Trees worked together to preserve trees

By Melody Fosmore, CoChair, Save Shoreline Trees

It started in early 2019 with a few neighbors who attended an open house at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Regional Headquarters in Shoreline to learn about its impending $46.5 million remodeling project.

Looking south on Dayton today. Photo by Melody Fosmore

At the open house, a map showed every tree that surrounded the WSDOT facility on N 160th St, Dayton Ave N and N 155th St was marked with a dark “X”. City representatives at the open house explained that the trees were slated for removal because Shoreline Municipal Code required 8-foot-wide concrete sidewalks and other frontage improvements along the right-of-way streets surrounding WSDOT due to the size of the project. 

In addition to the 8-foot-wide sidewalks, the other frontage improvements included 5-foot amenity strips for signage and landscaping, and parallel parking along Dayton Ave N. These improvements necessitated the removal of the trees. 

The iconic trees surrounding WSDOT are 75-150 years old (estimated) and a remnant of a much larger urban forest. These trees work together to stay strong during high winds; they provide shade for humans and a resting place for migrating birds and, through their root system, cleanse stormwater runoff that feeds the Boeing Creek watershed. The prospect of losing them was heartbreaking.

The new sidewalk and the trees that were saved.
Photo by Melody Fosmore

After the open house, one of the neighbors posted the news on social media. A solid core of community support emerged and Save Shoreline Trees was founded. In its first three months, Save Shoreline Trees held rallies, sent more than 300 letters and emails to the City, and attended City Council meetings to speak for these trees. 

A concerned family installed a large banner sign posted in front of a home that alerted the community in detail of the plans. This same family made 'save me' signs and wrapped them around the trees on Dayton Ave N, providing a compelling and daily reminder to pedestrians and car drivers of what was at stake. 

In January 2020, a pivotal Save Shoreline Trees community meeting hosted representatives from WSDOT and the City, along with more than 50 community members who shared ideas for saving these trees. We all asked if there were alternative sidewalk options. 

WSDOT and Abbott Construction leadership took the suggestions and in the following months, submitted several revisions to the frontage improvement plan, including alternative sidewalk proposals.

New sidewalk on shallow footings. 
Photo by Melody Fosmore

The City of Shoreline agreed to extend the required ROW permit deadline so WSDOT could continue their interior remodeling work while creating a new plan for the alternative sidewalks. The City also agreed to waive street parking and landscaping, but continued to maintain the 8-foot-wide sidewalk requirement. 

As the process slowly moved along, Save Shoreline Trees kept making weekly public statements to the City Council about the WSDOT project and maintained communication with both the City and WSDOT for updates. Save Shoreline Trees kept the public and supporters informed of the progress.

WSDOT’s research finally resulted in a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the City that the trees on Dayton Ave N and N 155th were effectively doing the work (and had been for decades) to filter stormwater so a proposed underground stormwater system was not needed and an alternative sidewalk plan could work, thereby saving most of the trees. 

Trees and PermaTrak® photo by Melody Fosmore

Even more significant, Chris Lee, Senior Project Manager with the project contractor, Abbott Construction, went a step further and found a product based in North Carolina, used primarily in the south and east coasts for park pathways and hiking trails, called the PermaTrak® system. This system would work as an alternative sidewalk for Dayton Ave N. 

Since the shipping costs to Seattle would have been astronomical, Chris Lee worked behind the scenes with Olympian Precast Inc, a concrete pre-cast company in Redmond and ‘brokered’ a deal with PermaTrak® to have the sidewalk pieces made in the Seattle area, which not only made the alternative sidewalk more affordable, but would also give PermaTrak® a manufacturing presence in the Northwest. By using a local manufacturer, they also avoided the environmental and economic impact of trucking the concrete plus the wages for manufacturing workers and material suppliers stayed here in Washington.

Another important note is the overall costs of this frontage improvement. There were two very expensive costs that were avoided by using the PermaTrak® solution. One was the cost of paying a “fee in lieu” for each of the trees to be removed, which the City requires when a tree is removed and no replacement tree is scheduled to be planted. 

Another was the cost of moving all the utilities to the middle of the street which would have shut down this busy arterial for several weeks. The net result, after taking in the avoided costs, was the PermaTrak® system costs less than the original plan and the trees were allowed to stay.

After more than a year of research, planning, and permit revisions, the permit was approved with WSDOT’s new plan which included an elevated PermaTrak® sidewalk on Dayton Avenue N. In addition, the relocation of the sidewalk on N 155th St saved trees. 

34 mature trees were cut down on N 160th St.
Photo by Melody Fosmore

However, the City did not approve WSDOT’s recommendation for a 6-foot-wide sidewalk along N 160th St, so 34 mature trees were cut down on August 9, 2021.

As a result of this collaboration, WSDOT’s Chris Linden and the HQ Capital Facilities office has been nominated for the Annual WSDOT Environmental Award. 

When asked about the point where things changed the most, Chris said, “the advocacy and tenacity of Save Shoreline Trees made a huge difference in the outcome of this project. Yes, the design and outcome are driven by costs just like any other project, however in this instance the players of this multi-leg stool all wanted to save the trees. Everyone just had to work harder to get to the solution.”

This collective effort by Save Shoreline Trees, WSDOT, Abbott Construction and the City of Shoreline shows the value of community collaboration with an aligned focus on environmental goals. This WSDOT project outcome is an excellent example of a positive collaboration between a state, a city, private, and community organizations. 

With the PermaTrak® option now locally available, the City has a new resource for capital projects and sidewalk designs.

Ongoing development, along with climate crisis, are detrimental to all mature conifers and native trees. More than ever, we ALL need to work together to save our environment during this climate crisis. 

Saving the Dayton Ave N tall mature trees positively affects the lives and health of our community. Most of the time, we don’t appreciate what these magnificent trees do for us every day, however if these trees had all been cut down, the effect would have been felt for generations to come.

Save Shoreline Trees continues to advocate for tall mature conifers. To learn more about its strategies and activities, visit www.saveshorelinetrees.com


Updated to PermaTrak® and added link http://permatrak.com/



5 comments:

hk November 15, 2021 at 7:13 AM  

Good work, Community! Of course we would have liked to retain the trees on 160th as well, but this is a great outcome! Thank you to all who worked toward this resolution!

Kean November 15, 2021 at 9:51 AM  

Thanks for the hard work :-)

Michael Oxman November 15, 2021 at 1:19 PM  

Another project to suspend prestressed concrete over tree roots took place in 2005 at Kubota Garden, a Seattle city park. Why this practice isn't more commonly used, is beyond me.
I amazed that an award was given to an agency that was forced, against it's foot-dragging will, to perform an action that would save trees, demanded by a huge citizen urban forestry movement.
Michael Oxman
www.treedr.com

Anonymous,  November 16, 2021 at 7:50 PM  

I wonder if working with WSDOT actually improved the outcome, as opposed to all the individual contractors who are clear cutting more smaller lots to develop multiple homes where there used to be one. I do not believe city government will ever value long term benefit over short term $ gain.

Unknown November 18, 2021 at 4:50 AM  

Thank you to PermaTrak for your thoughtful and solutions-oriented approach to this situation! The concrete boardwalk turned out looking great as well.

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