Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

At tonight’s City Council study session, the four members who are taking the lead on the question of what to do with the Suzuki property–Mike Scott, Val Tollefson, Wayne Roth and Roger Townsend–gave strong guidance on the Council’s next steps in the process to choose a developer for the property and finalize plans for the site. By the end of the session, the remaining three members–Sarah Blossom, Kol Medina and Ron Peltier—appeared to concede to the near-inevitability of development of the property, and began to express their ideas and preferences for development.

The Council decided to come back to its next meeting with suggestions for the parameters of an ecological study to determine where the significant trees are located, what must be done or avoided in order to maintain their health, and what kind of buffer is needed around the pond. A hydrology study will also be done. Council members will bring to the next meeting suggestions for a firm that could do the studies.

They spent great deal of time debating whether to decide on a proposer/developer before completing the study. Ultimately, they decided to choose the developer and then work to revise the plans as a partner with the developer, retaining Council control and opportunity for community input at each stage of the process. Peltier and Medina argued that they should delay choosing a developer until the study was complete. Peltier further suggested that all of the developers should submit revised proposals once the study was complete, based on its findings. That idea was rejected by those in the majority, who preferred to proceed on “parallel tracks”–continuing to work on choosing a developer while the study was being done. They were not in favor of throwing out the work that has been done so far, and did not want to have new proposals submitted.

The Council talked about what kind of affordable housing would be included in the development. Medina suggested that they can’t pick a developer until they have identified specifically what kind of affordable housing the island needs.

To that, Tollefson replied, “We need it all,” adding that this development will not be able to fill to all the needs. The final plan could be all rental, all owned with affordability deed restrictions, or market rate units that are so small they are affordable. He believed that as serious discussion proceeds with the chosen developer, those decisions will come naturally.

One of the biggest surprises of the night came when Tollefson said he had already begun to form an opinion on which developer he might choose. He said he didn’t think the Blue team had the financial capability to do the project and as a result, wasn’t in favor of that proposal.

Tollefson also asked his colleagues for an indication of whether they are interested in the possibility of a Boys and Girls Club on the site, as envisioned under the proposal known as the Farm. Medina said that although he is against developing the site, if it is developed, he would be in favor of the club, or some kind of community center. Peltier wondered why the Boys and Girls Club can’t remain at its current location at Coppertop Business Park. The others did not express an opinion. (more…)

Read Full Post »

IMG_2996 Next week the City Council will start talking about what they want to do with the Suzuki property. There are four proposals on the table, ranging from transferring the land for free to the Parks Department, to selling it for as much as $2.6 million for higher-density development that includes at least some affordable housing. The process has generated strong opinion, because our community (and our Comprehensive Plan) place so much value on the seemingly contradictory goals of environmental stewardship and affordable housing.  In a recent interview with Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, the City’s Interim Planning Director, Joe Tovar, hit the nail on the head when he said, “So you’ve got those two things that, in the abstract, are very high rank order public policy priorities for people here on the island.”

In the abstract. Yes, of course.

People come down on the side of either pro-housing or pro-preservation (sometimes trying to split the baby by saying, “I do believe in affordable housing, just not here,” though the specific location of Not Here remains elusive). We collect data and studies about ecological value, species counts, aquifer recharge and the significance of trees, wetlands and pond. The other side counters with data and studies about housing costs, the benefits to kids from lower-income homes when they live in more affluent communities, and the heavier traffic from people who work on Bainbridge Island but must commute from off-island. A third view talks about missing middles, and the need for a wholesome refuge for island kids.

Data, careful study and analysis are important as a foundation for our decision-making, but we can’t stop there. We would do well to remember that data and studies are abstractions, in the sense that Tovar observed. Abstractions do not pull us together, but further apart, into the solitary confines of our own mental chatter, beliefs and preoccupations. They often confirm what we already believe. The realities in our community become symbols–abstractions—for global problems. We hunker down to fight the good fight, and solutions get lost in the fight.

When one abstraction collides with another in a seemingly intractable way, a good plan might be to go out into the real world, into the good air, where we know our surroundings bodily, with our eyes, and ears, our skin, our hands and feet.

There, we sense the wholeness and mystery of this Earth. There is no part of the Earth that is not touched by humans. There is no part of the human that is not touched by the Earth. We are already in profoundly consequential relationship with our home, our Mother. We are a crowded planet. Beautiful places that are good places to live become more crowded by the year. We don’t know how to protect our good, beautiful places, where people want to live. We don’t know how to provide decent housing for all people. Like every species, we engage in the daily struggle for survival, and now we face the added challenge of adapting to a changing world not of our own making, and almost entirely outside of our individual control. We are facing the unknown. Old strategies and structures no longer point the way forward.

Neither do questions that pose a false dichotomy: Environment or people? Homes for people of modest means, or homes for non-human species? Development or land preservation? Act now or delay? It is neither possible nor reality-based to try to choose between the natural environment and the fundamental needs of human beings.

For me, a more helpful question might be this: how do we have a relationship of integrity with the Earth and all her creatures, including human creatures, in this place, at this time?

It is not an easy inquiry. It requires a willingness to leave the comfort of already-formed answers. It reminds us that “community” includes all life forms — animals, moss, birds, trees, human beings–and that, as a community, we are accountable to our land, our neighborhoods and to each other. It takes us out of abstraction, and into actual, concrete experience. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The City of Bainbridge Island is hosting a series of public meetings to review and discuss the four proposals for the use of the city-owned Suzuki property.

According to a city press release:

“The first meeting will occur on Tuesday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber, and will be a three-hour special study session of the City Council. Each applicant will have the opportunity to give a half hour presentation, followed by approximately fifteen minutes for questions from Councilmembers. This meeting is open to the public and will be televised, but public comment will not be taken that evening.

“The second meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 9, in the Council Chamber, and will include both an open house and presentation component. The Open House will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be an opportunity for community members to visit with the applicants in a less formal setting. At 7:00 p.m. each applicant will give a fifteen minute formal presentation. After the presentations, there will be a question and answer period moderated by the City’s Community Engagement Specialist. The meeting will conclude with another short Open House segment to allow for additional conversation with the applicants. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The Kitsap Sun reported on Friday that the Parks Department has picked a 2.5 acre parcel at Strawberry Park for the island’s long-awaited dog park. The subject of dog parks, leashed dogs, park policy and island trails has been debated off and on for years, and heated up over the last year as the Parks Department considered the dog park options.

IMG_4170Although dog owners have supported the idea of a fenced dog park, many have also advocated for the ability to unleash their dogs on some of the Parks trails. The Parks Department maintains more than 1400 acres of developed and undeveloped parkland and 23 miles of trails.

People have suggested that communities like Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. have designated off-leash trails as well as dog parks. A so-called “shared use” was proposed, where a few of the island’s many trails would be available for off-leash recreation during well-publicized, limited times. That way people who want to walk without encountering an unleashed dog could avoid the trail at the off-leash time.

Parks Commissioner Kirk Robinson told the Sun that he wouldn’t be interested in looking at the shared use option until there is compliance with current Parks policy, which requires dogs on Parks property to be leashed at all times. Given the island’s history of lack of compliance with leash policy on Parks trails, his comment seems to rule out a shared use option altogether. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The world’s environmental problems are so huge and complex it’s hard for most of us to know how to help. Leave it to the experts and hope for the best—Congress is going to stonewall reform efforts anyway, right?

Probably. But right here on Bainbridge Island, you have a golden opportunity to make a real difference for the environment, with one decision on your power bill. And by showing City Hall how much islanders care about clean energy, your efforts could be multiplied a hundredfold!

I’m talking about Puget Sound Energy’s “Green Power” program. I didn’t know it existed until late February when our City Council discussed it.

Chart-copyUnless you participate in the Green Program, over one-third of your electrical power comes from coal, from my home state of Montana. That sparkling, pure water in Montana’s streams, rivers and groundwater for fishing, hiking, wildlife, recreation and drinking water is not so clean and pure in coal country. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Ahead of National Volunteer Week, April 6-13, here’s a piece I submitted to the City about Demi Allen, chair of the City’s Non-Motorized Committee.

21456_383645661735395_1608813028_nDemi Allen is one of the fortunate few for whom there isn’t much difference between an occupation and a calling. A business lawyer by education and experience, Allen returned to school in 2011, looking to incorporate his passions—conservation, biking, and livable communities—into his work. Last year he earned an MBA in Sustainable Business at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He sits on the board of a social entrepreneurship organization, advises nonprofits, and volunteers for social impact investment groups.

His volunteer service is local, regional and statewide. A long-time bicycle commuter, he became Chair of the City’s Non-Motorized Transportation Committee in January. He’s also secretary of the island’s bike advocacy group, Squeaky Wheels.

Community surveys show that islanders want better bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and he wants to get busy on those priorities. He says he plans to build on the years of work done by Squeaky Wheels and others, while looking for “new approaches to close the gap between where we are and where the community would like to be.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

This is great news for farmers, gardeners, environmentalists and people who eat!

Greetings, Friend of Local Food, farmers,  and Permaculture,

We would like to invite you to our first organizational meeting to create a local Tilth chapter we are calling Kitsap Tilth: Permatilth in Action.

The meeting will be Thursday, April 26th 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  It will be at OfficeXPats, on the 2nd floor of the Pavilion Building, 403 Madison Ave No, Bainbridge Island.

Our mission will be aligned with other chapters within the Washington Tilth Association.  For example, Seattle Tilth’s Mission is: inspires and educates people to grow food organically, conserve natural resources and support local food systems i order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community. Washington Tilth’s Mission is “to provide support for and promotion of biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture”.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

turtleingestingplastic_430x323.jpgI was undecided about the use of artificial turf on athletic fields when I went to last week’s meeting of the Bainbridge Island School Board. I’m a soccer, football and lacrosse mom. I understand the advantages of plastic over natural turf in lower maintence costs for cash-starved school districts, and increased resilience that allows year-round play in our soggy climate.

But I also appreciate the environmental concerns raised by Bainbridge parents like Sarah Lane, whose thoughtful essays on the hazards of artificial turf (and other environmental topics) appear on her blog, on a ledge.

Several board members seemed intrigued by artificial-turf opponent Chris Van Dyke’s suggestion for a voter initiative that would increase island sales tax by a half-penny to raise money for the maintenance of natural turf fields. But in the end, the board approved the plan to install artificial turf on the high school athletic field.

I came away from the meeting thinking the school board may have handed the community an opportunity for compromise: the island’s only stadium field can have artificial turf and we’ll bring the rest of our fields up to snuff with natural turf.

Then I read about plastic in “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman’s best-selling thought experiment about what would happen to the Earth if humans disappeared. There’s a reason plastic holds up so well to athletes and bad weather. It turned my stomach–and turned me completely against plastic fields. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The mayor declared state of emergency for the island yesterday because of the deluge, as did Governor Gregoire for Kitsap County and elsewhere. We lost Internet service for 24 hours at our house (and it’s still iffy), but were otherwise unscathed. Not so in the Manitou Beach Drive neighborhood, where across-the-road waterfront became front yard lakes and water lapping at the door.

Here are pictures from this morning, after the worst of the rain was over: (more…)

Read Full Post »

sign.jpgOver the long weekend, I received three emails about Gazzam Lake, where neighbors are spreading the word about a proposed road at Gazzam Lake Park. Seven private landowners are discussing plans with City planners to obtain access to their as-yet undeveloped parcels of property by extending Springridge Road. The extension would divide the Gazzam Lake preserve and the adjacent Close Property, currently linked by a forest trail. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »