The estuarine lagoon and freshwater wetlands of Kah Tai are the remains of an extensive estuary to Port Townsend Bay. What survives today, though diminished, is a remarkably tranquil oasis, not wilderness but still wild. The original intent of its creation should be respected, so that this gem in the heart of our community is preserved in perpetuity.
The National Park Service has posted an attractive 12-page brochure that describes Land and Water Conservation Fund (so-called 6(f)(3)) protections in accessible language that anyone can appreciate. It provides useful examples of what is required for a conversion of protected park land. If you would like to become better informed about what federal protections exist for Kah Tai, this is a good place to start. Note that the links at the lower right of this page include the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office and the National Park Service LWCF sites, which have all the documentation you could ever need. The brochure can be found at the National Park Service link if you follow the link to the left column on the NPS page and then click on 'compliance responsibilities & legal protection'. The brochure is posted mid-page as 'LWCF Stewardship Booklet'. Don't miss the useful information in all the other pdfs posted there.
The RCO link on the lower right of this page takes you to some our favorite words, all the way at the bottom of the page there:
Long-term Commitments for Funded Projects
All property acquired or developed with Land and Water Conservation Fund grants must be kept forever exclusively for public outdoor recreation use.
A few facts for those who haven't quite come to grips with the reality of permanent protections for Kah Tai:
Direct quotes from the Leader in italics:
23 June 2010 Leader article concerning a meeting that took place with Mr. David Timmons (City), Mr. Larry Crockett and Mr. Jim Pivarnik (Port), Ms. Heather Ramsay (NPS) and Mr. Jim Anest (RCO) in Seattle:
In that meeting, Anest told Timmons and Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Larry Crockett that it was the NPS’s position that all of the property is subject to the (6) (f) rule. “So it was left that the port had to present some evidence to the contrary to get the matter resolved,” Timmons said.
When LWCF funds and required private matching support are used to create a park, it is the whole park that is provided federal 6(f) protection. This position was made clear by a quote from NPS administrator, Heather Ramsay, provided in a June 30, 2010, Leader article: “Our position in general is when the maps are unclear, we look at who signed the contract and what they owned at the time the grant closed.” The Port was an equal applicant on the original grant, signing all relevant contacts and certainly owned the disputed parcels when the grant closed.
The posted map (click map to enlarge) is the draft ownership map agreed to by the City, RCO and NPS and sent to the Port for a response at the end of November, 2010. That response is expected by 31 December 2010.
If you care about the Park, please try to attend the Port Commissioners' meeting on 22 December at 3:30 pm in the Port chambers at Point Hudson. The Commissioners will decide whether to extend the Letter of Intent they signed last year with proponents of Park development.
A motion to extend the Letter of Intent for development in the Park died for lack of a second at the Port Commissioners' meeting on December 8. The Commissioners decided to await the advice of counsel with regard to the National Park Service's recent draft opinion that the entire boundary of the Nature Park should be protected in perpetuity.
The Commissioners have scheduled a meeting for December 22 at 3:30 pm in order to allow their attorneys to examine 30 years of records about the creation and status of the Park. If you are in interested in the fate of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, this would also be a good meeting to attend.
On Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 3:30 p.m., the Port Townsend Port Commissioners will discuss potential renewal of the Letter of Intent they signed a year ago to allow development of Port land in the Nature Park. It appears that the City, State and Federal offices involved in the creation of the Nature Park will soon rule that all land within the Park boundaries is protected in perpetuity (called 6(f)(3) protections in National Park Service documents). If you're interested in the future of Kah Tai, this would be a good meeting to attend. The meeting will be in Commission Chambers at the Port Administration Office Building, 375 Hudson Street, Point Hudson.
Admiralty Audubon has now released a comprehensive yearlong survey of bird species observed in the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. Ninety bird species were documented in the Park during daylight hours, with 2/3 of those land-based species. The high diversity of species and the predominance of land-based species may surprise those who regard the Park simply as a brackish lagoon full of mallard ducks. Maturing uplands provide high-quality food, cover and nesting areas.
In 1978, the US Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated forty threatened habitats in the State of Washington. Kah Tai Lagoon ranked as the tenth most threatened. Note in the table (click to enlarge) that Kah Tai (still at 100 acres, before land was lost to pending commercial development) is 3.5 times smaller than the next smallest habitat ranked above it, and usually hundreds of times smaller than locations ranked above it. Kah Tai's species value ranking is very high for such a small habitat and its threat level is also very elevated. Kah Tai was ranked with high education and recreation values and low development and management costs.
The report section on Kah Tai concludes: "The Kah Tai Lagoon is a controversial local issue. Despite designation as a park and open space, the area is still receiving pressure for development. Management scenarios are basically nonconsumptive and include interpretation, education, wildlife observation, and scientific study" (p.58).
The full report is in the public domain, available at more than 100 US university libraries. It is available to read online, courtesy of Hathi Digital Trust, at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951002875369y (Important fish and wildlife habitat of Washington: an inventory (1978). US Fish and Wildlife Service 85 pp.)
Robert Wilder was the Director of the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) for Washington State throughout the process that led to the creation of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. His signature is found on virtually every relevant document. After the groundbreaking ceremony for the Park to be developed on the land south of the lagoon, Director Wilder sent a letter, dated 20 August 1985, to Port Townsend Park Superintendent Kevin Burke, along with his congratulations to the City leaders, the Park Board and citizens "for their vision and dedication...the Kah Tai Lagoon Park is unique and has an opportunity to be a wonderful community asset...a park that the citizens of Port Townsend will be able to look upon with great pride." With that letter he included the poem reprinted here (click on poem to enlarge).
The effort to protect Kah Tai Lagoon from development in the 1970s came with considerable costs, both financial and personal.
One of many fund-raising efforts was the creation of woodblock images of Kah Tai Lagoon by Port Townsend artists. Pictured is the contribution by Rod Freeman, entitled 'Skating, Winter 1962'.
In the October 27, 2010 Port Townsend Leader, two locals answer the question:
'You know you're an oldtimer if...' by listing the memories that only someone who was here 30 or more years ago would recognize.
One oldtimer includes 'Ice skating on the lagoon pond' in his list.
The second oldtimer includes 'Mayors Joe Steve and Barney McClure' in his list.
For those of us who aren't oldtimers, it was on Mayor Joe Steve's watch that the lagoon 'flats' were nearly destroyed with a proposed planned unit development strip mall. And on Mayor Barney McClure's watch, two grants were submitted to the National Park Service (1981) and the Washington Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (1983). These grants allowed the purchase of private lands to consolidate the park perimeter and the development of the small lagoon, trails, restroom, shelters and play areas now present in the Park. The use of NPS funds to develop the Park stipulates that the entire Park be protected in perpetuity.
The unpronounceable speech Of storms, the lyrical words of the sun are lovers That ripple in blue bodies.
The lagoon is still, more than itself, Willing our worlds away. In sleep it opens And floods the mystical world we awake to forget.
Once gone it is gone. We are not important enough To walk with nature, crawling toward The oblivious lily with impassioned shears.
Those that condemn to death what they can’t repair Will search in darkness for the center not in them, Hauled down and drained in the sweaty torchlight Where the hungry jury watches - the Auk, its beak clacking, Our snuffed and exiled, children of the last whale, Waiting in the lasting darkness for our flesh.
Each spire above the lagoon grows toward dead altitude. The running walk of the plover, the heron mining in the shallows, The buoyant stars--dust raised by the first wheel.
To save one of any thing, to refrain from swallowing The delirious elixirs, to plant and not cut down; these Are the beautiful lights the closed eye can’t see.
In the water a star is drinking beside a gull, Fragile kinship, as the lagoon, from us, fades.
The transfer of all public lands to the City (including Port, PUD and County holdings) within the boundary of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park was intended to occur within the time frame of the federal LWCF grant received in 1981. Numerous references to this expectation exist in the public record. However, as early as 1980, Port officials were speculating about receipt of 'fair market value' from the City for such an exchange.
In its 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, the Port insists it is the caretaker and steward of PUBLICLY-OWNED lands. WE, the public, own the lands the Port manages. So, the Port wants to sell OUR land to US, and the Port wants US to pay US fair market value for land WE already own. How does that work?
What is fair market value? If the Port assumes that Kah Tai land can be commercially developed, the 'value' is considerable. But Kah Tai land is protected in perpetuity as an outdoor wildlife park by the Federal stipulations of the funding accepted in 1981. And why should fair market value even be a consideration? The Revised Code of Washington is reasonably clear about the subject:
RCW 39.33.010: (1) The state or any municipality or any political subdivision thereof, may sell, transfer, exchange, lease or otherwise dispose of any property, real or personal, or property rights, including but not limited to the title of real property, to the state or any municipality or any political subdivision thereof, or the federal government, on such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed upon by the proper authorities of the state and/or the subdivisions concerned.
Those 'terms and conditions' could allow the transfer for one dollar. It's OUR dollar after all. Does it really matter which one of our PUBLIC pockets it is in?
Join the Friends of Kah Tai for a community meeting, 25 August at 6:00 pm at the Uptown Community Center (corner of Lawrence and Tyler).
An audiovisual presentation and displays of historic images and documents will provide opportunities for discussion. Locals can reminisce and newcomers can hear for the first time about what promises were made, what commitments must be honored, and what the meaning of 'perpetuity' is.
"A new footbridge was installed at the city's Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park on May 2, 2003. The original bridge was removed in December 2002 but found to be beyond repair. The Port Townsend Shipwright's Co-op, which built the original bridge, donated some of the labor for the new bridge. Edensaw Woods donated the purple heart and ipe wood, and Julian Arthur donated his crane services. The net cost to the city is roughly $7000, City Manager David Timmons said. Photo by Barney Burke." [Port Townsend Leader, 7May03]
Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park continues to benefit from the commitment and generosity of many Port Townsend citizens. In 2001, Kah Tai was adopted by the Kah Tai Alliance as the first Port Townsend Adopt-A-Park.
In 2003, The Port of Port Townsend prepared an update of its Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements as required by Washington State (RCW Chapter 53.20). These Schemes are generally updated every 20 years (Scheme Process Introduction 1.2, p.I-1) to communicate to the public a port district’s proposed capital expenditures. An extensive public participation process was used for the updated Scheme, including a diverse advisory committee, a project website, several public workshops, and a public comment period before final adoption.
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considered alternatives and cumulative environmental impacts of those alternatives was also a State requirement and formed the basis of a 300-page document prepared by the engineering consultant firm Reid-Middleton. The 21 acres within the boundary of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park were included among the nine Port properties reviewed in the EIS. The draft Scheme proposed three alternative scenarios for the Port’s Kah Tai property:
Alternative 1.a. Use part of the site for commercial, retail, or mixed use (sell or lease) and retain the remainder as open space/park.
Alternative 1.b. Develop all usable portions of land for commercial, retail or mixed use, and/or dry boat storage
Alternative 2. Open Space and/or Park Option (No Action and Preferred Alternative)
The EIS evaluation of these Alternatives concluded that any development would result in:
degradation and loss of upland habitat,
adverse impacts to the wetland,
potential impacts on drainage and water quality,
diminished valuable greenspace and passive recreation park.
Eighty-five percent of the written public comments received by the Port dealt specifically or exclusively with the future of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. All of those comments recommended in the strongest terms that the Park be protected in its entirety from future development of any kind.
Alternative 2 – Open Space and/or Park Option- was officially adopted by the Port Commission. This meant that the Port intended NO planned development of any kind in the Park for the next 20 years (Chapter 7, pp. VII-2, VII-3 and VII-4) and stated an intention to "sell the entire site to a public entity, such as the City of Port Townsend, for development as a park, or the Port will retain the property and maintain it as a park and/or open space (p. 205)."
An image from the presentation entitled 'Respecting the Kah Tai Legacy' by the Friends of Kah Tai to the Rotary on 27 July 2010.
The pointing hand highlights the signatures of then-City Mayor Barney McClure and then-Port Commission President Stacey Thompson as equal 'Contracting Parties' agreeing to the terms of the grant contract with the Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation to develop a 78.5-acre park. Note also that the Port and City shared an attorney in 1981, suggesting an excellent working relationship between the two bodies at the time of the grant submission.
The National Park Service states that the permanent, protected boundary of any park created with federal LWCF funds is established by two facts: who signed the grant proposal and what property did those signers own at the closing of the grant? Further, if ANY parcel of land included in a park is purchased with federal funds, ALL parcels are equally subject to federal protections. The 1981 acquisition grant to purchase private lands around the perimeter of the Kah Tai Lagoon was signed by the City and the Port of Port Townsend as equal co-sponsors. At the grant's closing in 1985, all the colored lots in the City's 2010 map (shown) were owned by the Port (purple), the City (blue) and County (orange). The City subsequently purchased all County lots in 2004. The permanent boundary seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?
It's a little worse for wear but still holding up after more than two decades. The sign on the Kah Tai picnic shelter indicates the sources of government funding received by Port Townsend to acquire private lands and develop the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. The Department of the Interior (NPS), the Washington State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) and the incredible generosity of many local citizens created our oasis of tranquility. Let's honor those commitments and protect the Park in perpetuity for future citizens.
Excerpted from The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Program Manual: "The LWCF Act of 1965 was enacted...to assist in preserving, developing, and assuring accessibility...to outdoor recreation resources...to increase the number of protected state and local outdoor recreation resources and to ensure their availability for public use in perpetuity."
LWCF is intended to encourage sound planning and long-term partnerships to expand the quantity and to ensure the quality of needed state and local outdoor recreation resources. The LWCF State Assistance Program provides matching grants to States, and through the States to local governments, for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities.
Excerpted from the Project Description for the 1981 LWCF grant co-sponsored by the City of Port Townsend and the Port of Port Townsend that funded the purchase of private properties to develop the Park: "This acquisition project of approximately 78.5 acres through donation, land transfer, and purchase, is designed to consolidate under the ownership of the City the contiguous land along the perimeters of Kah Tai Lagoon, thereby enabling the City to plan and develop a municipal passive park around the Lagoon."
The Community meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Tree Advisory Board (24 June) was well-attended and citizens spoke up in strong support of preserving current natural habitat. The mail-in survey conducted earlier indicated that 94.5% of people who responded place a high value on parkland.
The 7th 'Whereas' in City Resolution 09-029 establishing the current PRT Board states:
'WHEREAS many elements of the Functional Plan remain to be implemented including master park planning for specific parks and acquisition of parcels of land to secure and expand Kah Tai lagoon nature park...'
For the complete resolution text, go to Resolution 09-029 to download it or read it online.
If you would like to sign the petition to protect Kah Tai from commercial development, send an email using the contact link in the right column. If you would like to be on a Friends of Kah Tai email list, use the contact link to let us know.
The next Jefferson Transit Authority board meeting will be in the Mountain View Commons on 20 April. Deadline for submission of public letters and comments to be considered at the meeting is Monday, April 12.