Friday, December 7, 2012

update on transfer progress

Following is information provided to City Council prior to the December 3 meeting, edited somewhat for tense and clarity.

The Dec. 3 Council agenda included under the City Manager’s report – Update on City-Port Kah Tai Agreement.  The purpose of the report was “update only.” There was no “new news.”

The effort is on track with the Port and state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) to implement and finalize the City-Port Agreement. There haven’t been any glitches or points of controversy. It is taking longer than expected in part due to the number of details that need to be covered.  Staff are working with drafts of 9 new documents, plus an escrow agreement.
  1. Quit claim deed (QCD) City to Port for City Dock and Union Wharf .
  2. QCD City to Port (non-right of way/non Larry Scott Trail in Boat Haven).
  3. QCD Port to City for Port Kah Tai Property.
  4. QCD Port to City for Port dedication at Haines Place
  5. Amendment to Project Agreement – City Dock.
  6. Amendment to Project Agreement – Union Wharf Pier.
  7. Amendment to Project Agreement – Union Wharf Transient Moorage.
  8. Amendment to Project Agreement – Kah Tai.
  9. 6f map delineating the boundaries of Kah Tai – both City and Port property – that would be subject to the federal grant restriction (passive park that preserves natural functions).
All drafts are prepared, and have gone through some early iterations.  The Port has reviewed and approved draft deeds, and commented to the RCO on draft project amendment language.  The Port’s comments are consistent with the City-Port Agreement, including, clarify the grant agreement to allow uses that are consistent with the City’s SMP and that do not interfere with public access, like fish and chips stand (dock/pier access issues).  It is not reported whether the project amendments are being reviewed by NPS or only RCO, but the ball is in their court at the moment.  The draft 6f map (which has gone through a couple of versions) is being reviewed by both RCO and NPS (and ball is in their court on this as well).  The area for the project amendments and for the conveyance of the QCDs is waterward of a now surveyed “demark line” (which is generally the seawall.)  One additional outstanding task might be the need for a survey at Haines Place at the corner of Sims to identify the portion of the Port property being dedicated for future intersection improvements – this is a work in progress.

 The escrow agreement between the City, Port and RCO provides a process spelling out how original documents would be processed and delivered to First American Title in escrow, and then handled by First American. The concept is that signed and approved original documents would be placed in escrow at First American, to be released and recorded as part of an inter-related package. The draft Agreement provides that once documents are placed with escrow, the title company would record the deeds, and then the map and project amendments would be released to RCO as final (they would not be final until the deeds were recorded).

At present, staff cannot predict a likely timeframe. Certainly, 2 months would be the earliest. It’s probably going to take a week or two (or more) to just get docs, once final, circulated for signatures and delivered to First American.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

an 'urban refuge' for birds

Flyways Map from National Audubon
The Kah Tai bird survey continues to make friends and influence people. The headline in the Peninsula Daily News this morning is: "An 'urban refuge' for birds; Audubon lauds lagoon".

We had attended a Monday morning County Commissioners' meeting to hand out copies of the report to the Commissioners. The PDN reporter at the Commissioner's meeting accepted a copy, read it and asked a few questions. Then he quoted it extensively and only got a few facts bent a little in the re-telling. It's easy enough to still think that the park is protected because it was purchased with federal grant money, as the article says. The story is more complicated than that. Private parcels incorporated into the park were bought with federal and state funds. Public lands were intended to be included at no cost. But all the land within the boundary is protected if any of it was purchased with federal LWCF dollars. That's how LWCF parks work.

Last weekend, the report was handed to the President of National Audubon and to the Vice President for the Pacific Flyway at a meeting of Washington Audubon in Poulsbo. Kah Tai is a resting, nesting and feeding stop on the Pacific Flyway. That fact was noted more than 30 years ago in the documents supporting the grant proposal that created the park. Recently, National Audubon has re-organized to align with the flyways that migratory birds utilize. Our park is habitat on a migratory flight path that for some species runs from the Arctic to the tip of South America. And it just got a little more recognition.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

a park for many purposes

photos by Julie Jaman

Sunday, August 12, 2012

in memoriam: Frank D'Amore

click on image to enlarge
In the archives of the Friends of Kah Tai is a letter signed by Frank D'Amore and Peggy Albers. In November 1982 they wrote an open letter to all 'Friends of Kah Tai Lagoon' to raise funds for the legal bills associated with "the protective lawsuits which prevented short-sighted destruction of the area...filed on behalf of all of us who appreciate Kah Tai Lagoon and share the values which the Lagoon Park represents...".

We have all lost a friend, even those of us who never got to know Frank D'Amore.  Our community has lost one of our longtime visionaries, who made a difference from the scale of the Marine Science Center right down to our daily bread. Heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

the end of July and a sigh of relief

Male Ruddy Duck in full breeding plumage at Kah Tai
July 31, 2012 is a date that held considerable concern for those who want to protect Kah Tai. It is the day that the 30-year Kah Tai lease between the City and Port has been set to expire. And here we are, on July 31, 2012. The lease is still in place while the final details are completed for the long-awaited transfer of the Port's Kah Tai holdings to the City.  That status quo for the Park's management is spelled out in '1. Escrow Account Established' in Exhibit A of the Joint Resolution signed by the City and Port on May 21, 2012.

Meanwhile, back at the Park:

Admiralty Audubon's Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park bird survey report is now complete! The report's cover image is seen above, courtesy David Gluckman.

From October 2009 to October 2011, Admiralty Audubon chapter birders conducted 52 daylight surveys of birds in the park. Two-thirds of the species counted in the survey are land-based birds, utilizing the maturing uplands of the park. Ninety-eight species and their seasonal distributions were counted during the surveys.

In the process of analysing the survey results, we were fortunate to locate in the Friends of Kah Tai's archives five historic bird lists from Kah Tai, including one undertaken by AAS chapter founder, Eleanor Stopps, and first chapter president, Bernard Beck, from 1978-1979. The historic lists were incorporated into the analysis. The Park's historic species list is now documented at 150, as a new species was added a couple of weeks ago - Western Kingbird.

AAS has just completed a data- and photo-rich presentation of the survey results. It provides a brief overview of park history, a useful guide to what birds you might expect to see at any given visit and some excellent photography of the birds at Kah Tai. If you'd like an electronic copy of the report, you can download it at It is approximately 2.7 MB.

Printed copies of the report will be available in limited numbers soon. Check back on the AAS website for more information.

Monday, July 30, 2012

now that we're here, it seems so easy

On July 16th, City Council moved forward with the majority of City actions needed to complete the transfer of the Port's Kah Tai lands to the City.  Specifically, they passed Ordinances 3078 and 3079 unanimously for first reading. The first ordinance will amend nonconforming use provisions  in Chapters 17.88 and 20.01 of the Municipal Code. The second will vacate rights of way in the Boat Haven. Council approved unanimously Resolution 12-030, which will lead to the transfer of City's ownership interest (except for Pope Marine Building) in City Dock and Union Wharf, and the abandoned railroad line in the boat haven (but not any part affecting the Larry Scott Trail).

They held Ordinance 3080 which would vacate a portion of Madison Street ROW associated with City Dock due to some issues about underlying property servitudes (remember RCO and perpetuity?) to be discussed by the full negotiating committee. Council approved unanimously a first reading of Ordinance 3081 repealing Municipal Code Chapter 5.46 pertaining to City Dock and Union Wharf use regulations and charges, and passed unanimously Ordinance 3082, amending Municipal Code Chapter 13.05 about utility rates and added section 13.05.055 Boat Haven - Exemption From Stormwater Fees.

On July 25th, The Port Commission held their formal hearing to surplus their Kah Tai holdings. With no objections and only one public comment (in support), the Commission agreed that the Port Administration will draft a resolution to finalize the transfer to the City to be considered (signed) at their next meeting.

See how easy this is? Or at least it looks easy sitting in the bleachers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

protecting public parkland

The complicated process required to transfer the Port's Kah Tai holdings to the City is well underway and moving along rapidly. One completely unexpected consequence can be read at the link below. Who knew that the primary voice for developing Kah Tai these last 30-odd years could have had a change of heart so complete that we now find protecting Kah Tai held up as the model for protecting public land from development?

On 14 June 2012, the Port Townsend Planning Commission forwarded to City Council the necessary Municipal Code changes with regard to nonconforming uses, and City Council passed Ordinance 3075 on 18 June 2012. Next up is a City Council hearing on 16 July 2012 addressing right-of-way vacations in the Boat Haven and other issues prior to property transfers.  Also look for a Port hearing soon to provide guidance and permission for the Port Manager to schedule the necessary public process to surplus their Kah Tai land so it can be transferred.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

illegal conversions of LWCF parks

An MSNBC article posted this week gives us a vivid picture of what sort of bullet we managed to dodge in our efforts to protect Kah Tai. Parks created with LWCF funds have been illegally converted all over the US.

The most effective tool that NPS has in the effort to protect parks created with LWCF funds is an interested and vigilant public that requires local governments to honor their commitments. NPS can apply penalties to local governments that illegally convert parks, but it still is a matter of asking forgiveness and not permission if the damage is already done. If Kah Tai was converted, the City and Port would be required to provide replacement land elsewhere with the same citizen access and habitat value.

We have wildlife habitat that has taken nearly 50 years to develop after the dredge spoils were dumped in 1964. That habitat has been fostered with considerable citizen effort since park creation in 1981. Kah Tai is unique. It is irreplaceable.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

conflict averted, for now

This cartoon from The Atlantic magazine, September 2010, has been perched quietly in the computer, waiting to be Photoshopped a little and posted. It just needed a label on that awning and some greenery along the path and it would have represented a future we dreaded for Kah Tai. Perhaps the street signs could have been labeled 'Hell' and 'High Water'. There's no telling what is ahead for Kah Tai, but it is likely it won't look like this in our lifetimes, now that the Port and City have a swap in the works.

A new article in the science journal Nature speculates, with considerable supporting data, that loss of biodiversity is increasingly likely to be a tipping point for irreversible change in the coming years. A diverse ecosystem is far better suited to respond to rapidly changing conditions. When we're down to urban habitat fit only for pigeons and English sparrows, we won't stand much of a chance at survival. Our own little urban habitat at Kah Tai boasts nearly 100 documented daylight bird species. Native plant species increase in number and diversity with diligent effort by many concerned citizens. It is our own small contribution to a buffer for the ecosystem at large.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

this park is for the birds

Although the Leader had a nice article about the May 21st joint City/Port meeting, it isn't on their public website so a link isn't available. However, the Peninsula Daily News did provide a good article about the meeting on their website:

It isn't over yet, but the news is more hopeful than it's ever been for Kah Tai.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

all together now, say 'thank you'

For once, the news in the Leader is so complete that it's been hard to find anything more to add. The news is also incredibly hopeful.

On May 21st, the City Council and Port Commission will hold a joint meeting at the Cotton Building at 7:30 pm, to vote on the peace treaty worked out by their respective staff and elected members. Once passed, the treaty places all relevant parcels and other real estate into escrow until every detail has been completed. When escrow closes, the 6(f)(3) boundary of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, as affirmed by RCO and NPS, will be intact.

We can call this effort historic. The last time the City and Port undertook this level of compromise was just over three decades ago, when majorities of both bodies agreed to create Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.

It is always useful to reinforce good acts with acknowledgement, whether or not the motives for those good acts are entirely altruistic. Both the City and Port could use a 'thank you' from members of the public at the meeting.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

a force of nature

Eleanor Stopps died on Wednesday morning, 25 April 2012. Information can be found at both the Leader and the Peninsula Daily News.

Her friends and family are planning a memorial/tribute sculpture in her honor and with her agreement. More information will be posted as it is forthcoming.

UPDATE: an account has been established for donations to commission a sculpture honoring Eleanor. Follow this link for the latest news.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

this island is for the birds

The Peninsula Daily News reports that Eleanor Stopps has terminal pancreatic cancer. If you don't know who she is, you might want to read the article at the link below. She founded Admiralty Audubon in 1977 and is responsible for the establishment of Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge.

What the article does not say is that Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park also benefited from her advocacy. As one small example, back in 1978-79, she and Bernard Beck, the first president of Admiralty Audubon, did a year-long bird survey at Kah Tai that documented bird populations for the LWCF grant proposal. Her efforts placed Kah Tai on the list of 'important wildlife habitats in the state of Washington' that was compiled by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1978.

And you might also not know that the motto for the Protection Island campaign was 'This island is for the birds'. There is a bumper sticker in town these days that says 'Kah Tai Park is for the birds'. The sentiment has a rich history.

Her family indicates that she would appreciate letters and cards, which can be sent to Eleanor Stopps at Harbor Place at Cottesmore, 1016 29th St. N.W., No. 20, Gig Harbor, WA 98335.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Myth of the Toxic Lagoon: Much Ado About Nothing

ECY sampling locations, 2001 (click to enlarge).
We've all heard the rumors. Trees die at Kah Tai because of toxins. The park is unsafe - it's just toxic dredge spoils. The lagoon is contaminated by - pick your source: a former auto repair shop, a former lumber yard, an old wire and nail company, trains dumping old batteries off the trestles.

All those rumors are based on a curious primary source - a single 1986 heavy metals study performed at the request of the Port of Port Townsend by a group of Shoreline Community College students. The students analysed samples from the lagoon and the boatyard. But what they did not sample was the park uplands.

When fragments of the 1986 report were uncovered by City staff in 2000, there was no map with the data. It wasn't clear where the samples were collected. City staff sent the disjointed information they did have to the State Department of Health (DOH). DOH staff did a preliminary evaluation of that information and in early 2001 recommended further sampling to determine if the park uplands were indeed contaminated. In 2001, the State Department of Ecology (ECY) prepared a sampling protocol and planned a rapid response. Locally, it was suggested in the media that remediation would be cheaper if the uplands were used for industry as contamination standards were less stringent than for a park.

And then, the record went silent. Calls to DOH suggested that they hadn't followed up. Were samples taken? It wasn't clear. People moved on. The park's reputation remained clouded. Local media were quick to leap at the contamination story, but not so agile at following it to the truth.

In March 2012, a complete copy of the 1986 report was unearthed in the archives maintained by the Friends of Kah Tai. It contained a sampling map. No samples had been taken from the park uplands by the college students. The 'serious' cadmium contamination consisted of a single, unreplicated sample taken in a corner of the lagoon itself, and that concentration was notable against a freshwater background, but not against seawater. The lagoon is brackish.

Emails to DOH brought back copies of the same preliminary 2001 reports and recommendations, plus one new document - a list of samples collected in 2001 by ECY.

ECY responded: there's nothing here at headquarters. Maybe in our southwest archives facility?

SW ECY responded: there's a two inch pile of documents in the archives; do you really want copies of all of it?

The summary of the full report states, "...the Kah Tai Lagoon site does not pose a threat to human health or environment." No further action was advised. The full report demonstrates that Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park uplands are not contaminated by heavy metals or anything else measured by DOH or ECY. Modern analytical methods show no contamination of human or ecological significance anywhere in the lagoon, wetlands or uplands. Another urban myth bites the dust.

Friday, March 9, 2012

and the work continues

late winter (2012) at Kah Tai. Photo by J Jaman
In 1985, a staff member of the Burke Museum was asked to comment on a shoreline variance permit request for the development of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.  Dr. Dennis R. Paulson, Affiliate Curator, examined the vegetation zone management plan and found it 'conceptually valid'. He expressed considerable familiarity with Kah Tai's unique history and with the difficulties of 'planning habitat management for wildlife and for educational purposes'.

He concluded his 31 July 1985 comment to the Jefferson-Port Townsend Shoreline Management Advisory Commission:

"It will be very important to selectively remove plants from and add them to the site, as it is developed, both on a species and an individual basis, and I think the plans to accomplish this are in agreement with the stated permit goals. I am pleased to see such an enlightened treatment of an area that could easily have been discarded as a weedbed of no value to the community or, conversely, developed for active recreational use with no regard for its natural value."

Nearly 30 years later, the work continues. On 25 February 2012, 50 more native trees and shrubs were planted at Kah Tai, using as guidance the twelve-zone vegetation plan reviewed by Dr. Paulson. Nearly 30 years later, he is described online as an 'internationally respected ornithologist and former director of the Slater Museum of Natural History'. The PT Leader press release for that planting event, as well as an interesting (and classically Port Townsend) thread of comments, can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

City Workshop about Parks Plan, 23 February 2012, 6:30 pm

The Port Townsend Planning Commission and Parks, Recreation and Tree Board will hold a joint workshop (February 23, 2012, 6:30 pm, City Council chambers) to accept public comment on the second draft of the Parks Functional Plan update. The Parks Plan must be consistent with our City's Comprehensive Plan.

The format of that public comment is not clear, as it will be facilitated by City staff (see agenda and associated documents at One of the concerns that staff intends to address is in Agenda Section V.3.d.: "Given the purpose of the parks plan, how much descriptive text and history should it contain?"

This concern may be related to efforts by the Friends of Kah Tai Board to insert relevant park history into the draft Parks Plan. You may examine a part of that editing effort at:

City staff should be reminded that we are all in the middle of this current exercise BECAUSE the history and unique standing of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park was forgotten by both the City and the Port, and all local government's copies of relevant documents were not safeguarded. If the City and Port had been diligent stewards of history, they would not now be on opposing sides in a lawsuit that extends to the National Park Service, trying to resurrect Kah Tai's history and determine our park's future.

You can support this process by attending the meeting and/or by emailing your concerns to the City about the following points:

For the Parks Plan update:

1. Language should be inserted in the Parks Plan to clarify that any proposed future use for Kah Tai allow only 'passive outdoor recreation that is compatible with wildlife habitat'.

2. Longterm planning should include the transfer of the Port's Kah Tai land to the City.

3. Park history belongs in the parks plan in order that City staff and the public can be reminded of what is, and is not, appropriate for a park given its history and status.

For the Comprehensive Plan update:

4. Add to the Comprehensive Plan Glossary the definitions of four park categories that are now in the draft Parks Plan update: pocket/mini parks, neighborhood parks, community parks and natural/open space parks.

If you would like more information or to be emailed copies of the relevant documents, please send an email.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

revisionist history

The intent of the 1981 City/Port LWCF acquistion grant was to purchase all available private parcels and transfer all public parcels at Kah Tai to City ownership. When the grant closed in 1985, the public parcels had not yet been transferred, but the PUD and County parcels are now in City hands. The City and Port were grant cosponsors but the Port's land has still not made it into City ownership.

Things were pretty quiet for a decade or so after park creation, but in 1996, the City completed its Comprehensive Plan, designating Kah Tai as Public/Open Space (P/OS) as it had been since 1968. The Port cites City Resolution 97-08 as confirmation from the City that the Port can file for any redesignation it chooses for its Kah Tai land when a 1982 lease expires in July 2012. The implication is that the Resolution arose as an outcome of a Port appeal before the Western Washington Growth Management Board against the City.

A few facts are missing from that rendition of history. The Port did not apparently file a GMHB appeal against the City. Petition no. 96-2-0029 was filed by Jefferson County Homebuilders against the City on 13 September 1996. The Port filed to intervene on 11 October 1996, just prior to the prehearing conference. GMHB documents indicate that the Port didn't submit a brief on its concerns at the hearing on 14 November 1996.

To appease the Port, the City agreed to language stipulating that like any other landowner, the Port had a right to ask for a redesignation at the end of the lease and also that any future Council was not bound to approve a redesignation. The agreement was sufficient for the Port to withdraw its intervention from the appeal in January 1997. This was unfortunate, because the GMHB found in favor of the City shortly thereafter.

The mystery is how the City and Port managed to go before the GMHB and never once mention that all the Kah Tai land in dispute had been committed by federal grant to a park more than a decade earlier. One wonders what the GMH Board might have said to the Port if it knew the Port was trying to redesignate federally protected park land for commercial use.

Some would like us to believe that since the City does not own the Port parcels at Kah Tai, those parcels are no longer part of the park come August 2012. The reality is more interesting. In August 2012, our park will managed by a two-headed monster,  two municipalities at odds and with no lease agreement between them. But both will be required to manage the park by LWCF standards.

If you have concerns about threats to our park or believe that it is not being protected as required by LWCF rules, contact our National Park Service field office (Seattle 206-220-4123, Federal Grant No. 53-00486) or our Washington State Agency (360-902-3000, State Grant No. 81-043A).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Kah Tai

The Friends of Kah Tai Board of Directors recently submitted testimony to the City Planning Office with regard to the upcoming Comprehensive Plan Amendment hearing. The hearing will include consideration of an amendment proposed to insert protective language for Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park into the Comprehensive Plan. There are several versions proposed for the Amendment. The Friends of Kah Tai submitted the first iteration back in February 2011. The City followed suit with its own version. The Admiralty Audubon Society developed language based on wording found in the original grant documents. 

The Friends combined these various versions of language and propose the following language to be included as a Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

"We respectfully submit this as written testimony for consideration of amendments to be adopted for Item 2.5 Kah Tai Lagoon Park Policy (LUP11-015) and request the following be included in the City of Port Townsend Year 2011 Comprehensive Plan:

4.5.1 Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park shall be designed and managed in accordance with the legal obligations assumed under the 1981 Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Acquisition Grant.
4.5.1a Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park shall be maintained so as to allow only passive outdoor recreation uses that preserve and enhance the natural habitat of the lagoon, wetlands, buffers, and uplands."