2010 Letters

[The two posts below were online comments to a Leader article on December 15.]

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Article comment by:  Deborah Jahnke

The  motion to extend the LOI died for lack of a second. I don't think that  is the same thing at all as being tabled. The motion was made twice by Commissioner Thompson and both times, neither Commissioner Erickson nor  Commissioner Collins would second it.

The statement in the  article: "If the property was purchased with grant money from the Land  and Water Conservation Fund, it is federally protected for passive  recreation use only under what is called the “(6)(f) rule”" doesn't go  quite far enough.

What the LWCF manual indicates is: If any of  the property within the boundary was purchased with LWCF money, then all  property is generally protected. LWCF stipulations protect the whole  park even if only one small parcel was purchased with LWCF funds. The  City, State RCO and Federal NPS agree on the draft map in the article:  all property owned or controlled at the close of the grant is marked 6f.  Note that 6f designation includes all rights way of in the flats.

What  Ms. Ramsay of NPS says in the Leader's June 30 article is, "Our  position in general is when the maps are unclear, we look at who signed  the contract and what they owned at the time grant closed."

'What  they, the port and city, owned'. Not what was purchased. If the Park  consisted of only what was purchased with LWCF funds, it would consist  of 8.5 acres, mostly underwater.

And most importantly, the LWCF  does not buy public lands. They did not buy Port land, or City land, or  County land or PUD land. It is already public land.  Those parcels are  the public's commitment to the creation of a permanent park.

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Article comment by:  Richard Jahnke

This  article is welcome in that it clears the air by showing, by the 6F  designation in the legend, that all of the Port lands and City lands and  Rights of Way are judged to be protected land. This position was  clearly stated by the State's RCO staff member, Jim Anest as quoted in a  Leader article published on June 23, 2010:  "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. "

Unfortunately, this article perpetuates the  urban myth suggesting that the protected lands are restricted to the  small parcels that were actually purchased with LWCF funds.  That is  factually incorrect or at least misleading.  The federal government does  not make temporary parks nor do private individuals donate their lands  to the public domain to create temporary parks and temporary open space.  Remember, 25% of the total cost of the land acquisition to create the  park was provided by private donation.  Their heirs would be surprised  to know that potential inheritance that was given up for the public good  has been diminished because the associated public lands are now back on  the market.

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 the 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.  LWCF funds were most certainly not used to purchase any  of the Port lands - but it is a myth to think it matters.

Port Townsend Leader December 15, 2010

Thanks to port for Kah Tai talks
Thank you, Commissioners Collins, Erickson and Thompson, for encouraging public comment and for listening to what was said by nearly 30 speakers at the Port of Port Townsend Commission meeting on Dec. 8.

Thank you for taking this important issue seriously and for taking the time to get a copy of the 30-year-old documents that define the creation of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park – documents which should have been in the records of both city and port and yet, curiously, were absent.

You noted at the meeting that your attorneys were now working their way through a 3-foot stack of documents related to park creation.  I wonder that you didn’t request the documents from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office back in June, when it became apparent that the U. S. National Park Service recognized  the protected status of the park and indicated that it was up to the port to provide timely information  to the contrary.

The law is a living discipline, capable of subtle nuance and passionate  reinterpretation. I understand that your attorneys may find a tinycrack or two, which could provide wiggle room to propose development in the park and reopen the “Battle of Kah Tai.”

But I would also remind you that, years earlier, the Friends of Kah Tai had already gone to Olympia, done their due – if amateur – diligence, and paid their money to secure, from  the public record, copies of all the relevant grant documents. All those documents were scanned and are now widely distributed electronically and will never be lost again. Your constituents are not lawyers, but the documents are clearly worded and we can all read the clear intent contained  in them.

I’ve voted in every presidential election since Nixon, and most of those were very close. But we vote, we count those votes, and the majority  decision is what we live with.

When the port and city voted to create the park, the votes were split in both bodies, but, nevertheless, the majority of port commissioners in 1980 voted to join with the city to create the nature park. They sought federal support to acquire the private  lands needed for that park with full knowledge of the federal obligations  that accompanied those funds. You cannot re-vote settled issues or change the meaning of perpetuity.

Please do not further divide this community. Common conversation  can occur, but only if the port acknowledges its history.

RICK JAHNKE  Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader December 1, 2010

Is Make Waves thinking of community?

We are not getting the whole picture from Make Waves, and I wonder why. Make Waves is the group that wants to put a 40,000-square-foot pool and fitness center in Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.

All we see is a large (think Safeway) blob superimposed on a map of the park. What they don’t show are the impacts of ancillary services. How will these access the building?

Will there be a service road and would it encircle their building  or be a driveway to one side, either option further encroaching on parklands?

Such a large enterprise would need frequent trash and recycling pickup, regular deliveries of pool/ gym supplies and items for the proposed “ juice bar.” Cleaning/ servicing companies would need access.

How much more parkland do they propose to annex? Or would they take up additional park-andride  space (which Make Waves wants for customer parking)?

Where would utilities be located?  Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center has four large propane tanks located to the rear. Where will they put fans, dehumidifiers, water purifiers, heaters, compressors,  etc.? To the rear or on top of the building? Will the building exterior be lit 24 hours a day? Noise and light can’t be anything but detrimental to wildlife.

And no one is considering the enormous negative impact construction  of their monolith would have on a fragile nature preserve with more destruction to habitat.

Make Waves proponents say they want the pool/fitness center  in Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park and if they can’t build there they won’t build anywhere. Their intransigence is mystifying to me. There are many other likely sites in Port Townsend and in the county  but they will not compromise. They state their consultant said no other place is workable, but consultants take input from those who hire them.

Did they calculate the costs and risks of building on landfill silt in a tsunami zone when well-located stable sites could be considered? Did they consider Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park’s long history of citizen  work and sacrifice to create  the park? Did they consider 30-plus years of ongoing volunteer work to maintain/clean the park and to foster native plants? Did they factor into their decision community outrage?


 Port Townsend Leader November 3, 2010

History remembered: Kah Tai has value  
A recent Leader letter directs readers to the Make Waves website and its latest newsletter, which refers to the Friends of Kah Tai merely as “an opposition group” trying to prevent the construction of an aquatic center in the nature park. No mention is made that the Friends of Kah Tai have been in existence since 1977.

The Friends are cited in the 1981 National Park Service grant application, which created the park, as one of the groups “who have taken an active part in the past to protect and enhance the lagoon for a park.”

The Friends of Kah Tai are named explicitly in the City of Port Townsend’s Environmental Determination 9406-08(S) (Aug. 24, 1994) for the proposed Jefferson Transit park-and-ride as collaborators in: 1) preparation of reports monitoring storm water management by Jefferson Transit; and 2) evaluation of the buffer between the planned facility and Kah Tai Lagoon wetlands in order to protect the park from any intrusions, including pedestrians, bicycles or pets.

The park-and-ride was constructed outside the park boundary on private
 land, but the city recognized the importance of protecting the nature park from activities occurring on that adjacent private land. Yet today, we have an attempt to construct a three-quarter-acre structure inside the park boundary, and the concerns of the Friends of Kah Tai for the past 33 years are dismissed as “opposition.”

The same newsletter cites Make Waves’ commissioned ecology/habitat study, which declares that no harm will be done to the nature park with the construction of the proposed aquatic center, and suggests that the Friends are remiss by not offering up their own tame ecologist to counter that claim.

Let me offer instead the port’s own 2003 comprehensive scheme and environmental impact statement, which concluded that any development in Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park would result in: degradation and loss of upland habitat, adverse impacts to the wetland, potential impacts on drainage and water quality, diminished valuable green space and passive recreation park.

Nothing has changed since 2003, except that some shortsighted individuals with no grasp of the park’s history see open space and wild land and recognize no value in it as it is. Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park should be respected and protected. And it shouldn’t require a ruling from the National Park Service to make our city and port leaders do the right thing.


Port Townsend Leader September 29, 2010 

Make Waves needs public process
My husband and I attended the Aug. 25 program sponsored by the Friends of Kah Tai. Rick Jahnke gave an excellent overview of the history of the Kah Tai Nature Park.

We learned that: 1) By 1980, community support to protect Kah Tai acreage had reached a zenith. 2) In 1981, as part of a joint grant request, the City Council and Port Commission signed contracts agreeing that the grant-acquired acreage would be designated a public park in perpetuity. 3) In 1982, after beginning land acquisition, the city and port requested other funds to develop the acreage into a nature park, and Washington state required a lease between the city and port designating one as manager. 4) When the 1982 lease expires, Kah Tai remains a nature park – only management changes.

Current discussion about placing a pool at Kah Tai conflates three unrelated issues. First is the Kah Tai Nature Park. As history shows, the current City Council and Port Commission appear legally bound to keep all of Kah Tai a public nature park in perpetuity. The 1981 contracts control.

The second issue is a community swimming pool. If our community wants a pool, we have proper processes to make that happen. Such processes include exploring partnerships among governmental agencies and seeking public approval by ballot. This gives public input to all aspects of the pool – the best location, the breadth of project, usage guidelines and costs. The third issue is the Make Waves proposal. If a private group wishes to build a pool, there is a proper process available. They can write a business plan, secure funding and open an enterprise. But they cannot properly expect a gift of public assets in order to compete with private enterprises. Nor can they properly ask for a gift of public assets, make all key decisions about the project and then state that because they intend to “give the pool back” once it’s built, this is all proper. That is a blatant subversion of the public process.

Our elected officials must abide by the 1981 contracts. And our elected officials must follow open, public processes in this matter. Let Make Waves be part of that public process. But a giveaway with a “return gift” is not public process. Whatever you call it, it’s wrong.


Port Townsend Leader September 15, 2010

Park must remain natural

 I took a walk through Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park the other day with an elderly friend of mine – hers was a wheelchair “walk.” There was a soft smile on her face, an air of contentment and peace, her eyes taking in the birds on the water, the leaves fallen underfoot, the last of the summer flowers.

This walk in nature was a welcome reprieve from her usual indoor life. As we walked back facing west, I pointed out the site where Make Waves hopes to build its 40,000 square-foot building. My friend commented, “ That sure would ruin the atmosphere. And they call that progress.”

She instinctively knew that a large building looming at the edge of this natural setting would infringe on the beauty and otherwise peaceful ambiance of the park. She understood what a treasure this park is to the community.

With disbelief I read on the Make Waves website that its project would have “little or no net impact on the ambiance of Kah Tai Nature Park.” I would say that those who truly believe this are sadly blind to the therapeutic values of a place where, visually, man’s influence is at a minimum.

I don’t believe it is possible to build a 40,000-square-foot building on the edge of the park and not have a major visual impact, even with the most sensitive design and landscape plan. Not to mention the added visual impact of the building’s evening and nighttime lighting.

Make Waves is not a compatible addition to Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. The park is a natural gift to us all. For the sake of us all and people like my friend, it must remain natural as it stands today.

Port Townsend Leader September 8, 2010

Smoke and mirrors at Make Waves  
“Smoke and mirrors – that’s all it was.” The speaker was summarizing a recent presentation by Make Waves spokesman David Hero. His interpretation of Hero’s talk before local Rotarians couldn’t have been more apt.

The facts and figures Hero cited didn’t make sense, based as they were upon carelessly handpicked equivalents that bore little or no relation to the particular situation at hand.

That David could honestly believe that his pool and rec center would not have a singularly destructive effect on our beloved Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park boggles the mind. Yet David Hero insisted this is not the case.

He also downplayed the negative impact that a large-scale multi-purpose facility would have upon wellestablished competitors struggling to stay afloat. Walmart spouts the very same drivel when it attempts to blast its way into an unwary town.

That he remains confident in his belief that city, county and port will be able to legally assign developmental rights to Make Waves – despite longstanding restrictions on use – is naïveté carried to the extreme.

Those of us who, from the very beginning, recoiled at the thought of an attack upon the park were heartened by the positive response accorded biologist Richard Jahnke who, as a Friend of Kah Tai, spoke in support of our cause. Cutting through the “smoke and mirrors,” it was he who decisively cleared the air.

PETER GRITT Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader September 1, 2010

Park recovers with help from friends  
When I step into Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park on the path from 12th Street near Safeway, the sound of traffic fades. I don’t see large buildings, only trees and grass, sky and water. Ducks feed and fuss out on the lagoon.

I am reminded of wild places where lakes and wetlands are abundant, but here, this nature park is rare indeed. Imagine how rare it was before the Port of Port Townsend filled much of the lagoon with dredged material and development occurred.

Thirty years ago there was reason to believe that what had not yet been developed would be preserved. The Port of Port Townsend and the City of Port Townsend got together and signed a document to obtain federal funding, pledging to preserve what remained as a nature park “ in perpetuity.” I think that means forever.

You’d think that would have settled things once and for all, but alas, port commissioners came and went, the makeup of city government changed, and recently, while maneuvering by the city and port went on behind the scene, the newest threat to our Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park emerged: Make Waves wants to build a 35,000-square-foot building that would destroy the treed and grassy oasis that greets me as I enter the park from 12th Street.

On Nov. 28, 1984, back when government agencies had cooperated to obtain federal funding for the nature park and its protection seemed ensured, an article written by Kevin Burke was published in the Leader’s Port Townsend Parks Guide titled, “ Kah Tai Lagoon: Cursed and Crossed, Filled and Embattled – A Park Emerges.” The article gives a history of the lagoon from its early use by native people [to] later events culminating in the autumn of 1984.

The presentation “ Respecting the Kah Tai Legacy,” sponsored by the Friends of Kah Tai, last week provided additional historical information and free copies of Burke’s article.

The Leader article says: “ In spite of decades of tampering at the hands of humans, the lagoon remains a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem. And the ‘ flats area’ where dredge spoils were dumped 20 years ago had become a dramatic testimony to the healing, transformative powers of nature.” Almost 30 more years have passed, but our nature park continues to recover from that abuse – with a little help from its friends.

MARGARET LEE Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader August 18, 2010

‘Secrecy in public’?
The Make Waves proposal would be another good “secrecy in public” editorial topic for Scott Wilson. So far, it’s been a walk in the park for them. Their freebie tsunami has swept up dazzled editors, city and port officials, and sucked at the feet of Jefferson Transit, the Jefferson Land Trust and even Admiralty Audubon.
 Make Waves shows up in the city’s public record during 2007, but only as a potential financial contributor to help the city keep the Mountain View pool operational.

 By Dec. 8, 2008, they had prepared a feasibility study on building and operating a new pool/fitness center on public land inside Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. They asked the City Council for the city’s “cooperation and support” of their proposal. The published notice for that workshop presentation did not mention either Make Waves or Kah Tai. Minutes report Mayor Sandoval said council would discuss the proposal at their Jan. 24 retreat.

 They probably did, but no retreat minutes were prepared, and the public record is intentionally silent on who said what about Make Waves. Instead of minutes, a week later the council approved Resolution 09-005 (buried in the Consent Agenda), confirming priorities identified during the retreat as listed in Exhibit A. The two little words “ Make Waves” show up as a “ Key Initiative” in a Quality of Life box. Those two little words are not even put into a sentence, but into a column. Meaning … ?

 The two little words “ Kah Tai” did not appear in Resolution 09-005. This omission is important because that resolution is the only vote to date by the City Council regarding Make Waves – if two words count – and it doesn’t link Make Waves with Kah Tai. Nevertheless, only a week later, planning director Rick Sepler was briefing the Planning Commission about a development site in Kah Tai for Make Waves that was part of a negotiated city/port land swap. Those negotiations failed, and the whole Make Waves fiasco will soon go under because of anticonversion restrictions in the state and federal grants that helped create Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park – and continue to protect it.

 However, the citizens of Port Townsend should never forget what could have happened to one of their parks right under their public noses. The city’s lack of transparency on behalf of Make Waves will stink like a chlorine haze for a long time.

 NANCY DORGAN Royston, B.C. 

Port Townsend Leader August 11, 2010


Tomorrow’s swimming facility: A partnership proposal
By Len Mandelbaum

The Leader’s coverage of the Make Waves aqua center proposal discloses a broad range of issues arousing public concern. They include economic feasibility, ecological and local business impacts, public process and accountability.

This differs from the Rite Aid and Hollywood Video disputes because public resources (Kah Tai land, among other things) are involved, requiring a public-policy resolution.

But why should we care, given the fact that Make Waves promises capital development via private donations and insists that the negative impacts would be minimal? Two reasons, at least : • Public resources are claimed: land, easement rights and parking space transfers.

• While construction might be privately funded, there is reason to believe assumptions about public demand covering costs look optimistic. (Port Townsend is like wintry Whitefish?) Since Make Waves is not likely to be responsible for a long-term operational agreement, government could be called upon to bail out the project.

We should call upon local government to step in and protect the public interest. At least two options are available.

Negotiated Public-Private Partnership

• The first step is simple. Citizens and elected leaders assert that as long as public resources are involved, swimming and therapy pools are a public need so that design, location and management are to be approved by the community and/or its elected representatives.

• Seek a partnered approach. Make Waves has made a major contribution by putting the need for a swimming facility on the table and, hopefully, should continue to seek private donations for capital development. Local government (the city or a regional park district) offers to manage the program and cover operational costs if design and location is developed through public input.

• Encourage a cooperative process by appointing a citizen committee with representation of other county communities, the health district, swimmers, parents, school districts and the disabled.

• Since the commitment would require bonds, shifts from other budgeted programs or new government income (paid parking), citizen approval would be necessary.

Cooperative Study

Since there is an ongoing dispute regarding the impact of the project upon Kah Tai and local privately operated fitness programs, the city could appoint an impartial committee with professional consulting support to study the project proposed by Make Waves. The committee should be free to propose alternatives. While the study would be managed by the city, the Port of Port Townsend should contribute to its cost. Otherwise, its offer to transfer public land without analysis is irresponsible.

And what if Make Waves does not wish to move in either direction? Presumably, the public will have the right to speak to these questions at a hearing on the required easement. The City Council would weigh whether to proceed without a more thorough and independent study of the prospective costs and benefits of the project.

Finally, which local government(s) would be responsible?

The city has managed the Mountain View pool for the region via agreement with the school district and, for practical reasons, should take the lead role. There is plenty of time to discuss the role of other governmental units, possibility of a regional parks district, etc. The city should facilitate a broader partnership.

As with so many public issues (e.g., offshore oil development), there is no free lunch. But the meal need not be too extravagant. There can be value for the public dollar, and this is where swimmers, seniors, parents, taxpayers and public officials can agree and establish a public legacy our heirs may be proud of.

Rotary starts pool dialogue
I would like to thank the Port Townsend Rotary for inviting Friends of Kah Tai (kahtai.blogspot.com) to make a presentation at their recent noontime meeting. This provided a welcomed opportunity to reacquaint residents with the sacrifices, voluntary efforts and legal steps taken to create the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.

The presentation reminded attendees that the lands that form the current nature park were acquired and consolidated via a 1981 grant from the Department of the Interior Land and Water Conservation Fund with the stipulation that it be preserved exclusively for outdoor recreation and wildlife in perpetuity.

Along with a presentation by the Make Waves group, this provided a true public dialogue concerning the development of a pool/recreation facility in our community.

As exemplified by recent Leader articles, in addition to federally mandated land-use restrictions, there are numerous issues that require public discussion to successfully develop an aquatic center for our community. These issues include fiscal sustainability, impacts on local businesses, connections to regional health and school districts, and ecological impacts. The Port Townsend Rotary is to be commended for taking this step and beginning the public conversation.

RICHARD JAHNKE Friends of Kah Tai

Pool next ‘Tidy Bowl’ issue?
Out of the mouths of babes – and Ph.D.s! A recent edition of the Leader was terrific, especially an article by Kathie Meyer on Make Waves and a letter from 9-year-old Solomon McCready.

Something about the Make Waves group is troubling. I applaud Dr. Jahnke for his efforts to understand and provide us additional perspectives. One of my favorites was if the wealthier population of Sequim is not utilizing their aquatic exercise extravaganza at the percentage the Make Waves group claims PT will, we could end up with a Safeway-sized Tidy Bowl derelict in what used to be a beautiful nature preserve, or pay in some other way.

Young Solomon McCready said it well in his plea to save Pope Marine Park: “I know why they are ripping old parks down. To make PT look like it’s a city. But it’s not.”

Port Townsend could be sleeping through the takeover of Kah Tai Lagoon. Perhaps, in 20-30 years, residents will walk by a huge, old abandoned pool that is busy collecting detritus, and we could tell our young Solomon, “Well, there was this little group of people who gathered power and they really, really wanted a great big swimming pool, so we were really nice and gave them free land, free parking spaces and had to sacrifice our bird sanctuary – but they really wanted it.”

Before we sacrifice, I encourage an exploration of a range of intelligent perspectives. Make Wavers are glad-handing, paying for expensive “research” from San Diego, practicing good answers to our questions. In a sense, they remind me of politicians who will tell us whatever they have to in order to get what they want and shout down or pooh-pooh smart resistance. We could get onboard and sacrifice our special environments, one by one, to special-interest groups. Please do not be unconscious about what is happening. I need to speak up for my Pope Marine Park, but fear my little voice will be lost amongst a whole lot of noisy splashing.

CHERYL HANAN Port Townsend

Kah Tai plan contradicts port’s intent
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 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, numerous 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 on the wetland; potential impacts on drainage and water quality; and diminishment of valuable green space 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 and recommended in the strongest terms that the park be protected in its entirety from future development of any kind.

Alternative 2 – no development – was officially adopted by the port commission by unanimous vote. This meant that the port intended no planned development of any kind in the park for the next 20 years 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, 2003 Comprehensive Scheme).”

Why do we now have a letter of intent signed for major construction in the park, in clear contradiction to the port’s deliberative 20-year plan? Where is the public process?

Port Townsend Leader, July 28, 2010

New pool: wave or tsunami?
In response to the July 21
Leader article “Make Waves: the business case”: Retired research oceanographer Richard Jahnke expresses that he lost interest in the Make Waves project when that organization decided on the Kah Tai Lagoon. My sentiments exactly. And the sentiments of many are to build a new pool at the current pool’s location.

The Mountain View facility is owned by the state school system. Surely the school has a vested interest in producing Olympic swimmers. Case in point regarding the Kah Tai location: The Titlow Pool in Tacoma off of Sixth and Bridgeport will be operating this summer for the last time. This pool was built in the 1970s. It is currently facing closure due to wetland concerns.

Over time, pool plumbing will beg in to leak and leach. The Mountain View site is already set up and equipped to handle pool drainage. Plus, there is room to add more parking at the Mountain View site.

My beef with the Make Waves organization is that all the fundraising thus far has gone to building yet another bureaucratic body. To really get the pool project off the ground, a bond will need to be presented to the voters. A private organization like Make Waves cannot get funding from a bond, only government organizations can.

It is time for county and city bureaucrats to step up to the plate and take control of a pool project in conjunction with the school and possibly the YMCA.

A new aquatic center, like the one in Sequim, will be great for the locals. It will also be great for our revered tourist industry.

So I ask you, is it a wave or a tsunami that has come to our town and swept away all common sense about where and how a pool should be built? 


Kah Tai Park belongs to everyone
The Kah Tai Nature Park belongs to everyone in the area. The “taking” of that land to serve the interests of only a segment of the community for the Make Waves project is not the right approach.

This is a “taking,” pure and simple. It is “taking” the home of wildlife that can’t speak in their own defense. The area proposed for the project currently serves as a buffer between nearby intense human activity and the wildlife refuge. But this 35,000-square-foot building is more than a pool. Its proposed fitness facilities are also a “taking” – taking money away from the three existing local businesses devoted to serving this need and also
competing with them at an unfair advantage since those businesses pay for the land they occupy.

The project is also a “taking” of parking places at the park-and-ride, which fills up for festivals and is intended to get people downtown without their cars. When parking is in short supply, downtown merchants need all the folks they can get, delivered to their door the easy way via Jefferson Transit.

And the community at large suffers another subtle but real “taking” – our quality of life is diminished with the reduction in size of the nature park. People move here in part due to the balance with nature and wildlife that we now enjoy. But for the sake of “improvements” that balance is getting chipped away one little piece at a time.

If the majority of the community wants a pool in Jefferson County, then a proposal to build a pool supported by our tax dollars or a bond initiative will pass. And then the pool can be built in a place where the land isn’t “free.” Voting gives equal weight to everyone’s voice; letters to the
Leader from people like me and its supporters do not.

The Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (officially known as Clallam County Park and Recreation District 1) is believed to be the only park and recreation district in Washington to successfully operate independent of tax subsidies. The population of Clallam County is 71,021; Jefferson County is 29,626. If the Make Waves project ends up at Kah Tai, but isn’t as successful as its rosy projections forecast, we could end up paying for its continued operation and lose this portion of the park as well.



PT rich in health facilities, resources

Kathie Meyer’s reporting on the needed subsidies and statistical manipulations of the Make Waves corporation (MW) sounds so familiar, as if this nonprofit learned its moves from those bad-boy corporations who thrive on the dole, calling it good business.

The recreation building proposed by MW to be planted in the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park requires public resource gifts for land and parking. If they succeed, several local businesses will feel the pain as their customers get lured by hype and shine into this facility. If MW fails, the port will need a bit more tax money to run the place. Port Townsend has three gyms with weights, spinning and various exercise classes; we have estheticians and myriad massage therapists; we have dozens of coffee bars and a few juice bars and yoga studios – all private businesses paying for land, buildings and providing patron parking, part of their investment in this community.

A community pool is essential. I read the 2000 Orb Associates evaluation of Mountain View pool contracted by the city. In that study, the experts said the Mountain View facility is viable and for under $4 million the pool natatorium could be completely remodeled, creating two pools, one competition size.

I saw an architectural vision for expansion of Mountain View School that demonstrated how less than $10 million could breathe life into this
campus with 21st-century technology. Such investments are small compared to the onerous plan to ask voters to sanction a $30 million bond issue or the MW plan to take our parkland and build a concrete box costing more than $10 million.

Our recreation resources include a pool, school gyms, play fields and trails for walking and biking. And we have water sports puffed up by the new multimillion-dollar investments at the end of town. Our community is rich in facilities and resources to benefit our physical health and esthetic pleasures. We pay for them and we pay dearly if we are not patrons and stewards, giving them our attention rather than allowing them to decay or giving them away.

The James Robinson
Leader article about what happened to funds related to the Stephen Pothier estate portends the loss of three businesses in the C.C. Bartlett Building due to foreclosure. The Make Waves corporation plan could put many more local businesses at risk.

JULIE JAMAN Quimper Peninsula

Port Townsend Leader, July 7, 2010

Make Waves needs a different spot

I am appalled that the Make Waves group is still considering Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park as a site for their grand project. It was created as a park and nature preserve and needs to remain one. Once the land is used, it will never again return to its natural beauty. What about the homes of nesting birds and animals? They deserve to have their grounds protected forever, just as the park was created to do.

There needs to be another search for a spot. I think the old Courtesy Ford property would make a lovely family aquatic center, centrally located on bus lines with plenty of parking.

If Make Waves is truly considering the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park as an aquatic site, and will not budge from that standpoint, then I suggest they take a good look at the golf course. Lots of space, in-town location, near the schools, wonderful views, only used by a select few, and there is a restaurant already there for tired swimmers.

Wait, you say the land is already used as something, a golf course? Well, Kah Tai is a nature park. Go find something else. The park is not an acceptable choice.


Port Townsend Leader, June 30, 2010

Let’s keep all noxious growth out of Kah Tai 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the men and women who pulled that noxious weed, Scotch broom, from Kah Tai this spring.

This is hard work, especially removing the more mature plants. You have labored to restore our much-loved park to its natural state. All one has to do is drive to Kitsap County to see how fast it spreads and how ugly it looks.

Thanks again for such a great job. Let’s keep such noxious plants out of Kah Tai, as well as that other noxious “plant,” the aquatic center.

SUE RUTKOWSKI Port Townsend 

Parks plan protects Kah Tai Nature Park

Like errant children, some people or groups who profess to act in the public interest fail to do their homework. 

Make Wavers are just such a group.

 Hoping to wrest parkland and parking spaces in support of private development, they were naively incognizant of complications arising from legally binding agreements made at the time Kah Tai Nature Park was developed and afterward. These, alone, should have led the group to another, less problematic site.


But there is one other document that deserves to be brought to light. That is the Parks and Recreation plan that was drawn up in 1979, which reflected the interests of townspeople at the time that the nature park was being developed.

 A vast majority of those interviewed favored “little or no developmental activity and wanted preservation of the natural state of the lagoon.”


The following guidelines were established: Preserve the lagoon as a natural area; protect and encourage waterfowl nesting; provide bicycle and foot trails along the north edge of the lagoon; provide limited seating for nature observation; add a few willows on the edge of the lagoon; and base any additional development on the analysis of its effect on the existing ecosystem.


Strong stuff, to which we should pay serious attention.

PETER GRITT Port Townsend

Kah Tai protectors won’t compromise
The perspective that appeared in your June 23 issue calls for a town meeting to discuss the proposed aquatic center, “ with respect to each other’s differences.”

Many meetings of various entities concerned with permitting this aquatic center – port, city, transit – have already taken place a number of times with citizen input.

Letters have been written, points of view have been stated, and the citizen group that seeks to keep an aquatic center out of Kah Tai Lagoon altogether will not take a “let’s talk” stance. Those who wish to preserve this lovely park in perpetuity as it now exists are not willing to compromise. An aquatic center simply doesn’t belong where proposed.

And we certainly do not wish to offer up 150 or so parking spaces for “borrowing.” Conclusion: Find another spot. Period.


Port Townsend Leader, June 9, 2010

Kah Tai Lagoon preservation has history, future

In the heat of the present campaign to save the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park from further commercial development, I thought back to the morning of July 23, 2001 – the day I took possession of a home occupied by Steve Hayden since 1971. It overlooked the Kah Tai Lagoon.

Steve and I got acquainted over bowls of fruit and homemade granola. Departing the scene, he honored me with the gift of a file containing, among other documents, souvenirs of his attempts to preserve what were once open lands in the vicinity of the yet-to-come park.

Steve and other Friends of Kah Tai fought development – and lost. When Safeway won its suit, the doors were opened for others to build. Hard to believe, slaphappy port officials imagined a sprawling “marine-themed” shopping mall flanking the lagoon. Washington’s Department of Ecology said “no.”

Then came the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, thanks to various governmental grants, and lately a new commercial threat. This day it’s a multipurpose aquatic and fitness center we’re up against. Make Waves would build on parkland and borrow parking slots from JeffCo Transit’s park-and-ride.

Responding to this latest threat, Friends of Kah Tai has been resurrected. And, believe it or not, some of those presently involved were active in Steve Hayden’s day.

We’ll challenge any and all further intrusions upon the natural setting, letting no avenue of approach go unexplored.

For instance, we’ve cited documents that ban unapproved conversions of parkland to new use.

We’ve cited a WSDOT agreement that strictly forbids parkand- ride uses unrelated to JeffCo Transit’s charge. This alone should put the kibosh on the Make Waves proposal – for without these parking slots, they cannot build their center.

We’ve gone on record in support of transit’s citizen advisory council, which soundly rejected a request by Make Waves to borrow park-and-ride slots.

We’ve mounted a campaign to both demonstrate and build support for our cause. Many hundreds have signed the petitions we’ve drawn. Most sign without hesitation and leave with a “thanks for your effort.”

There are some who think one more intensely developed slice of parkland won’t spoil the natural setting; and some who would sacrifice a corner of the park in return for a conservation easement added to their growing portfolio.

We Friends of Kah Tai staunchly insist, “Enough is enough!”

TODD WEXMAN Port Townsend

Por Townsend Leader, May 26, 2010

Retain Kah Tai ‘play meadow’ for all ages

Ten-year-old Milo Rolland of the local swim team recently posted a Leader blog comment to a “What about the kids?” letter. He referred to the area next to the Kah Tai restrooms as “that empty flat place” and said it would be a good place for the Make Waves pool.

That same area, however, is called the “Play Meadow” in the master plan for Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. It was intentionally left as open space for human outdoor recreation rather than for wildlife habitat, although birds also like to hang out there sometimes.

It’s not just useless wasteland better used as a competition-size pool for Milo’s team.

The elevated area between the flat play meadow and the busy transit property was created with dredge from the manmade inner lagoon in the ’80s during park development by the city under a state outdoor recreation grant. That berm is neither flat nor empty, but full of trees and plants that are now nesting and feeding habitat for birds – habitat that would be bulldozed flat to build Make Waves’ big swim/gym. The required parking lot would probably go in what Milo and others, unfortunately, are only able to see as “that flat empty space.”

If you walk or bike through the play meadow often enough, you will see people playing with their kids or dogs in the meadow, watching birds and clouds, enjoying open views of the lagoon through the curly willows, or just quietly sitting on a nearby bench. When it’s windy, the meadow is a good place to toss a ball or fly a kite with friends or family. It’s that kind of place, for kids of all ages. Let’s keep it that way, forever.


Build pool on solid ground

It is disappointing that anyone concerned about the feasibility of building a swimming pool complex in water-saturated dredge spoil near sea level in an earthquake zone is labeled “anti-pool” or worse, “anti-child” in the public conversation. Agreement is nearly unanimous that PT needs an updated pool, for kids, for seniors, for everyone. Disagreement occurs in the discussion of logistics.

The site adjacent to Haines Park and Ride appeals to proponents because it is “free.” The idea of private fundraising for construction appeals because it gives taxpayers “something for nothing.” Yet we know what free things really cost and that we never get something for nothing.

Boreholes rate the site as Class F, the most risk-prone, on the International Building Code’s liquefaction risk scale. Class F requires a site-specific seismic study, apparently not yet done. Publicly stated cost estimates for mitigation at the park-and-ride location range from $140,000 to $400,000. Privately stated skepticism from local engineers and other professionals suggests costs at or above $2 million. Mitigation for saturated dredge spoil does not consist of a few extra footings. It may include substantial vibro-compaction; emplacement of numerous deep Geopier or other pilings; and overexcavation, so that several feet of concrete can be poured to anchor the building below the water table to overcome buoyancy problems. Continuous pumping of groundwater from the construction site could be necessary.

We hear that we can’t build a new pool at Mountain View because the school board won’t give the city a 30-year lease on the property. Make Waves says it can’t afford the price to buy the property even if the board would sell it. But they will have to raise funds to mitigate the risky Haines site location. Wouldn’t it be better to raise funds to purchase solid ground to start with?

If Mountain View is off the table, how about the Jefferson Transit site on Upper Sims? JTA plans to move to Four Corners. The Upper Sims site is high ground (around 200-foot elevation). Although it is not bedrock, nowhere here is. But instead of being water-saturated, sealevel dredge spoil emplaced about 50 years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, it is glacial till emplaced and thoroughly compressed about 15,000 years ago by one of nature’s greatest compactors, a glacier. And wouldn’t a new pool be a nice complement to our new roundabouts and revitalization of Upper Sims?


Stop, think about lagoon

I am one of the few homeowners who has a home sitting right near Kah Tai Lagoon.

I am writing this from my heart, as I have been so fortunate to have witnessed firsthand the gifts that this lagoon has poured forth to so many people.

I must say that when we purchased this house five years ago, we never imagined the awesome natural sightings that we have witnessed since we moved here. The lagoon is a jewel of Port Townsend that attracts so many species of birds. Observing them and their behaviors is a fascinating experience. We are in awe every day as we gaze at so many birds and their behaviors like we have never seen before.

The lagoon is indeed a priceless piece of Port Townsend that is cherished and appreciated by children, dog walkers, photographers, artists or someone who just needs a few moments of serenity in the midst of their busy day. It is not just a “short cut” through the city. It is like a friend who is always there; a still and serene place that gives one a moment to stop and reflect. The lagoon is a sanctuary for our beloved wildlife as well as for the people of Port Townsend.

On a day-to-day basis, I have witnessed the uses of the lagoon both by the people and by the wildlife, and there should be no intrusions to it that would bring it closer to “just part of another overused opportunity” to take away the natural and sacred spaces that we have here in Port Townsend.

Placing a building, busy with people coming and going – people who may or may not care or appreciate the sanctity of the lagoon or to give to it the respect and dignity that it certainly deserves and receives now by our community – is a very sad prospect.

To all who have been fortunate enough to have experienced the gifts that this lagoon offers to its visiting wildlife and to its people: Think carefully about what is happening here. Think very carefully. Surely there must be alternative spaces for a busy aquatic park and the changes that will surely follow.

ANN NEWPORT Port Townsend