2011 Letters

Port Townsend Leader 21 December 2011

Port, city need negotiations
The much-anticipated ruling from the National Park Service arrived Sept. 27. This is indeed reason to celebrate.

Both the state Recreation and Conservation Office and the National Park Service concur that the 1981 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant protects all 78.5 acres of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park in perpetuity for outdoor recreation, including the 20-plus acres the port owns from the south shore of the lagoon to Sims Way. The city and the port were cosponsors of the grant and both signed the contract in 1981.

Unfortunately, the port filed a lawsuit Oct. 13 in federal court to try and overturn the ruling. They are suing the National Park Service, the state Recreation and Conservation Office and the City of Port Townsend. Essentially they are trying to overturn Land and Water Conservation Fund protections.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act is a powerful tool to save natural areas and has withstood legal challenges. The director of the state Recreation and Conservation Office conferred with the state assistant attorney general before forwarding their recommendation to National Park Service.

Please send emails or letters to our port commissioners and ask them to withdraw this lawsuit: John Collin, jcollins@portofpt.com; Dave Thompson, info@portofpt.com; and Leif Erickson, lerickson@portofpt.com; or mail to Port of Port Townsend, P.O. Box 1180, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

A much more responsible course would be to hire a mediator, and for the port to sit down with the city to negotiate the transfer of port land in the Kah Tai park to the city in exchange for the city-owned property and rights-of-ways in the Boat Haven. The lease between the port and city is up July 31, 2012. Come Aug. 1, 2012, the port will be trespassing on city property every time it does a heavy haul-out and will be storing boats and conducting port business on city rights-of-way.


Port Townsend Lease 14 December 2011
Kah Tai Lagoon replenishes us
Beauty is mysterious and eludes definition, but I think I can say, “ Beauty makes the world worth wanting.”

And because we are creatures of nature, this wanting is engrained. Perhaps this is why children so delight in the natural world and identify easily with other creatures.

Why the child who is deprived of joy, alienated and lonely, has the chance to come into its own in a wild place and risk being fully alive.

The natural world is irreplaceable because it reveals that everything is dynamic, including ourselves. It reveals our own mutability, our own variable weather. Above all, it reveals our finitude. In a beautiful place we can find peace with finitude and remember the promise of each moment.

Everywhere the beautiful places, the dynamic places, the places that inspire us to dream very high dreams, are vanishing. Even as you read this, living things are vanishing. Do we want to be part of this loss? Or will we be far-seeing and protect and extend what is so essential to our lives and, unlike a swimming pool, irreplaceable?

To those of you for whom Kah Tai and its creatures matter little, I would ask you to consider how much it matters to the species that live there and to those of us who cherish them. Offer us the grace of respecting something that belongs to itself, and yet to all of us and our children.

And the children to come, the seasons, the migrations, the voices of creatures to come. This place that is lovely and self-sustaining and in this way miraculous; that is self-replenishing and replenishes us.


Port can’t unsign Kah Tai contract  
If you signed a contract with someone, wouldn’t you expect the terms of the contract to be upheld? If you sold someone a house, took their money, but neglected to transfer the title to the buyer, do you think you should have the right, 30 years later, to show up and say, “ Sorry, I forgot to transfer the title, so this house is still mine”?

The port signed a contract in 1981 with the state (and thereby with the federal government) that bound their land at Kah Tai to a park in perpetuity. But the powers that be neglected to record that perpetual easement to the titles. However, the contract is valid, the federal and state monies and local land donations were accepted by port and city, and attorneys apparently call that “sufficient part performance.” The parties can complete the terms of the contract. They can’t pretend they didn’t sign a contract.

In 1982, the port and city signed a lease because the port needed to show control of city-owned rightsof- way [ ROWs] in the Boat Haven for the port comprehensive plan. The port has been using those city- owned rights- of-way in the Boat Haven for nearly 30 years. In exchange, the city has managed the part of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park that is on port-owned land. That sounds like a really sweet deal for the port. While the port has generated millions of dollars of revenue from the use of San Juan, 10th and other city ROWs for boat and ship storage and repair, the city has maintained the park, generating no income, but providing a valued public resource.

Both city and port signed the contract in 1981 to make all 78.5 acres of Kah Tai a federally protected park. Instead of suing the city in a misguided attempt to force the city to pay for the port’s quiet title action against the state and federal government agencies, the port should be negotiating the exchange of those city-owned ROWs in the boatyard for the federally protected port land in Kah Tai. Just what is the fair market value of federally protected parkland that cannot be developed? And what is the fair market value of city land in the boatyard? That 300-ton Travelift runs right across a city-owned ROW every time it moves.


Port Townsend Leader 7 December 2011

Port is public, not a business
Law and policy are not always one and the same.

Assuming, for the moment, that the Port of Port Townsend is correct in its assertion that it is no longer to be held to a 30-year-old agreement governing land-use practices at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, the salient question is not whether law permits them to abrogate the agreement, but whether, as a matter of sound public policy, they should.

With some experience in these matters, were I advising the port, I would suggest that their legal position is, at best, only arguable. They might be correct as a matter of law, although I believe that the weight of opinion is against them. But I would also suggest that their duty to the public is significantly different than it would be were they simply a private landholder or business.

The port is neither. It is a public entity, charged with the responsibility of managing a publicly created and financed facility for the benefit of the entire community.

For too long the port has operated as though it is a business. Running government as though it’s a business has been in vogue of late, but the function of each is vastly different.

The function of a port must be just that – a portal to the town, from which the community at large derives advantage, and which grants access to those seeking commerce with the community. This is a public, not a business function.

It is to the traders, merchants, provisioners and so on that the “ business” of any public port must accrue. It is not a private marina, nor is it simply a landholder free to do what it will.

Public sentiment regarding land practices at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park has been crystal clear for 30 years. That’s why the deal was structured the way it was in the first place.

For the port to ignore that sentiment today would be a serious breach of the public trust. As public officials, not CEOs, the public trust, first and foremost, must be their duty.

MARK ROYE Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 16 November 2011

Port chewing on ‘dog bones’
Never give a dog two bones at the same time. It will just get confused, run back and forth, and never know which one to chew on.

The Port of Port Townsend Commission has two bones. They are both otherwise known as “taxpayer money.”

The first bone is the grant money for investing in aluminum scrap futures. First, they have to build a boat, and after using a lot more taxpayer money to underwrite a private enterprise so that it can be run as a “profitable” business, the boat can then be turned into scrap. It won’t be the first time that has happened in this town.

The recently spun notion that the “fast ferry” might be used to bring tourists from the cruise ships that dock in Seattle is the type of lunacy that only a politician could come up with.

Cruise ships dock in Seattle for a limited time, and there is plenty to do in that city – Pike Place Market, the Seattle waterfront, Westlake mall, Seattle Center, the Space Needle, Pioneer Square. No tourist will get off a cruise ship and then spend half the afternoon in an aluminum can flying to and from Port Townsend. It just won’t happen.

First, it was going to be a commuter, and now it will be a “destination” boat. According to director Pivarnik ( Leader, Oct. 12), “If we don’t sell any tickets, we won’t make the run.”

Any tickets? Does that mean one ticket, or at least 20? What if 19 show up? How do you draw the line? If a ferry did not make sense for Kingston, then it will make even less sense for Port Townsend. But this is just one more piƱata that everyone has to take a swing at.

The second bone is that bundle of taxpayer money that the port has decided they will use to hire lawyers to fight the U.S. government in court. It just doesn’t seem to matter how many clear-cut decisions have been made regarding the preservation of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. The commissioners just won’t let go of that bone. And we, all of us, will have to pay for this relentless assault on sanity. Why? Don’t ask that question. There is no “reason.” Some well-known person said, “Facts are strange things.” The commission is not going to let facts get in their way.

BRIAN YOUNG Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 2 November 2011

Misguided port lawsuit should be withdrawn 
This letter is to express my extreme dismay at the port commissioners’ filing of a lawsuit against our city, state and federal  governments regarding the recent final determination of the 6(f) boundaries of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.

Not only is this lawsuit an inappropriate response to this finalized boundary determination, it is an affront and an attack on the citizens of Port Townsend – those families who originally donated their property to the nature park, those who have since donated thousands of hours of time and effort to developing  the park, and to all of us who will be paying for the lawsuit with our tax money.

The port commissioners are needlessly creating chaos and dispute in our community, which will involve a large transfer of citizens’ tax money away from needed services to attorneys, at a time when these very services are in jeopardy and are being cut.

Filing a lawsuit is unconscionably  bad behavior by these public officials, and we, as conscientious citizens, must stand up and insist on reasonable and peaceful process.

The port has already spent many thousands of our tax dollars trying not to preserve our park from development, as is the intent of the contract and grant they signed in 1981, but to preserve their right to do what they want with the 20 acres of port land that is their contribution to the park.

We demand that the port commissioners  withdraw this untimely, frivolous, misguided and wasteful lawsuit, and collaborate with the City of Port Townsend regarding its concerns about Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, as was intended in the original agreements and contracts  that the port and the city signed in 1981.

If you have concerns about the port squandering our tax dollars in the ways it is doing, please come to the next port commission meeting in the port offices at Point Hudson, Port Townsend.

ALEA WATERS  Port Townsend

Port’s lawsuit confusing
I am confused about the Port of Port Townsend Commission’s reasoning  behind its decision to sue the city, state and federal governments  over 6(f)(3) restrictions in the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. It’s my understanding that the port voluntarily included its property within the park boundaries to participate with the city in receiving federal and state money to acquire private outparcels that were needed to make the park a single manageable unit.

Federal funds of $113,977.33 were received and spent to buy the property.

This was clearly to be a permanent park creation or the federal funds would not have been forthcoming. I know of no federal recreation grant program that would allow a “ temporary” land purchase with federal money.

The subsequent 30-year lease between the port and the city, which ends shortly, now becomes a big mystery. Inexplicably, the port lost its records from that time, didn’t bother to record the deed restrictions on its park property, and now wants to back out of its agreement with the feds, state and city. It seems the port no longer wishes to include its property in the park.

The port claims it recently filed the quiet title lawsuit in federal court to get clarification of the restrictions that apply to the property, not to seek some ruling that allows Make Waves or any other project to proceed. I find this particularly puzzling.

If the port wants certainty, all it has to do to carry out the intent of the parties to the original agreement   is to file a quitclaim deed to the property containing the restrictions it agreed to when it accepted federal money as part of its contract with the state.

The port was a signatory to the whole deal and benefited just like the city. If the port wants to back out now, it should, at least, be willing to pay back the federal money plus interest.

If it’s uncertain what 6(f)(3) restrictions mean, there are other avenues to be taken besides a quiet title suit which appears as a thinly veiled attempt to remove federal restrictions altogether, not an action to seek clarification of regulations.

I hope we can clarify these issues before those who are pushing for a possible recall election of the port commissioners who voted to allow this lawsuit go much further.


Port spending our tax dollars
So, the port is suing over the Kah Tai property decision. Win or lose, we the taxpayers lose. The port loses the case, and we taxpayers pay. They win the case (and there are sure to be appeals), and taxpayers pay.

The port says that it needs clarification on the 20 acres for future use. Continued use as parkland wouldn’t seem to need further clarification. But, use or Make Waves, commercial development, or even ballfields (highly unlikely, Mr. Crockett), would, according to them, require legal clarification.

I believe that if completely polled, the broad spectrum of county residents would want the parkland to be retained as was originally established with previous  agreements.

And I highly doubt that taxpayers  want to pay unnecessary  legal fees in these economic times.

This was an easy, no- cost (taxpayers pay the bill) decision by the port board. Perhaps [the board] should be willing to foot the bill if and when the port loses its lawsuit. Maybe they should rethink their decision.

GORDON JAMES  Port Hadlock

Port Townsend Leader 19 October 2011 

Kah Tai ruling a gift to lagoon visitors A wonderful gift has been given to the current and future citizens who live in or visit Port Townsend. Kah Tai’s full boundary has been formally designated as 6(f)(3) by the National Park Service.

This ruling gives Kah Tai protection against any further development by individuals who do not recognize the value inherent in keeping it as a sanctuary. Most citizens recognize that once it is lost, the chances are remote that it will be reclaimed in a condition that allows it to be a habitat to so many species.

Therefore, we are celebrating. We are assured that the privilege remains to witness and to learn more about all the different organisms that live in the park.

In addition, many individuals sense a need for the quiet and peace found only in time spent in the natural world. These experiences exist at Kah Tai, and the recent ruling is cause for celebration.

We want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make sure these opportun ities are available to all who wish to take advantage of them now and in the future.

Port Townsend Leader 14 September 2011

Truth wins out for Kah Tai
Those who support preservation of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park have been vindicated.

On Sept. 8, the Recreation and Conservation Office ( RCO) in Olympia recommended that the full 78.5-acre original park boundary be protected in perpetuity by the National Park Service, in continuity with the original intent of the 1981 grant.

The urban myth that the Port of Port Townsend never intended to include its land in a nature park has been refuted by a clear reading of the original documents: applications, grants, contracts, resolutions, petitions, City of Port Townsend and port district minutes. It took considerable effort and patience from private citizens to persuade the current powers-that-be into a clear reading of those documents, because that urban myth was quite settled into local consciousness. But the fate of those 78.5 acres was determined 30 years ago, and all the attempts to rewrite history could not change facts.

Thanks go to various incarnations of the Kah Tai Alliance, the Friends of Kah Tai, the Admiralty Audubon Society, poets and artists, volunteers both known and anonymous, and to those who were present in port and city offices at the “creation,” so to speak, who knew what the original intent was and spoke up when it was critically important. Even newcomers had a role to play, to look at faded documents with fresh eyes and be greeted by irrefutable facts.

To quote a famous old Englishman, “ The truth will out.” And it has.


Port Townsend Leader 17 August 2011

Kah Tai needs protection
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park was created with the assistance of federal Land and Water Conservation funds in 1981. Acceptance of those funds by the City of Port Townsend and Port of Port Townsend cosponsors conferred protections of perpetuity to the entire park.

Current efforts to exclude port land in Kah Tai from federal protections and develop the area commercially are destined for the same fate as port efforts in 1977 to build a planned unit development (strip mall) on the same land. The port’s plans were rejected by citizens and elected city officials who believed that Kah Tai had already given enough to the port’s economic mission.

In 1964, filling of the lagoon on both sides of Sims Way with 231,000 cubic yards of dredge spoils provided the port with the Boat Haven and much of the current boatyard. It deprived the citizens of what had been a spectacular entrance to the city and eliminated what had been critical fisheries nursery habitat for Port Townsend Bay.

George Randolph was port manager at the time of the failed 1977 effort to build a strip mall on the dredge-spoil flats. Four years later, Mr. Randolph clearly understood what the citizens wanted when he submitted a letter, which was appended to the port’s 1981 comprehensive plan. Although he was no longer port manager, he wrote that “proposed development is contrary to what the people in Port Townsend have again and again indicated to the port as to what they want.” He continued, “Commercial development near Kah Tai ... would endanger the image of Port Townsend.”

Mr. Randolph also took issue with the comprehensive plan because it did not serve the majority of port taxpayers, who live throughout Jefferson County. Instead, it concentrated all of its development dollars in the city of Port Townsend.

Current port commissioners and administrators could take a lesson from Mr. Randolph’s change of heart and realization of the depth of citizen opposition to mindless and ill-considered development. His letter is as accurate and timely today as it was 30 years ago. We should not have to reinvent this wheel every 30 years. How much more time, energy, tax dollars and good will must be expended in the battle to protect Kah Tai?


Port Townsend Leader 15 June 2011

Kah Tai grants contradict port’s intention 
For over a year, the Port of Port Townsend has objected to its Kah Tai property being part of the federally protected park created by grant in 1981 and has been perpetuating the creation myth that the port never intended for its 20-plus acres of fill to be included in the park. However, the grant documents described below tell a very different story. Copies can be requested at kahtai.blogspot.com.

On Nov. 10, 1980, IAC administrator Robert Wilder asks Heritage Conservation and Recreation Services (HCRS) regional director Maurice Lundy to reinstate a retroactive waiver, granted to the port in 1978 and inadvertently cancelled by IAC, for the donated H.J. Carroll property on the lagoon’s western boundary. The waiver was necessary for matching funds to complete the “joint Port of Port Townsend and City of Port Townsend Kai (sic) Tai Lagoon project, now under consideration for funding by the IAC.”

Mr. Wilder says he is “enclosing a map showing the subject property in rela tion to the overall project and a revised EIA.” The revised environmental impact assessment describes the proposed purchase of “8 acres of privately owned land within the identified boundary of Kah Tai Park” to combine with the 35-acre lagoon and the port land “ between the lagoon and Highway 20.” In the records, a plot plan is the only map with a continuous boundary, which includes all port land north of Sims; all private parcels that were intended for purchase or donation; and the mostly submergent county parcels that now comprise the park.

HCRS assistant regional director Frederick Bender concurred with Mr. Wilder’s request for waiver reinstatement on Nov. 14, 1980, and the year-long application process was complete. Since funding was unavailable via normal channels, Mr. Bender forwarded the project to U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s contingency fund via a memo dated Dec. 1, 1980. The associated memorandum from U.S. Department of the Interior’s HCRS acting director to the Secretary of the Interior describes “acquisition of approximately 8 acres” which “will join together with other publicly owned land surrounding the lagoon” for a project area “of nearly 80 acres.” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus concurs, in a memo on Jan. 4, 1981 and in a press release describing the “proposed 78-acre Kah Tai Lagoon area” as “a natural area park being created by the city of Port Townsend, WA and the Port Townsend Port District.”


(note: Jan. 4, 1981 should be Jan. 5, 1981 in final paragraph)

 Port Townsend Leader 8 June 2011

Preserve, value Kah Tai Lagoon

We became aware of Port Townsend’s charms years ago. It soon became a place that we visited four to five times a year. Many things drew us to this town. The attractions have been discussed many times.

We wish to highlight a part of PT that may not have received the acclaim that it deserves. That place is Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. Having this reserve, within city limits, makes it relatively unique. Seattle, only in the last years, is beginning to recognize the value of such places. We suggest Thornton Creek in North Seattle as one such area that is being reclaimed.

Amateur naturalists have long valued these places, but their importance has to be recognized and understood by each generation if we want to, as responsible beings, preserve some of our gifts. The beauty and behaviors of other beings, whether they are plants or animals, must be available for all to witness and appreciate. It is only by respecting and preserving places like Kah Tai that the natural world will be seen by many. Places such as Kah Tai are of major importance in that they help produce an informed, voting public.


Letter to City Council 30 May 2011


Born in Port Townsend and, after nearly 70 years, still interested and concerned about city issues, I want to support the Friends of Kah Tai amendment to the 2011 Comprehensive Plan.  Reading The Leader, I am aware of a new "staff" amendment which would weaken the protections regarding open space, wildlife habitat and passive outdoor recreation around Kah Tai.

When I grew up in Port Townsend, the "lagoon" as we referred to it was much larger and a major part of the landscape.  I even remember the one or two years when the lagoon froze solid enough to be safe for ice skating.

I also remember when dredged material from the south side of the street along Kah Tai was dumped on the north side of the street and introduced so much salt into the fill area that the magnificent poplars in that stretch died.  My mother, Irene Grady, and others worked hard to replant the area with new poplars so that the striking landscape was restored.

When I read about the various plans for a swimming pool, recreation center, arts center, etc., I am alarmed.  With the introduction of a commercial zone at the west end some years ago, the area already was changed a great deal, having negative effect on birds and other wildlife, for example.

But what is left, with the nature and jogging trail and other low-impact activities, must be protected.  Each small encroachment means this wonderful old and natural treasure is diminished.

Please don't let the staff alternative amendment be the start of a slippery slope of development around Kah Tai.

Thank you.


Port Townsend Leader 25 May 2011

Insist on no development of Kah Tai park
Kah Tai supporters should be aware (no thanks to the Leader, which didn’t report it) that the City Council’s final docket for the 2011 Comprehensive Plan Amendment cycle now contains an additional amendment belatedly written by planning staff as an “alternative” to the amendment submitted two months ago by Friends of Kah Tai. The staff memo called the Friends’ amendment “restrictive.” It is. It restricts future development inside the park and restricts uses to open space, wildlife habitat and passive outdoor recreation. Here is the complete text of that amendment: “4.5.1 Extend maximum environmental protection in perpetuity for the exclusive open space, wildlife habitat, and passive outdoor recreation functions within Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.”

The staff “alternative” amendment only states: “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.” What this text does not mention, however, is that federal grant law allows a type of development called a “compatible public facility” within an outdoor recreation grant boundary if that facility “enhances” and “supports” the original park – like the interpretive materials Make Waves has said they would include in their facility.

However, such a “compatible public facility” is merely a local option within g rant law. It is not a legal requirement of grant law and certainly is not a development right within grant law.

So the real distinction between the two docketed Kah Tai amendments is that Friends of Kah Tai have proposed an amendment that clearly says “no thank you” to the local development option while the staff version lays the legal groundwork for it.

After decades of public participation to establish in the public record that the citizens of Port Townsend overwhelmingly want Kah Tai to be a nature park, park supporters are going to have to do it all over again during this amendment cycle. There’s no way around it.

So please email the City Council at citycouncil@cityofpt.us and tell them not to adopt the staff alternative amendment, because you do not want to see Kah Tai developed – ever – not with an aquatic/recreation center, an arts center, or any other kind of public facility.

Tell the City Council that you insist they respect the long history of public involvement in creation and development of the nature park and to adopt Friends of Kah Tai Amendment LUP11- 015.


Port Townsend Leader 11 May 2011

Park already provides ‘habitat’
In response to the letter titled “Children need habitat, too” [May 4 edition]: Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park already provides “habitat” for children. See page C 13 and C 14 of the Leader, same edition. Page C 14 has a photo of a young boy planting a tree at the Kah Tai park at one of our work parties. On Page C 13, the photo titled “Housing for bats” tells of the three bat houses erected at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park April 21 by OPEPO students. What the photo caption does not say is 40 OPEPO students accompanied the bat houses to the park.

The reason I know this is my husband, Ron, was one of the adults accompanying the 40 students. His role was to provide a history of the park, a little natural history of the plants and animals in the park, and a little natural history of bats themselves. When I asked him how it went, he replied, “ The kids were well behaved and had a great time romping through the horsetail.”

Later, Ron received a packet of thank-you letters from the OPEPO students.

So, Kah Tai park not only provided “habitat,” but education for these kids in history, natural history and writing.


Port Townsend Leader 4 May 2011

Kah Tai park a blessing  
I’ve been living in Port Townsend for 12 years (a relative newcomer), but have grown to love this place more each year. The Kah Tai Park Nature Lagoon is one of our most beloved treasures  right in the heart of town. I work occasionally at Life Care Center ( Kah Tai Skilled Nursing Facility) and upon looking out of the rehab gym one day, I noticed a red-tailed hawk perched on top of a tree. The patients and I were thrilled to see this beautiful bird so close to us. We are truly blessed to have this nature park. Let’s keep it “as it is” and be good stewards. Here’s a thought: A swimming pool can be built just about anywhere.
Let’s work together to find a win-win solution.


Ethical obligation to park donors, volunteers clear

The recent Leader article regarding Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park boundary determinations gives a good overview of the legal and bureaucratic process, but misses the heart and soul of the historical record and the important  part citizens played and without  whom there would be no park.It quotes Ms. Kaleen Cottingham of the state Recreation and Conservation Office saying that she would make a final recommendation on park boundaries, that “ her office’s task has always been to use records – not recollections – to determine the (6)(f) boundary around the park ... I’ll have my staff go through the records ... and make sure we have everything  to make a decision.”

There would be very few documents  to search without the efforts of Friends of Kah Tai, the citizen organization that worked tirelessly  in the late 1970s and early 1980s to create Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, and that was instrumental in acquiring grants as well as donations to meet required local matches to the grants. Those early Friends of Kah Tai were meticulous recordkeepers. They left seven large boxes of records for safe keeping, knowing that nature parks are constantly under assault from development. The present officers have kept those records, many more than 30 years old.

Those seven boxes contain newspaper clippings, brochures and ads from many community fundraisers, old photos, legal documents  showing port- and city signed agreements founding the park, deeds and letters from citizens  donating their land to the park, documents from four citizen lawsuits.

While the records are made up of many small pieces, the pieces add  up to the complete picture – the undisputed intent of the founders  and the matching grant donors – a park boundary that includes the now disputed port parcel.

One particularly poignant letter  along with a deed is from one Port Townsend family, whose donation of private land constituted  more than half of the required grant financial match. They deeded  the land where they intended to build their retirement home to the park on the condition that the park in its entirety, explicitly including the port land, was forever protected as parkland and signed it “with love.”

The state agency may make a boundary recommendation based on legal opinions and legal documents, but there is also an ethical obligation to honor the hundreds of people who worked, sacrificed and donated to give us Kah Tai –in its entirety.


Port Townsend Leader 27 April 2011
Even the port wanted Kah Tai preserved

One of the persistent urban myths about Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park is that it was never intended to be a “nature” park.

True, the port tried in the 1970s to build a planned unit development on the flats and placate the public with a narrow greenbelt along the lagoon shore. But those flats were created when the port filled in a beautiful estuary with dredge spoils in 1964 and the commercial development idea didn’t fly. When the port accepted land on the western edge of Kah Tai from H. J. Carroll and applied to place it in a retroactive waiver in 1977, Mr. Carroll’s requirement was that his generous gift “be used only for park purposes.”

The documents between state and federal officials accepting that retroactive waiver are specific that the waiver was granted so the donated land could be used for a Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) grant-funded park.

Commercial development was no longer proposed nor would it have been funded with an LWCF grant. Protections in perpetuity come with LWCF money. History cannot be rewritten.

The environmental impact assessment in the 1981 LWCF grant refers to Kah Tai as a “de facto wildlife park.” What was understood in 1981 has only become more apparent with time and natural succession. It is a nature park.

In 1986, the City of Port Townsend updated their Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan. It referred throughout to the park as Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, 25 years ago, five years after the port signed the grant contract to create the park.

In 2003, the port updated its own comprehensive scheme, and its own environmental impact assessment concluded that any development at Kah Tai “would result in degradation and loss of habitat and adverse impacts to the wetland,” among othe r negative consequences. Their own published conclusion was to not develop it within the 20-year window of their scheme, but to maintain it as open space/park or sell it in entirety to a public entity that would maintain it as such.

In 2011, the port is claiming that no protections apply to its land in Kah Tai – protections it agreed to when the park was created. This is not about 1.9 acres in one corner. It’s about the uplands that have developed into precious wildlife habitat in the heart of our city. One corner, one building, that’s only the beginning.


Port Townsend Leader 6 April 2011

Progress made for Kah Tai
A group of ten concerned Port Townsend citizens traveled to Olympia on Thursday, March 31, to watch government in action. We attended the meeting of the Board of the State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) to listen to them discuss the future of Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. Eight of us testified in person, but more importantly, 38 citizens submitted letters of support to the Board to protect Kah Tai in perpetuity. The 1981 contract signed by the Port and City with the State of Washington clearly recognizes the permanent nature of any park created with Land and Water Conservation funds.

What we didn't expect to see was an RCO agency specialist submit and initially defend incorrect information to the Board to brief them on the situation. The RCO Board was misinformed about the timing, nature and relevance of three leases between the City and the Port and about the identity of the private donations that formed the local grant match. The agency specialist who should be representing the interests of a park that his agency fostered into existence instead advocated for one sponsor of the park to the potential detriment of the second sponsor and to the park itself.

Because of citizen involvement, however, by the end of the session the content and title of the briefing memo and associated resolution had to be changed very publicly in substantial ways before it could be voted on. The RCO Board and staff were put on the spot in an open meeting by having to admit that published information was factually incorrect. We hope to understand more about how this situation was allowed to develop so that our park begins to receive a fair hearing from the agencies who should be speaking for it.

Most importantly, we would like to thank the many concerned citizens who wrote to the RCO Board on behalf of Kah Tai. A link to a full compilation of letters is provided at: kahtai.blogspot.com. Your advocacy for the truth made all the difference.

RICK JAHNKE Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 9 March 2011

City, port agreed to saving Kah Tai in perpetuity
On Jan. 23 2011, the Port of Port Townsend’s attorney sent their legal response about Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park’s status to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. 

In it, the port claims that they have no obligation to perpetuity for the 20-plus acres of land they included in the 1981 Land and Water Conservation Fund ( LWCF) grant proposal to create Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, because it was offered only as a temporary, 30-year lease.

But do the math. The lease was signed on Aug. 4, 1982 and expires in 2012. The grant was signed by the port on June 1, 1981.

The lease did not exist when the park grant was funded and the park was created. How can a lease signed after the fact have any bearing on a contract?

The port’s attorney claims the port was not a sponsor and that there was no contract. But the port commission president’s signature is clearly present on the line that says “ Port of Port Townsend Contracting Party” on the grant page titled “ Project Contract,” right below the signature of Mayor Barney McClure, “City of Port Townsend Contracting Party,” and approved in both cases by the “Attorney for Contracting Party.”

 Throughout the grant documents, the intended park is described as encompassing 78.5 acres. There is no way to draw a boundary around the park and get near 78.5 acres without including all the port parcels.

The port’s attorney claims that the port land was not only leased, but was used as the required local match to get LWCF funds to create the park.

 But public documents show the required local match came from the generous private donations of people named Green, Papritz, Bergstrom and Carroll. Besides, sponsor land cannot be used as a match under LWCF rules.

The port’s attorney claims a defense of “statute of frauds,” which to this layman’s eyes means that they have to deny the existence of a contract, even though one clearly exists. The port’s attorney also defends against “servitudes,” which to this layman’s eyes is another way of saying that the port has no intention of protecting any of the 20-plus acres.

 Servitudes are what stipulations of perpetuity are all about. Perpetuity of the entire park is what the port and city agreed to in 1981.

This layman has one additional question: How much has the port’s attorney cost the taxpayers so far? 


Port Townsend Leader 2 March 2011

Pool bond would be worth a vote
As a result of the Quilcene Conversation Forum that took place Saturday, Feb. 19, a task force has been formed to lobby for the creation of a library facility in Quilcene.

As a member of this task force, we will be seeking mentorship from the main branches to facilitate a funding source. Port Townsend has set a standard for finding funding for its expansion by soliciting state and federal grants without taxing the local populace. This would be the preferred course of action for our group.

On the other hand, the Port Hadlock facility is crafting a bond proposal to be put to the voters that would place the burden of funding on property owners. This is not the right economic climate to be asking that from us. They cite high patron usage as a reason for their extravagant expansion plans. How ever, when Port Townsend completes its expansion and if Quilcene gets a library facility, then those high patron usage numbers will not be accurate.

On Feb. 22 I placed a call to Commissioner David Sullivan’s office requesting that the county and city work together to craft a bond proposal for a new swimming pool. Now that’s a bond worth voting for!

As a private organization, Make Waves cannot get funding from a bond. People want a new pool on the existing facility, not the lagoon. We also do not want to force local business in regard to the existing gyms. The 24-hour one offers a unique service. The other gym perhaps could contract its business into the new pool facility.

At any rate, a bond for a bigger Port Hadlock library does not benefit the whole county the way that a new pool facility would.


Ode to Kah Tai

Nurse – It’s, still moving, or ... ?

Doctor – Yes, let’s see – it’s …

Nurse – Beating?

Doctor – Scalpel!

Nurse – But, but ...

Doctor – There, it’s quiet now.

Nurse – But, wasn’t that – the heart?

Doctor – Oh, yes, well I guess it was...


And so you, too, Port Townsend,
The knife is raised, and what yet beats
Can be silenced soon enough.

This heart, this quiet place,
At rest in the fold of silent tongues,
This, that no man, no group,
No councilman, or commissioner, has the right to take –
This heart beats for all, and
All should have a say.

If ever a referendum should be held,
Then it is now.
If this heart is to be
Cut out, then all hands should grasp
The handle, and all hands thrust the blade.

Those who think they alone should cut
This heart – remember
Blood does not wash.

BRIAN YOUNG Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 23 February 2011

Make Waves project betrays Kah Tai park
Wednesday, Dec. 22, I attended the port commission regular meeting to hear discussion and to comment on the question of building the Make Waves aquatic center in Kah Tai park. Commissioner John Collins closed off public comment, and so I’d like to comment here, in the Leader.

The question on the table was to extend for one year the port’s letter of intent to the Make Waves group, and the commissioners unanimously decided to grant the extension, allowing exploration of the project to go forward. I believe this was the wrong decision.

People in this community have been fighting to preserve Kah Tai for more than 40 years. It has a rich history, and the port has been a partner in the past. The federal monies that went into consolidating the boundaries of Kah Tai park in the early 1980s stipulated that all lands within the resulting park be preserved in perpetuity for the values of outdoor recreation. The port was a party to that grant agreement, and many thought the park was a done deal.

Now it seems the port is seeking to legally maneuver out of its commitment to preserve Kah Tai park as a place for outdoor recreation, a commitment that other parties to the agreement – the city, the state, and the National Park Service – have all agreed should be upheld.

Debating the relative merits of an aquatic center versus open park space is not actually the point. We made a decision almost 30 years ago to afford protection to Kah Tai precisely because we know that another good idea will always come along – homes, businesses, an aquatic center – we are going to build the things we want and need wherever we can, and good people are going to be involved.

This is why it is so important that when we make a decision to use land for another thing we value – for open park space – we hold to that promise and not encroach upon that space. To do otherwise is a betrayal, and we will not simply acquiesce.

JULIE VAN PELT Port Townsend

Water table could be pool building issue
Several years ago, I signed the letter the Make Waves group circulated proposing a new swimming pool in Port Townsend. This was long before discussions ensued as to where a new pool complex might be built.

Now that serious consideration is being given to locating the pool at Kah Tai, I offer the following: For my summer job during college, I worked as a pool tech in St. Louis County, inspecting and certifying public swimming pools. My responsibilities included checking for correct chlorine levels and chemical content of water, pH adjustment, and inspection of filter systems, filter elements and drains.

In addition to inspecting public pools, I maintained a number of private pools as a legal safety measure for those clients.

What does my summer job eons ago have to do with the Make Waves project? This: Most of our pool problems could be mitigated in place by correcting the chemical balance of the water or replacing the filter system or even by rebuilding a crumbling old pool. But one problem was impossible to correct: a pool that floated. We called it heaving, and it happened as a result of the pool’s having been built too low to the water table. Just as concrete barges or our floating bridges operate succes sfully, a pool can and will float unless it is located high enough above the water table. I saw it over and over again.

Kah Tai park land is infill and you see right where the water table is, don’t you? We can’t locate a swimming pool there.


Birds disappear quietly, sadly
I hope by now that everyone who has the most basic interest in this patch of undeveloped land [Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park] is acquainted with the history; how Port Townsend citizens worked very hard to create a nature park.

This urban refuge for local and migratory birds has the residents of the 1980s to thank for their home. It is a buffer from the dominant narcissists – us.

The land is for the birds, not us!

Birds are intelligent and have a genetic memory, especially when it comes to humans strolling through their territory. Have you ever noticed, when you are strolling and happily listening to the chatter of birdsong, how suddenly the singing and chirping is cut off while you saunter closer and closer to their favorite bush, a wispy bit of tall grass or a tree? We are the predatory enemy.

One corner of the land is the habitat for the red-winged blackbird, American crow, song sparrow, black- capped chickadee and marsh wren. Another section, which has marsh and a mixed forest, is host to another species.

Another part of the park has field grasses, Nootka roses and young trees. The bushtit, house finch and yellow-rumped warbler eat here and socialize.

Birds, like us, need space. They need privacy. We demand it for our meditations, for our quality of life. Birds do not demand, beat us away with their wings or scream at us; the species simply disappears without the human population even noticing.


Port Townsend Leader 16 February 2011

Abandon Make Waves project
Besides the destruction of the 30-year-old Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, the lack of public process is another reason the port and City of Port Townsend should abandon their plan to subsidize the Make Waves project to build a pool/fitness center in the park, which has been designated as an environmentally sensitive area.

Mesmerized by the prospect of a “free” pool, both the city and port have uncritically accepted the Make Waves propaganda without providing the community an opportunity to comment on the merits of the proposal ( joint city/port meeting, March 9, 2009). When public assets and scarce tax dollars are involved, city and port governments should solicit public opinions on topics such as the need and size of an aquatic/fitness center, priority of a pool project relative to other projects, location of the pool, and cost of constructing and maintaining the pool.

In order to be economically viable, Make Waves wants a pool/fitness center which would take, according to their feasibility study, about 18 percent of the customers from existing private fitness clubs (not to mention other enterprises such as yoga, massage, day care). To have a government body help a private organization create and maintain an aquatic/fitness center that would adversely affect existing businesses is so flagrantly unfair that I question the legality of the plan.

Home to at least 90 species of birds (Admiralty Audubon Society bird survey, 2010), Kah Tai Lagoon Park is the major wildlife habitat in Port Townsend and should be preserved as such when the port/city lease expires in 2012 (kahtai.blogspot.com). Transferring all the port property in the park to the city with the stipulation that it remain forever as wildlife habitat would definitely establish the port as a “leader in environmental stewardship” (Strategic Direction #7, Port Strategic Plan 2009-2014) and gain the respect of many citizens who firmly believe that wildlife is a crucial component of the quality of life we seek in Jefferson County.

JIM TODD Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 26 January 2011

We don’t need extras, just a pool
Addressing Makes Waves:

Why don’t you just remodel the pool we have?

Updating the plumbing, locker rooms and installing solar panels would be much cheaper that what you are planning. Plus, you say that to be viable financially you need to add extra rooms for classes, meetings, etc. We barely have enough people to support our existing facilities – Evergreen Fitness, Port Townsend Athletic Club, Madrona Mind & Body at Fort Worden, numerous yoga and dance studios, community/rec center.

We don’t need another large facility. We just need a pool.

NANCY ERRECA Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 12 January 2011

Time for port, city to fulfill Kah Tai commitment
When the Make Waves ( MW) president Karen Nelson told the port commissioners (Dec. 8, 2010 Port of Port Townsend meeting) that they have 2,500 supporters of their pool/ fitness center project, she was referring to the signers of their mission statement: “ To develop a multipurpose aquatic, recreational and fitness center that is affordable, financially sustainable, politically supportable and serves the needs of all members of our community for generations to come.”

Please note that: 1) Signers need not be Jefferson County residents. 2) Statement does not mention the MW request for free public land in the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park (KTLNP) for the pool site. A number of signers withdrew their support of MW over thi s issue. 3) MW has not followed its own mission statement since the site location in KTLNP is not “politically supportable.”

Since March 2010 more than 1,300 residents have signed the Friends of Kah Tai petition (kahtai. blogspot.com): “In order to maintain Kah Tai Lagoon as a nature reserve and passive recreation area, we the undersigned residents of Jefferson County oppose the use of the KTLNP in Port Townsend (PT) as a site for the MW aquatic/fitness center or for any other project that would diminish the quality of the wildlife habitat in the park.”

Besides PT, KTLNP petition signers live in the county (15), Chimacum (46), Port Hadlock (39), Port Ludlow (28), Quilcene (19), Nordland (20), Kala Point (6), Brinnon (5), Gardiner (3). Many signatures (87) were collected in the KTLNP.

Clearly there is a strong and widespread support for keeping the KTLNP as the “de facto wildlife park” described in the environmental im pact assessment in the 1981 National Park Service grant proposal signed by the port and the City of PT. It is time for the port and city to work together to fulfill their 1981 commitment.

JIM TODD Port Townsend

Port Townsend Leader 5 January 2011

Kah Tai needs protection
Our nature preserve, Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, needs protection.

I live in Port Townsend and use the pool at Mountain View. I think a new pool is a grand idea. Kah Tai is not the place for it. To imagine that Kah Tai can be both a nature preserve and the site of a busy recreational facility is preposterous!

Here are issues for the port commissioners’ public meeting on Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m., 375 Hudson St., Port Townsend, when they decide whether to renew their letter of intent with Make Waves or allow the letter to lapse, as they should.

Land given to Make Waves can never be restored to wildlife and the people of Port Townsend.

The proposed 35,000-squarefoot building will generate noise, light, and car and foot tr affic from morning until night. How can the public and wildlife be expected to use the park in this uproar?

Providing parkland to this project defies the port’s very own 20-year plan. In 2003, commissioners voted to keep the park as open space with no development.

Make Waves asks for precious land; it also asks for precious parking spaces, more than 100. I understand that when the park-and-ride was created, Washington State Department of Transportation limited its use to Jefferson Transit’s approved scope of activity, which does not allow for Make Waves’ proposed encroachment. Our economy rests in large part on tourism; we need the park-and-ride.

Make Waves asserts that a swimming pool alone will not draw enough membership for the undertaking to be financially feasible. Therefore, the facility must offer additional activities and amenities (exercise, sport, fitness, juice bar, etc.). These features, in a stateof- the-art facility, would thre aten existing businesses that are not 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, but are locally owned, provide livelihoods for hundreds, and pay taxes. A not-for-profit should not compete with viable private businesses.

The Make Waves organization is made up of responsible people who want to do something valuable for the people of Jefferson County. I doubt anyone is opposed to the idea of a new swimming pool. We’d probably all get on board if its scale were somewhat modified and if it were to be located elsewhere.

Please Google “ Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park” and sign the petition.