Parks project worries neighbors

Neighbors reacted with concern this week to an effort by the North Whidbey Parks & Recreation District to tidy up some property it owns in the Hillcrest neighborhood just outside Oak Harbor.

A couple of logging truckloads of fir and alder trees were cut from a small lot the Parks District owns on Highland Street. The partial deforestation worried neighbors, despite the apparent good intentions of the Parks District.

“Now I don’t have an protection from the wind,” complained neighbor Art Wieberdink as his eyes scanned a scraggly line of fir trees along his property line. Trees on the Parks property were downed, trimmed and awaiting removal, leaving Wieberdink’s trees exposed. “They’re going to come down on my house,” he worried.

Wieberdink said he was informed that some clearing would take place, but he didn’t anticipate much actual logging. “They told me they would clean it up, but I didn’t think they’d be butchering the whole thing,” he said.

Another nearby resident, Bobbi Lornson, said the lot adjoins Hillcrest water district property and she wasn’t looking for improvements. “Nobody asked if we wanted it,” she said. “They wanted to help the neighborhood but the neighbors don’t want it.”

Actually, Parks director Jim Shulock said he contacted Wieberdink and other close-by neighbors about the project, but admitted he didn’t stop at every home.

Shulock viewed the property Thursday after the logging was done, but was looking more into the future, not at the temporary stack of logs and jumbled terrain. He sees a more open, clean lot that the neighborhood can enjoy, complete with a walking trail and a couple of benches. Plenty of tall firs still stand on the back portion of the property, which encompasses less than an acre.

“I anticipate something that will look pretty nice,” Shulock said. Grass seed and clover will be planted, the shrubs presently squashed by the logging equipment will spring back, some fill dirt will be brought in to make the lot more level, and in time rhododendrons and other plants will be added.

Shulock said the lot was given to the Parks District years ago. No development is allowed due to nearby water wells and its assessed value is only $15,000, but he wanted to clean it up. “It was terrible,” he said. He described a jungle of fallen trees and branches and a variety of junk, ranging from litter to blankets left, perhaps, by homeless people. A muddy, overgrown trail was used by kids to get to a nearby school and ballpark.

Shulock expects the project to cost the Parks District very little money. No clearing or grading permit was needed because of the limited scope of the work, and the logging was done at no cost to the district by Lonnie Perkins. “The wood is his,” Shulock said. “I’m saving the district money. I’m saving the people money.”

Shulock believes Wieberdink still has plenty of protection from the wind from other trees still standing, and he offered no criticism of how the property was cleared.

“He did a pretty good job,” Shulock said, predicting that neighbors will eventually appreciate the project when they see the improvements.

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