The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alert: Planned Tree Removal will Destroy the Greenway Feel of the Interurban Trail

Today's post is written by Lance Young of Shoreline.  Lance is a cyclist, concerned citizen, and the Director of the Outing Club.
Seattle City Light is planning to remove all the trees under the power lines along the Interurban Trail north of N 145th Street this summer rather than continue to prune them every few years to cut their costs of doing business. The natural barrier provided by the trees may become a man made barrier of wood and cyclone fences, as it has in other sections where the natural greenery has been removed.

This is what the trail corridor looks like today:

This is what it may become:

 The power company claims they will be replacing the matrue evergreens they remove with low growing bushes like this section of the trail.

It is of course important for the power company to maintain the transmission lines and electric service to the many customers they serve. According to the representatives from the the power company, one of the primary concerns of Seattle City Light is to lessen the work required to come out every few years and prune or top the trees, and it may well be less costly in the long run for them to just remove the trees entirely.  

However, this corridor is also a greenbelt with a prominent regional pedestrian and bike trail.  The interests and well being of these many users should be an important consideration in any decisions made here. Currently and over the past many decades this vegetation has been pruned and maintained to preserve the shade, the wildlife habitat, a weather barrier, and sound and visual barrier between the adjoining commercial and residential communities.  These benefits should be maintained and enhanced, not removed.

The trees along the trail provide wildlife habitat for local woodland creatures including: squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, owls, and several other species of birds including flickers, finches, Steller's jays, blue herons, hawks, and many others. These trees provide shelter not only for wildlife but local residents and greenway users as well. Though the Interurban Trail is just a short distance from Aurora Avenue these many trees provide a significant sound dampening effect for the neighborhood and trail.  They also provide a significant moderating influence on wind and weather blowing through the area. Further, the removal of the trees at the street end of 149th would open up the access to this undeveloped street right of way to trail traffic which is better directed to the 148th street access.

For all of these reasons these trees should really be maintained rather than removed. In addition, removal of these mature trees will change the character of the neighborhood and the trail, and the natural barrier between the commercial properties along Aurora Ave and the residential neighborhood. The greenway view would change from mature evergreen trees to apartment units, businesses and light industrial. These many mature trees have become such an important part of the community in this area, that their removal would truly be a great loss.

The power company says they will be setting up community meetings, but that the purpose of these will be only to tell everyone what they are going to do, not to solicit suggestions or input. The plan is to remove the trees sometime this summer (August-September 2011).

What to do

If you appreciate the trees along the Interurban Trail and would like to comment on this project, below are several contacts:

Seattle Mayors Office
(The power company is accountable to the Mayor)
600 4th Ave  #7
Seattle, WA 98104

Shoreline City Council
(Shoreline has the Interurban Trail right-of-way)
Brian Breedon (public works, nice guy)

Seattle City Light
(planning the tree cutting project)
Brent Schmidt
700 5th Ave  #3300
Seattle, WA 98104

8/19/2011 Update:   The City of Shoreline has asked Seattle City Light to hold a public meeting regarding the planned removal of trees along the Interurban Trail corridor.  The meeting will be August 23 at 6:30 pm at Pacific Learning Center, 14550 Westminster Way N.


  1. SDOT has a well established program of replacing trees along streets with appropriate plantings that will not require as much maintenance. For SDOT's purposes this means not lifting sidewalks, damaging asphalt, and not growing up into any power lines over the planting strip.

    Instead of fighting to keep SCL in the business of tree pruning, might I suggest working with them to add plantings that are low growing, provide even better habitat for critters, and is even more attractive? The savings from avoiding ongoing tall tree pruning might even pay for the whole thing.

    SDOT has an excellent resource on street trees that is instructive. Long term, this is probably a better way to go for all involved.

  2. Seattle City Light does indeed have a re vegetation program, as does the department of transportation. The representatives that came to talk with us pointed to the plantings in the photographs above. This would be a nice addition to the trees but too sparse and low growing to be a good replacement. The low growing bushes would not provide the same sound dampening, wind and weather abatement that the existing mature trees provide.

    Other nearby residents are concerned about soil retention and rain water absorption problems, from bad experiences with past removals that have been done in the area. It seems history may be trying to demonstrate the importance of these trees. Thanks for the comments though, and for your thoughts on some possible alternatives!
    Lance Young

  3. The City of Shoreline has asked Seattle City Light to have a public meeting about the trees to be cut down along the interurban trail, to provide more information and a community discussion opportunity. Currently the power company is planning on removing 62 trees along this section of trail between 145th and 155th streets.

    For those who are interested the meeting will be held at:

    When: Tuesday August 23rd 6:30-8pm
    Pacific Learning Center (or Westminister Assembly church)
    14550 Westminster Way N.
    Shoreline, WA 98133

  4. There will be a public walk of the affected section of trail (145th to 155th), and an inventorying of trees trees to be cut, for anyone who would like to join in. We will meet today Saturday the 20th at 5pm at the south shelter and kiosk at the intersection between 145th street and the Interurban trail. Bring a camera if you have one!