Tag Archives: environment

“The Most Important Election You’ve Never Heard of”

Is what Publicola is calling Tuesday’s vote on the King Conservation District. According to the Seattle Times, “Last year, 2,757 people voted — fewer than one-third of 1 percent of eligible voters. That was a lot better than in 2008, when 198 people voted, or 1988, when 14 voters showed up.”

Take it away, Publicola:

“The most important election you’ve never heard of, for a seat on the five-member King Conservation District board, is happening next Tuesday, March 16, at seven libraries around King County. The district gives out conservation grants and oversees land use in rural King County; the decisions it makes determine whether wetlands and habitat are protected or developed into suburban sprawl.”

You can read on for thier endorsements. Election info is on the KCCD website, but the short story is that you need to stop by one of seven libraries on Tuesday to vote. Closest to Mercer Island are the Seattle Central Library downtown and the Bellevue branch at 1111 110th Avenue NE. Polling hours are 10:30 am to 7:30 and 8 pm, respectively.

And for a story of back-room drama in this election two years ago, check out Blogging Georgetown.

Worth a stop at the library if you can make it.

UPDATE as of Wed March 17:

Max Prinsen, the Sierra Club favorite, won the election. And 4,232 people voted– almost twice as many as last year.

Bonus Link

While you’re feeling civic-minded, take Social Capital Review’s survey on King Co Exec Dow Constantine’s plan for reform.

Next Week Last Week for the 2009 Farmers’ Market

At the market today the city was taking a poll on the hours for the market next year. At about noon, 11 am – 3 pm was way out in front:

2010-mercer-island-farmers-market

Also, back in August you could sign up for trees subsidized by the City for planting around the Island. Today they arrived. Like many good things, they came in the back of a truck:

Vine-maples-and-cedars-at-farmers-market

Vine maples seemed much more popular than the red cedars. I asked one of the tree attendants why, and he said lots of people were worried about how tall the cedars get. But that’s the point: there are a lot of tall tress on Mercer Island but more get cut down all the time. So planting tall trees helps the remaining groves survive over time. And out thinking for getting one was that it’ll strengthen the trees around our house, and hopefully keep them from falling on us.

All of Mercer Island a Wildlife Habitat?

It was a week of causes at the Mercer Island Farmer’s Market:

islandvision-wildlife-habitat

Creating Wildlife Habitat on Mercer Island

IslandVision was there, encouraging all Mercer Island home-owners  to certify a wildlife habitat on thier property. They’re working with the National Wildlife Fund as part of a the national program.  In short, you agree to

  • Provide food with native plants and feeders
  • Provide a water source
  • Provide cover
  • Provide places to raise young
  • Practice sustainable gardening

The good news about all the “provide” statements above is that having native plants and using sustainable gardening get you most of the way there without additional landscaping or expense. For example, mature trees can be a place for wildlife to raise young.

IslandVision were the ones organizing the tree givaway, and they were instrumental in getting the Farmers’ Market to Mercer Island in the first place.  They’ve got a bunch of sustainability projects.

Oh, and they were also giving out horse manure.

State Route 52o Info

A couple of bored guys from the Washington State Dept of Transportation had a booth also. They were explaining the benefits of the SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program. The fact that they were on an island that sits on I-90, not SR-520, might have contributes to the lack of interest from the farmers market attendees and their resulting boredom.

DOT-SR520-Replacement

Of course, a bike lane and good tranport on SR520 can do a couple of important things for Mercer Island:

  1. Keep traffic off I-90, so we can get on and off the Island without gridlock
  2. Give us a new biking loop: Lake Washington to SR-520 to East Side trails

Making room for the causes, there seemed to be fewer food stalls than before. I’m hoping that’s fall coming on, not lack of interest from merchants. But even in the rain last week there seemed to be plenty of foot traffic. And if you consider good pizza, cider and fresh veggies to be causes, there have always been a few at the market.

Tree-Up at the Farmers Market

Tomorrow and Sunday September 13 you can put in your order at the Farmers’ Market for subsidized trees for fall planting. Order either of two native species:

Vine Maple

vine-maple
If you go hiking you often see these trees on the edge of tall forests or in avalanche chutes. It’s a smaller tree with \beautiful fall foliage. King County recommends it for its “ability to hold stream banks and eroding soil,” so any of you living on steep slopes or beside ravines might want this one.

Western Red Cedar

western-red-cedar

A grand and long lived tree” that’s better for level areas with some room to spread.  These will help strengthen some of our existing groves against blowdowns in the fall wind storms once they grow.

Islandvision_logo
IslandVision, the local sustainability group, is organizing the sale and the City is subsidizing the trees. I suspect they’re buying in bulk from the Department of Natural Resources.

What to Do

The Farmers’ Market events page mentions the pickup date only, but IslandVision’s handy newsletter makes the logistics clear:

Stop by the IslandVision table on 8/30 or 9/13 at the MI Farmers Market to sign up for Vine Maple or Western Red Cedar (2 gallon size) trees to be distributed on Sunday, Oct 4 & 11th.  This is a great way to green up your place and reduce your carbon footprint–these species have been chosen because they are healthy sinks for carbon dioxide and do well in our pacific northwest environment.  Very low cost, as the City is subsidizing the bulk tree purchase under their sustainability initiative!

Trees seem to be going down on Mercer Island much faster than they’re coming up. The arborist thinks it’s a good idea to plant trees. And if you stop by to order a tree you can get a tasty cupcake or ice cream bar at the market.

Photo credit: Vine Maple, Mike Putnam. Western Red Cedar, Elle-Epp; flickr.

Listen to the Trees

Or at least the Mercer Island Arborist, who can be presumed to speak for the trees. I left her a message a while back after a fierce windstorm. She was very nice when she called me back.

I was asking whether we should be concerned about the tall trees in the neighborhood blowing down. We bought our house from owners who had cut down three tall trees in the last two years, weakening the grove around. That seems to be common around the Island– groves are thinned over time, and there are few young trees.

trees-mercer-island

My understanding of the MI tree situation based on our conversation:

Planting and Cutting Down Trees

If you remove trees from a grove, the grove is weaker than before. Planting new trees is great: the city lets people plant trees wherever they like and whatever they like, although there are some restrictions in certain geologic hazard area like streams, wetlands, or steep slopes.

They also encourage people not to plant big tall trees in the middle of someone’s view. That’s being a good neighbor.

To cut down trees, you need a permit two years before and two years after construction. That’s to avoid clearcuts, although those have happened. The commercial zone needs permit to remove anything because those buildings went through design review.

Also, what many people don’t know is that right of way trees (on roads) are protected. Parks and easements are also protected. And state and federal regulations protect our 6 eagle circles (there’s a map in city hall).

Health of the Island’s Grove

The arborist couldn’t make a statement on this but did note that we have had a lot of construction on the Island, and we still have a lot of great trees. More info from the city is here.

And by the way, Arbor Day is April 11.

How to Get Trees

There are plenty of nice nurseries around: Squak Mountain, Bellevue Nursury, Wells Medina and Molbaks. The Arbor Day Foundation will also send you ten trees with a $10 membership. Most of the choices are short or flowering trees, except the Eastern Red Cedar option which can grow to 40 feet.

red_cedar 40 feet isn’t so tall in the West.

If you plant a tree or two, you’ll need to water it through the summer. Plant tall trees in places where they can support each other, since single tall trees are much weaker than groves. It might help keep the Island semi-wooded after the big construction boom of the last few years.

Bonus Link: Hour of Darkness

In other tree-hugging news, the Reporter notes that Mercer Island had joined the national hour of darkness tonight between 830 and 930 pm. Parks and city facilities are shutting off lights and the city’s asking homes to do so as well.

Photos: Top, caitlinburke on flickr. Bottom: fcps.edu.