Tree Removal Concern Delays Campground's Rebirth
Work was suspended on Harry Gardner Park in Toutle, Wash., on Monday (March 5) after neighbors questioned the removal of 250 trees, but officials expect to be back at work soon.
Concern spread through the southwest Washington community during the weekend after about 250 cottonwood and alder trees were removed from the county park. Some Facebook postings even stated the trees were taken out mistakenly by the contractor working to restore the park to overnight camping, The Daily News, Longview, Wash., reported.
County officials, though, said the plans always called for removal of the two types of trees, which are prone to fall over. About 99 percent of the cottonwood and alders — 350 trees — will be removed, said Ron Junker, the county's parks director.
"I think it's hard to visualize off of the drawings what it means when you say you're going to put a park in," he said Monday. "But those trees do have to come out. … We can't have trees falling on tents."
Junker was up at the park at 6:30 a.m. Monday and said he suspended work until officials can meet with neighbors and park volunteers to explain the plans.
"We're going to get with the people who have a concern and walk through it again and make them more comfortable," Junker said.
He hopes to have the work started again later this week.
Park neighbors said the sheer number of removed trees took them by surprise.
"I don't think we really understood the extent," said Elmer Nofziger, co-chairman of the Friends of Harry Gardner Park volunteer group, which has donated countless hours cleaning up the area. "There needed to be some thinning, but we'd hoped they'd be a little more selective."
That said, Nofziger said he's eager to meet with county officials and get the park plans back on track.
"The main thing is to get back to work so the park is ready by June or even May," he said.
Neighbors and volunteers feel especially attached to the 80-acre park because it was their years of volunteer labor that rescued it from the mud and debris it was buried under during the Mount St. Helens eruption on May 18, 1980. The $320,000 county project will finish the work and restore overnight camping, but officials have always said those plans wouldn't have been possible without the dedicated volunteers.
Eventually, the county also will add RV camping, but first has to raise about $35,000 for the required water tank to meet state fire safety regulations. The volunteer group also plans to construct a planned pavilion that had be to be cut from the plans due to budget concerns.