The construction project on Park Lane in downtown Kirkland has many residents scratching their heads and wondering why the picturesque street is being torn up and all but a few of its trees cut down. There was a buzz in Starbucks this past weekend where we overhead three different groups of people with concerns over the fate of Park Lane. Even a former City Councilmember remarked that she thought the tree cutting seemed more extensive than she had recalled.
In October, 2009, the city gave each tree on Park Lane a "grade" of A, B, C... to represent the health of each tree. Trees with a bad "grade" were targeted for removal. Since 2009, the plan has been altered to include the removal of trees which cause problems for pedestrians when roots push up through the sidewalk.
Altogether, the project will remove 27 trees, including an ailing oak removed earlier this year. It will plant 35 new trees with five different species be planted. Those species include the more familiar Red Maples and Red Oaks, as well as the tall and slender Musashinos and the broader Redspire Pears and Pink Flair Cherries.
All of these trees share a common characteristic:
“They’re all appropriate for the street,” says project team member Eric Schmidt, a principal at the Cascade Design Collaborative. “Unlike the trees that are out there now, they won’t grow too tall—maybe 40 to 45 feet. Together, they’ll provide an attractive canopy. They’ll also have a smaller tree base with a root mass that will remain underground.”
Fortunately, construction on Park Lane is taking place during the slow winter months. The finished project is promised to be safer and more pedestrian friendly.
In the process, we may have lost the European charm that made Park Lane such a pleasant street. Dining al fresco under the tree canopy has always been a favorite of our family.
Our city is remaking Kirkland's favorite lane with a new vision and planting trees which are more "appropriate for the street." My only hope is that "appropriate" also means beautiful, welcoming and charming.