Park Lane Advisory Group gives nod to community canvas

The Park Lane Advisory Group agreed Wednesday on a community engagement project that will transform Park Lane's future construction fencing into a community canvas, of sorts. The fencing will feature homegrown art, possibly from Kirkland school students.

The Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods will be working with the Park Lane project staff to further define the community-engagement project and eventually decide on a theme for the art, create the art, and unveil the art during the January construction kick-off event.

To ensure a future treescape, ailing trees need to be replaced, design team says

The group also discussed implications from the series of recent tree assessments conducted by the Park Lane design team. Those assessments indicate that many of the mature trees are,  in fact, ailing. To ensure that a future treescape exists, the design team's landscape architect said the City would need to replace the ailing trees with trees that are more appropriate for Park Lane.

"Right now, we're looking at some kind of disease-resistant elms-a hybrid that doesn't get too big," said Eric Schmidt, a principal at the Cascade Design Collaborative and a member of the Park Lane design team. "The maples that are there now are 60-foot trees. We will plant trees that will grow to 35 to 40 feet. That reduces the root-mass. But it maintains that old Park Lane treescape feel." The new trees, he added, would have a wider canopy.
To maintain that feel in the short term, Schmidt said the new street would retain the gateway trees on both ends of the western block. "So even though it's changed, it'll feel like the same old Park Lane at the entrance," Schmidt said.

Fallen tree on Park Lane in 2011

Fallen tree on Park Lane in 2011

In 20 years, those too might need to be replaced. By then, however, the trees planted in 2015 will have matured, Schmidt says. And those trees will compensate in appearance for the younger, smaller gateway trees.

Schmidt said the trees faced several challenges from the get-go. "The trees are fortunate that they have one-story buildings surrounding them," said design team member Eric Schmidt, a principal landscape architect from the Cascade Design Collaborative. "They get plenty of sunlight. So the upper part of their lives is going pretty well. But the lower part of their lives-what's below the ground-is the problem."

For one, they were likely nursed in buckets, which causes their roots to coil, rather to sprawl deep beneath the surface-even when replanted in the ground. Back when they were planted, using a backhoe or a drill was the standard practice. Both of those methods, unintentionally created a seal of compacted soil around the inside of the root hole. That, said Schmidt, prevented the roots from growing deep. Once the roots did manage to grow, they struggled in an environment of excessively compacted soil, and the occasional encounter with automobiles or other objects.  All of these factors have contributed to tree roots that have buckled sidewalks, in search of moisture and loose soil.

The new trees, however, will benefit from a trove of tree-health-related research that has emerged in the past decade, said Gina Parenteau, the design team's lead engineer.
Kirkland will surround them with bio-retention devices, Schmidt says. Those provide the street surface with enough strength to accommodate the load of automobiles. At the same time, however, they allow for loose soil, capable of retaining nutrients and moisture.