There has been slow progress in getting Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to sell the development rights of the CHS Memorial Forest to the King County Parks Department (KCPD). This has been our objective – a way of protecting the forest far into the future. Following such a transaction, SPS or any future buyer of the property would not be able to develop the property for any other purpose. I requested from David Kemmett (of KCPD) an update on the negotiations they are having with SPS:
School district administration staff have reviewed our proposal and provided comments. The district is also conducting its own appraisal. We hope to finalize an agreement in the next few months which would then need to go before the school district board for their review and approval.
In a recent email from Mr. Kemmett, he revealed that they, KCPD, would like to have an access trail/road across the north side of the property to connect Duthie Hill Park with Fall City Park West and the Forterra property. [The Forterra Property is a forest conservation group.]
The problem with this plan is that Duthie Hill Park is a mountain bike park and we have already had mountain bikes encroaching on the Memorial Forest and damaging some trails. I haven’t talked to a vast number of people on this subject, but I know of no alumnus who is in favor of having mountain bikes in the Memorial Forest.
I sent an email to Mr. Kemmett requesting that, in the spirit of our first Friends of the Forest meeting in September 2018, the members of the CHSAA forest committee be allowed to review their proposal to SPS. As suspected, they can’t do that in the middle of negotiations. In desperation, I contacted the Fonterra group to see if we could find an ally in them. Unfortunately, even motorbikes or motorized vehicles are not a problem with them.
We arranged a meeting with Mr. Noel Treat, the legal counsel who is representing SPS in the negotiations. Our objective was to convince Mr. Treat that we (CHSAA) are partners with him in the negotiations –– not an adversary. We expressed the following concerns:
- We are opposed to bicycles or any other vehicle encroaching into the Memorial Forest.
- We recommended that KCPD be responsible for placing barriers across trails to stop bicycles and similar vehicles.
- We recommended that the access strip be limited to a 15-foot-wide strip along the north edge of the property to connect Duthie Hill Park with Fall City Park West.
- We recommended that KCPD provide a bridge over Canyon Creek to protect fish.
- We suggested that SPS use a small fraction of the money they receive to
- Rebuild the Lyceum (a 30×55 foot shelter destroyed by arson).
- Develop and implement a Forest Management Plan (see below).
Unless someone comes up with a better idea, it seems that the best we can do is work towards a compromise where KCPD gets a narrow strip for mountain bikes on the north edge of the Memorial Forest, and we get barriers on the south side of the strip to prevent encroachment by bikes into the forested area.
Assuming that the development rights of the Memorial Forest are sold to KCPD, we intend to push SPS to work with CHSAA members to develop and implement a Forest Management Plan. The purpose of such a plan would be the prevention of “our” forest from being contaminated with large quantities of alder trees and salmonberry bushes. We believe a profit could be made by selective harvesting under this plan. The benefit to SPS would be a financially independent forest that is an asset to SPS and the community.
What else is bugging us
What value is there in a memorial to our war heroes if the memorial name doesn’t identify the heroes. SPS continues to refer to “our” memorial as the Cleveland Memorial Forest. Our memorial was not developed to honor President Grover Cleveland. The Cleveland National Forest in California does that. The proper name for our forest should be . . . The Cleveland High School Memorial Forest. We intend to persuade SPS to change the name, and CHSAA should agree to pay for a new sign – a sign made of concrete instead of wood. The last sign was broken up and burned by a homeless person living in the area.
Counting our successes
So far our new (2017) granite monument has not been vandalized, as our old bronze plaques were. Our new monument weighs almost a ton, it is difficult to steal and there is not a great market for used granite. I did apply another coat of anti-graffiti material to the monument in 2019.
CHS alumni should be proud that we are the only high school in the universe that has a memorial forest dedicated to alumni who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces of our government.
John R. Barton
Class of ’54