Parking lot loses trees, gains native foliage, fish-friendly features

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Change can be hard, and change has come to the city-owned parking lot at Seventh and G streets.

The overhaul, approved at the Jan. 28 meeting of the Historic and Design Review Commission, is a Low-Impact Development (LID). According to a staff report for the project, the new design will feature standard items such as 43 parking spaces (one fewer than before), new sidewalks, lighting and signage.

Not the sort of sight known to warm the hearts of Arcatans. KLH | Union

Not the sort of sight known to warm the hearts of Arcatans. KLH | Union

Along with that, it gets an array of state-of-the-art eco-features, including permeable pavement, bioswales, rain gardens, native trees, plants and vegetation, plus a bicycle shelter.

To make all this wonderful stuff happen, the previous paradigm, including bad drainage, buckled pavement and several large Eucalyptus trees, had to go. Therein lies the rub, and the tree removal rubbed many the wrong way (see letters, page A7 in April 15 edition).

Some citizens were shocked at the destruction of the trees. Others appreciated their removal, which opens up the area to more sunlight and less bird waste raining down on the parked cars.

“I wish when we planted trees a century ago, we had more understanding of how big they would be and inappropriate they would be,” said Commissioner Janette Heartwood. “So that’s a sad thing.”

Deputy Director of Public Works Netra Khatri said his department had received four calls about the project – two positive and two negative. The critical calls decried the loss of the trees, while the supportive calls approved of the improved sunlight situation.

Replacement landscaping doesn’t include large interior trees. The landscaping plan details a host of native species to be planted in the two raingardens, two drainage-purifying bioswales and Seventh Street frontage.

The landscaping plan. Courtesy City of Arcata

The landscaping plan. Courtesy City of Arcata

Compounding the unsightliness is a private tree-cutting project taking place next door, with denuded trees towering over the adjacent city lot. The neighboring property owner took advantage of the city lot's closure to fell the privately owned trees, because the vacated lot allows a place for branches to fall without damage or danger.

"It's fortunate and unfortunate that we combined two projects," Khatri said.

He said that the big Eucalyptus tree in the lot was rotten, and in a high wind would likely have fallen on someone or something.

According to a Dec. 12, 2012 staff report, the project’s $1,427,575 budget comes from $1,343,971 in state Water Resources Control Board grant funds with a local in-kind match of $83,604. The local contribution consists of in-kind staff time for review, permitting, administration and other bureaucratic processing.facebook-like-button

Humboldt State and Arcata High School students will assist with environmental monitoring and other details.

States the 2012 report, “By reducing pollutants and reducing stormwater volume and velocity, this project will improve water quality, reduce erosion and sediment, and improve habitat and fish passage conditions for Coho salmon (ESA and CESA threatened species), Steelhead (ESA threatened species), Coastal cutthroat trout, and Pacific lamprey (species of concern) as well as other native fish, amphibians and other water-dependent wildlife.”

Said Khatri, "Currently it looks bad, but once the project is complete, I think it will look prettier and better than a hardscape."

Denuded tree spires on an adjacent private lot – a separate project coinciding with the parking lot rehab – double down the overall ugliness. KLH | Union

Denuded tree spires on an adjacent private lot – a separate project coinciding with the parking lot rehab – double down the overall ugliness. KLH | Union

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