State appellate court grants stay on temporary restraining order against Davis-Meeker Oak’s removal

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The Washington State Court of Appeals has granted a stay on the temporary restraining order against the removal of the Davis-Meeker Gary Oak tree.

A temporary restraining order against the tree’s removal was issued by Thurston County Superior Court on May 24 but expired on June 5 after the court granted Tumwater Mayor Debbie Sullivan’s request to dissolve the TRO.

The appellants, a group called the Save the Davis-Meeker Gary Oak (SDMGO), appealed the Superior Court’s decision to the state court.

Commissioner Aurora Bearse granted the temporary stay Wednesday, July 3, allowing time for the court to decide on the appeal.

In requesting for a temporary relief, SDMGO asserted that the appellate court could consider a temporary relief if an appeal raises “debatable issues.”

Such issues were about the applicability of the city’s historic preservation code, the state’s archeological statutes, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as they relate to the situation of the tree. The group has used these laws to justify preserving the tree, but the city of Tumwater has argued against their applicability.

The group also defended its legal standing to raise the issue on behalf of the tribes on whether the tribes had adequate notice about the mayor’s plan.

The city of Tumwater has until July 15 to respond to the group’s motion.

Sullivan wants to cut down the historic tree due to safety reasons, based on her understanding of a report from the city’s arborist, Kevin McFarland.

Plans to remove the tree are on hold as the city is currently in the process of hiring another arborist to re-evaluate the risk of the tree.

Tumwater looks for another arborist

Tumwater City Council received a briefing Tuesday, July 2, about the process for hiring another arborist.

City Administrator Lisa Parks said they sought the advice of the urban forestry program managers of Olympia and Seattle to develop a request for qualifications (RFQ), which has been sent to 55 qualified arborists.

As the cost of tree risk assessments do not normally trigger the requirements for the RFQ process, the program managers advised the city about the minimum qualifications for an arborist to conduct a tree risk assessment, as well the minimum components needed to conduct the assessment.

Parks said the program managers recommended hiring a master arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and who is also qualified to conduct tree risk assessments.

The city administrator added that they will also look for an arborist registered with the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

The arborist must also work within 250 miles of Tumwater and have experience with level three risk assessments and evaluation techniques such as sonic tomography and aerial inspection.

As part of its work, the chosen contractor will have to conduct another risk assessment of the tree, which includes determining the likelihood that parts of the tree would fail and the impact should a tree failure happen, as well as categorizing the tree’s risk rating, according to Parks.

Several arborists have already weighed in on the issue. Among them is arborist Paul Dubois who conducted his own risk assessment of the tree on June 19. Dubois, an ISA board certified master arborist with a tree risk assessment qualification, found the Davis-Meeker Oak only posed a moderate risk rating.

According to a timeline Parks presented to the council, the RFQ would have opened on Wednesday, July 3, and will close on July 19. Interviews may be conducted before a contractor is selected. Once the contract is completed, the assessment is scheduled to begin on August 1.

Comments

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  • JHermes

    I recently discovered that the JOLT area (plus Tenino and Roy) is home to no fewer than FOUR endangered species of Pocket Gopher. Cute little guys. Apparently habitat loss is an issue for them.

    As for the tree, well...seems to me if they'd give it some breathing room it wouldn't be a danger to anything and the city residents wouldn't have to pay for so many evaluations from high-level expert arborists.

    Just saying.

    Friday, July 5 Report this

  • DeeperThoughts

    While this is great news, at the same time, it's unfortunate that it took a private citizen group to seek emergency relief from the State Court of Appeals to stop this rushed process by Mayor Debbie Sullivan and City Administrator Lisa Parks, both whose actions regarding this tree demonstrate they are morally and ethically bankrupt. There was absolutely no reason for them to rush this process, and the more one reads about their actions through public records requests of city emails only shows the depths of deception and malfeasance going on at city hall. There is clearly much more to why Sullivan and Parks are gunning for this 400 year old historic oak tree, dismissing and disrespecting the Tribes, city council, certified arborists, the state archaeologist, Federally protected birds, and city historic preservation board. Sullivan and Parks need pressed hard as to why and deposed under oath for their true motivations.

    Saturday, July 6 Report this

  • Boatyarddog

    Both comments are thanked.

    It is time that we stand up for our environment and against city planners, mayor's, looking to position themselves for reelection or recognition for their underhanded deeds.

    The Port, is a truly inconceivable entity hell bent on promoting their "legacy" agendas.

    Shut down the Profit sucking P.O.O.

    Subsidized Weyerhaeuser LOGYARD and return Olympias Waterfront to its City Residents.

    Saturday, July 6 Report this

  • cpailthorp

    This tree, a Quercus garryana, has the common names Garry Oak, Oregon Oak, and White Oak.

    Sunday, July 7 Report this

  • TheGreatAnon

    Drop the damned tree

    Monday, July 8 Report this

  • Treehugger1

    Please, all tree lovers (as myself), find time to write to the city council and the mayor of Tumwater to let them know how important this 400 year old gem is to our planet. Not only does the Davis-Meeker Garry Oak represent the grandeur of nature, but also the rich history of native tribes and the morality of keeping our natural history alive. It is immoral (to me) to needlessly cut down this magnificent tree. Stand beneath it and one can humbly feel its strength and nobility. I thank the court for ruling to place a stay. Hopefully the tree will win its right to stand proudly. We must work to preserve this tree, and show our children why this little globe we inhabit will always need our vigilant care.

    Tuesday, July 9 Report this