Exit133 is about Tacoma
Landscape Management for Schuster Slope
The City of Tacoma and Metro Parks are in the process of developing a strategy for managing the steep, undeveloped slope above Schuster Parkway. At a public meeting this week interested members of the public will have the opportunity to learn about the challenges they're trying to address, and the solutions they've come up with.
The Schuster Slope project area runs from the northern edge of Tacoma's downtown, just below the Stadium District, along the Schuster Parkway corridor, all the way to the edge of the Garfield Gulch, just short of Old Town.
As a slice of undeveloped open space that's primarily been left in a natural undeveloped state, it provides important environmental benefits. It helps manage stormwater, provides wildlife habitat and protects water quality.
It's for these reasons that the City of Tacoma's Environmental Services Department is caretaker to select open spaces, such as the Schuster Slope, throughout Tacoma. Yet, perhaps such spaces could further nurture surrounding neighborhoods. The City of Tacoma and Metro Parks Tacoma have entered into an agreement to find out. We want to determine how the needs of the community can be served by these spaces through the fostering of volunteer stewardship, quality vegetation, and natural resource management plans. With your involvement, these spaces will become even greater Tacoma assets.
A draft of the plan for the slope were shared with the public in January. Now the City and Metro Parks are ready to share their completed plan. Below are some elements of the draft shared in January.
For decades the slope has largely been left in its natural state, but that has led to some issues with stability and safety. In order to have loose soil stay put, a piece of land must not have a slope of more than 67%. (That's rise over run, times 100, for anyone else who's a little fuzzy on their middle school math). More than half of the Schuster Slope project area has slopes of more than 60%.
Geology says steep slopes like the ones along Schuster Parkway will continue to erode, seeking a comfortable equilibrium, meaning soil will continue to move downslope, causing erosion problems for anyone wanting the slope to stay put.
Processes like the growth and death of plants and their root structures, burrowing animals and insects, cycles of freezing and thawing, and weathering all contribute to the creation of a loose layer of soil on the surface of the slope. Those loose layers move downslope, exposing fresh soil beneath, which begins the process all over again, gradually but surely eroding the slope face.
The City and Metro Parks propose a landscape management plan to improve conditions on the slope. Plants with soil-binding root systems can contribute to the stability of the slope by locking down that loose layer of dirt. The site currently faces challenges of invasive species, a lack of plant diversity and regeneration, and disease among the plants that are there.
To foster a healthy ecosystem on the slope, the City and Metro Parks will focus on restoring native vegetation. Invasive plants will be targeted for removal, with a goal of native plants making up more than 90% of the vegetation. Two out of every three trees will be evergreen, and a layered understory will be fostered, creating a dense root network to hold soil in place. This will have the added benefit of improving stormwater quality and impact, as water runs down the slope.
Stabilizing the slope reduces the threat of landslides, and trees will be assessed for safety. Another challenge for the area is its use for encampments of homeless people and drug users. Design elements will be introduced to reduce access for unauthorized uses, and to make the area more visible, and thus less attractive to those users.
The Schuster Slope sits above the busy Schuster Parkway. Above the slope are a number of condos and apartments with residents and owners who value their views that include Commencement Bay and Mount Rainier. The growth of tall and/or dense vegetation threatens those views.
To address these concerns while still focusing on improving the slope stability through landscape management, the plan has a phased approach. A layered understory and canopy will be established, with regular pruning and maintenance, and targeted removal of some trees and plants.
What do you think? Is there anything you would like to see changed or added at this week's meeting?
Do you want to help the folks at Exit133 pay our bills and keep up with of all things Tacoma? Do you want to see even more coverage? Exit133 has always been free to read and comment, and it will stay that way. However, over the years, readers have contributed to the bank account to help us keep up our coverage of goings-on around town. Contribute and this message disappears!Support Exit133