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Managing Tacoma’s Bayside Slope
A community forum scheduled for next week will continue an ongoing conversation around management of the Schuster Slope. More specifically, it will continue the conversation around the balance between vegetation and views.
Last fall we wrote about the concerns of Stadium Way residents and property owners over preserving their views of Commencement Bay and Mt. Rainier. Those property owners asked the City to revisit its plans for managing the vegetation on the Schuster Slope and along Stadium Way. This week Public Works staff and Councilmember Robert Thoms will attend a "community meeting" on the management of the Bayside Slope hosted by the Stadium Business District.
The somewhat overgrown forested slope may not at first glance seem like it would be the point of much contention, but from where it sits, it touches a number of neighborhoods and City initiatives.
Just uphill, the recently completed work on Stadium Way has made that road more passable for both motorized and non-motorized traffic. Just south of the slope and Stadium Way is downtown Tacoma where the Pacific Avenue Streetscape project has finally wrapped up at the north end of that street. On the downhill side of the slope is Schuster Way, connecting to the Ruston Way waterfront, Point Defiance, and Northwest Tacoma. Paralleling that, and cutting through the Schuster Slope is the one time Bayside Trail, now closed due to issues of maintenance and monitoring. The current preferred alternative for a pedestrian and bike trail along the Schuster Corridor, connecting downtown Tacoma to Point Defiance, passes along the slope.
So there are a lot of overlapping issues involving the slope, but the main issue to be addressed at the upcoming meeting seems to be around the question of trees versus views - a question that seemingly puts at odds a couple of City goals.
An October 2013 City report titled "Schuster Parkway Promenade Conceptual Design Report" includes an assessment that supports the Stadium Way group's claim that views from the street are an important public asset.
Vegetated bluffs throughout the Puget Sound region have been actively managed to provide recreation, public access and habitat as a community asset. The Urban Forest Element of the City of Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan identifies the views of Commencement Bay and Mt. Rainier from Stadium Way and Schuster slope as scenic views. The City’s Shoreline Master Program recognizes views as a form of public access that should be preserved and enhanced in concert with revegetation and improvement of tree canopy.
However, the same report also cites the City's goal of growing its tree canopy by 30% by the year 2030, and suggests the importance of the tree canopy on the Schuster Slope to that goal.
The struggling urban forest along Schuster slope presents an opportunity to balance the preservation of public access to scenic views with revegation [sic], enhancing canopy cover, habitat and overall forest health and safety.
The hillside faces a number of challenges, including slope stabilization and homeless encampments, and the City has been working for a while to identify a plan to better manage the area (read more previously from Exit133: Remember the Bayside Trails?).
The key focus of short-term management of vegetation on the slope has been the control of invasive species, but long-term fixes will clearly be more complicated. The community meeting scheduled for next Thursday will give Stadium residents and property owners a chance to express their perspectives. What's yours?
Spotted via the Tacoma Daily Index.
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