Work at Fireman’s Park nears end as backlash begins

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The City of Tacoma fenced off Fireman’s Park to lower the berm and increase safety at the downtown park, but that work included removing tree, which is raising eyebrows for some residents. Photo by Sarah Low
The City of Tacoma fenced off Fireman’s Park to lower the berm and increase safety at the downtown park, but that work included removing tree, which is raising eyebrows for some residents. Photo by Sarah Low

Land crews have spent the last two months working on a short roster of projects at Fireman’s Park to make the park along downtown’s A Street safer by removing areas where law-breakers could hide in the darkness.

“Fireman’s Park was identified for improvements as a result of safety and security concerns in the area,” the city stated in a summary of the work. “Bringing the park to street grade should make the park safer for all users by allowing better visibility to activity in the park.”

That work included the removal of trees, bushes and rocks to provide better visibility of the entire park overlooking the Thea Foss Waterway, adding fall-prevention barriers and making the park more accessible by replacing the gravel patches with grass. Any other possible added safety features, like additional lighting and security cameras, are the responsibility of the nearby building owners.

Artwork and monuments at the park were also temporarily moved and will be re-installed once work is completed. The totem remained in place, however, since the work occurred on another section of the park. The work should be done by the end of the month.

The current two-year budget does not include any more money for other work at the park, although funding may be allocated in future funding cycles. But projected costs of maintenance, management and liability issues make fencing off an area for a dog park an unlikely future addition for the site.

Sarah Low of Tacoma Tree Foundation said the work at Fireman’s Park came as a shock when she saw so many trees had been removed without an overall plan to replace them or add other trees.

“They were a design feature in that park,” she said, particularly a cluster of evergreen trees on the edge of the park that have been removed. “It was a nice little nook.”

While she appreciates the safety concerns that prompted the city to work on the site, she questions the timing of the work being done around the holidays after a single open house on the project, when many people weren’t paying attention to city affairs and the decision to remove the trees rather than finding other options.

“The default should be how to save the trees rather than the default being that they should be torn down because they are a nuisance,” Low said.

The city's efforts to make Fireman's Park safer has some people mourning the loss of the park's trees.
The city’s efforts to make Fireman’s Park safer has some people mourning the loss of the park’s trees.

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