Letter: Even port wanted Kah Tai preserved
One of the persistent urban myths about Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park is that it was never intended to be a “nature” park.
True, the port tried in the 1970s to build a planned unit development on the flats and placate the public with a narrow greenbelt along the lagoon shore. But those flats were created when the port filled in a beautiful estuary with dredge spoils in 1964 and the commercial development idea didn’t fly.
When the port accepted land on the western edge of Kah Tai from H.J. Carroll and applied to place it in a retroactive waiver in 1977, Mr. Carroll’s requirement was that his generous gift “be used only for park purposes.”
The documents between state and federal officials accepting that retroactive waiver are specific that the waiver was granted so the donated land could be used for a Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) grant-funded park.
Commercial development was no longer proposed nor would it have been funded with an LWCF grant. Protections in perpetuity come with LWCF money. History cannot be rewritten.
The environmental impact assessment in the 1981 LWCF grant refers to Kah Tai as a “de facto wildlife park.” What was understood in 1981 has only become more apparent with time and natural succession. It is a nature park.
In 1986, the City of Port Townsend updated their Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan. It referred throughout to the park as Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, 25 years ago, five years after the port signed the grant contract to create the park.
In 2003, the port updated its own comprehensive scheme, and its own environmental impact assessment concluded that any development at Kah Tai “would result in degradation and loss of habitat and adverse impacts to the wetland,” among other negative consequences. Their own published conclusion was to not develop it within the 20-year window of their scheme, but to maintain it as open space/park or sell it in entirety to a public entity that would maintain it as such.
In 2011, the port is claiming that no protections apply to its land in Kah Tai – protections it agreed to when the park was created. This is not about 1.9 acres in one corner. It’s about the uplands that have developed into precious wildlife habitat in the heart of our city. One corner, one building, that’s only the beginning.