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Save our Tree or Save our Bank

Posted on: March 2, 2016
Sunset and Heron Island

The view of Heron Island on the Case Inlet of the Puget Sound.

About ten years ago we built a vacation house on a high banked lot about 75 feet above the beach.  Our house is on, or maybe I should say above the Puget Sound.  The property had a majestic Douglas Fir tree that dominated the property.  Our neighbor adored this tree and we took pains to place the new house so she could still see the tree and the island beyond.  We were not going to be the kind of folks who got an amazing view by taking away someone else’s.  The tree is on the edge of the bank and near our patio. I love to lay under it and watch the clouds fly by.  It’s magical!  That is how it feels to me.

As I look at the tree on a peaceful New Year’s Day and see it now towering over the house and building branches toward and over the roof.  I find myself in the position that many of my clients find themselves in.  Do I bring in a professional to tell me if this trees time is over? If so who do I trust? My time tested arborists in Portland could come up and analyze the tree however, I want someone who knows about slope stabilization in this area.

Douglas Fir at vacation house

Douglas Fir on Harstine Island.

Our geo-tech has reported that the slope looks good.  He sees it once or twice a year when he and his family go up and use our vacation place.  I can ask him about it but he is not an arborist nor does he specialize in coastal properties.  Should I start to look through the local county government and see if there is some agency that might help me or would that be a bad idea?  They might  start slapping a lot of rules on me forcing me to remove the tree, or pay for a fancy study or say it’s a heritage tree and force me to spend thousands to build up my slope with engineering….just letting my mind run wild here.

When we were building they sent out a junior inspector who declared we had a wet lands on the top of the cliff.  Fortunately I was well aware that the wet land plants that grew there did because the owner of the property had removed all the top soil to create a flat building site to sell.  He left some low spots which encourage winter water to gather there.  Horsetail and similar “grow in anything wet” plants filled in these areas.  I was able to convince them we did NOT have an actual wet lands or need a $15,000.00 wet lands study for my 2.5 acre of cliffside property.

View from our patio

View from our patio.

I’m just like my clients once I move outside my area of expertise, I don’t know and I do worry. The advice I give my clients is to get good information.  My first thought is to find a successful landscape designer who specializes in Puget Sound vacation homes. An experienced landscape designer always has an armful of professionals she can refer out.    Hmm so I did find a local landscape designer who gave me her favorite arborist but his web page shows a grinning man cutting into a huge tree trunk with a chain saw.  It’s the first picture and that kind of mentality is what I want to avoid.  My next step will be to call my local professionals and see what they advise or what they would charge to go up and look at it.  Stay tuned……..