Because few people were aware of the sizable wildlife population in the arboretum, I wrote to the city's superintendent of parks and recreation, urging that every effort be made to preserve the habitat, particularly the brush cover that is essential to the survival of pheasant and quail. I also suggested that the flow from the hillside springs be combined into a single stream, which could be allowed to debouch naturally into Puget Sound. (I had a selfish motive, secretly scheming to stock the stream with cutthroat trout in hopes of developing a run that I could fish in my yard.)
The response was typical. A letter signed by an underling said the city was "in the process of gathering information on the park, which will be compiled into an environmental analysis. Your concerns for the quail and pheasant populations as well as for the improvements to the hillside streams are well founded and will be addressed in this environmental analysis."
Well, maybe they were. I don't know, because I never saw the "environmental analysis," not even at several meetings with park department officials. But developments were to show only too well how the department chose to address my "well founded" concerns.
Biology students from two local high schools volunteered to help work on the park as a community project. In October 1976, with the department's full blessing, the students descended on the old arboretum with machetes, hatchets, scythes and rakes, and began clearing away the brush, blackberries and bamboo. The damage was severe.
The next morning, I found a rabbit on our front porch. Another was in the flower bed and another in the yard. Flushed from their havens in the brush, they had sought refuge around our house. The cats quickly closed in, and within a few days all the displaced rabbits had disappeared.
The quail and pheasant were similarly exposed, and since that morning we've never seen another quail or heard a cock pheasant calling. Nor has another raccoon appeared in our yard.
The students who cut the brush were well intentioned, and they are not to blame for what happened. But I've always thought it ironic that biology students were the unwitting accomplices in the extermination of a thriving colony of wild birds and animals.
The following winter the park department brought in a small bulldozer to scrape away the topsoil in the old arboretum and lay bare the clay beneath. But the clay was saturated by heavy rains and runoff from the hillside springs; it quickly became a quagmire and the bulldozer sank into it cab-deep. A much larger bulldozer was brought in to try to pull out the smaller one, but it became mired itself. Finally a vehicle that was large enough to retrieve a tank succeeded in pulling both of them free—leaving the arboretum looking like a World War I battlefield.
Undaunted, the park department restored a ditch along the hillside to collect the runoff from the springs and funnel it into a storm sewer. That, and the installation of a French drain, allowed the ground to dry out enough to be graded to a more or less level plain. Then it was sprayed with herbicides to discourage any comeback by the blackberries or the bamboo.
Grass was seeded, and tables, benches and litter barrels were installed. The ditch was left in place and the runoff still goes down the storm sewer instead of into Puget Sound. The park was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1979.