Good day, Gig Harbor –
I hope each of you are healthy and happy. We’ve had our big snow for the winter and our operations staff was successful with their large-scale snow clearing effort. Kudos to the crew for working 12-hour shifts (noon to midnight and midnight to noon) throughout the storm! I think we’re all glad that Spring is right around the corner.
We’re trending down on new COVID cases, and vaccines distribution is picking up. These are good signs, but we’re still not out of the woods. Gig Harbor lost seven people over the last month to COVID. An important point to remember - once vaccinated, you can still pass the virus to unvaccinated parties. Future vaccination events from the Department of Emergency Management and the Health Department. The Health Department has some great options for people who have limited mobility.
Back in September, Council adopted Resolution 1198 which recognized “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and “Native American Heritage Month” and shared the City’s intent to honor the ancestral and traditional lands of the sxwebabc (“swift water people”) band of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. I formed an ad hoc committee of councilmembers, tribal representatives, and others to talk about renaming a City park in honor of the sxwebabc.
After a long series of meetings, the ad hoc committee and Parks Commission sent their recommendations to Council. On February 22, Council adopted Resolution 1199 which changes the name of Austin Estuary Park to Austin Park and establishes the designation for the txwaalqel (or “place where there is game” Estuary. The Mayor is authorize, in consultation with the Puyallup Tribe and other entities that support the tribe, to develop and install interpretive signage on city-owned property within the txwaalqel
Estuary Area, and to provide educational information on the city’s website and other avenues.
On a similar note, the Peninsula School District board meeting the board voted 5-0 to name elementary school number nine Swift Water Elementary, which is the English translation for the sxwebabc band. I’m very proud that they did this, and it’s a step in the right direction on providing recognition to the full history of our community.
Council has authorized the City to pursue a Pierce County Conservation Futures Grant, which we’d use to fund the purchase of an 11.5-acre wooded parcel just north of the Gig Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Right now, this land is undeveloped. It has a healthy forest that Donkey Creek passes through, and is a critical Salmon habitat with historical and cultural significance to the Puyallup Tribe and our community. This specific parcel recently had a development pre-application that showed a plan for 34 homes. A housing development would mean degrading a healthy salmon habitat, losing of a great number of trees and a drastic change to this corner of our downtown view basin.
The Puyallup Tribe has agreed to provide $50,000 to meet the minimum of 10% in matching funds. The City has agreed to put up another $20,000 and accept the property into our park system, where it will be preserved with the potential for future low-impact trails to give the public access to it. Pierce County will review grant applications later this summer and, if we’re successful, the property purchase would occur next year. There’s a lot of moving parts and this is not a done deal yet,
We celebrated Black History Month here in the City of Gig Harbor last month. In recognition, I invited local resident Maurice Hanks to come and speak to Council at our February 8 Council meeting. He shared a powerful presentation showing us many ways that Black History is American History. I encourage you to go and watch our video of the presentation and hear his words for yourself.
Council and I also worked together to pass ordinances to keep people safe. These ordinances ban motorized foot scooters from sidewalks, on the Cushman Trail, Harborview Drive, North Harborview Drive, and Olympic Drive (outside of the existing bicycle lanes) or on any roadway with a posted speed limit of greater than 35 MPH. This doesn’t apply to ADA devices.
On February 22, Council approved the docket of amendments for our Planning staff to work on for our Comprehensive Plan in 2021 these include:
· Adding a Culture and Arts Element to embrace and encourage the arts in building community and the economy.
· Conducting a required update to our Shoreline Master Program
· Creating a public art exception in our Shoreline Master Program to allow to install public art within the shoreline jurisdiction
· Revisions to our Land Use and Housing elements to allow us to complete some of our 2021 Budget objectives.
And, on February 23, we officially opened the new playground at Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park. This new $250,000 playground is ADA inclusive and a great addition to the neighborhood and our City parks system and was part of the park’s original master plan when created back in 2008. The playground design was a true community effort, students at Discovery Elementary School contributed to the design by learning about what goes into park planning and surveying their school to make the final choice on what structure was installed. We know this will bring joy to those young and young at heart for years to come.
We’re also offering a second round of our Lodging Tax grants, which are now open. These grants are designed to help underwrite events and attractions that bring tourism to Gig Harbor. They’re designed to be utilized by non-profits for operation and marketing of events, or operation of tourism-focused structures. If you know of a group or event that would qualify, check out the application and requirements on our website. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for details
For more frequent updates, tune in to our live Q&A sessions every other Friday on our Facebook page, and, on the radio, tune in to KHGP on Wednesdays at 1:00pm. As always, be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.