Seattle City Light reduces number of trees to be cut in Bridle Trails park

A potential controversy over Bridle Trails State Park was avoided last week when Seattle City Light agreed to drastically reduce the number of trees it would cut down to protect power lines running through the park’s center.

An aerial image showing the Eastside transmission line’s right-of-way (center line) through Bridle Trails State Park.

A potential controversy over Bridle Trails State Park was avoided last week when Seattle City Light agreed to drastically reduce the number of trees it would cut down to protect power lines running through the park’s center.

At a June 4 meeting at Ben Franklin Elementary, City Light officials told a gathering of about 75 people it would cut down only 40 of the 720 trees it had marked for removal.

The electric utility had initially ruffled feathers among park visitors and the group that helps manage the park, the Bridle Trails Park Foundation, when it sent out an independent contractor to mark trees that posed a threat of falling on the lines. Acting under what City Light called “old guidelines,” the contractor marked hundreds more trees than necessary.

“It boils down to a mistake with a contractor,” Seattle City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen said by phone before the meeting. “We accidentally had them mark too many trees.”

City Light is required by law to maintain the reliability of its transmission lines, which includes removing any large trees that could fall on the power cables. The 720 number represents the total trees that grow along the easement and could potentially fall and cause damage to the lines. But new standards set by the utility will see it only remove dead or dying trees that could fall in a “significant wind event” or on their own accord, Thomsen said.

Of the 40 that will be cut down, six are already dead, 27 show obvious signs of disease or damage and five appear healthy but are within 15 feet of a tree with obvious signs of “laminated root rot,” a fungus spread through the roots of Douglas firs. An additional 15 trees were marked for close monitoring.

“The (Bridle Trails Park Foundation) feels much relief,” said Don Prince, a former trustee who is still involved with the organization. “(City Light’s) approach now is much more reasonable.”

He said some still questioned whether any trees need be removed at all, “but it would appear to me and the foundation that this is a reasonable compromise.”

Prior to the recent tree survey, the only work done in the past five years to vegetation along the utility’s right-of-way had been side trimming and clearing under the line.

A fact sheet sent out by City Light said between 2001 and 2007 the utility recorded seven tree-related outages along its Eastside line, with five of those occurring in the 0.7 mile section through Bridle Trails State Park. Most of the outages were associated with storms, such as the wind storm on December 14, 2006.

Thomsen said leaving nearly 680 problem trees meant the utility will have to be “more vigilant” in its monitoring.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Democrats dominate King County legislative races | Election results

Here are the latest results for King County legislative candidates in the… Continue reading

Inslee mask graphic
Free mask event for King County residents, Aug. 4 in Bellevue

The drive-thru distribution event will offer two masks per person

Primary election 2020: Who will emerge as Inslee’s challenger?

Voting ends Tuesday in an election without big rallies and fund-raisers and face-to-face debates

Sex ed, local control at heart of race for WA state schools chief

Incumbent Chris Reykdal faces five foes who argue he’s pushing too many state policies on school districts.

A man fishes off a dock at David E. Brink Park in Kirkland, 2018. Aaron Kunkler/Staff photo
City closes two piers due to large gatherings

Starting July 29, Kirkland will be closing piers at Houghton Beach Park and David Brink Park

Back in 2017, local youngster cools off at the sprinkler park at Lee Johnson Field in downtown Kirkland. Now amidst the pandemic, the field is being used for another alternative: after-dark, socially distanced games and activities. File photo/ Samantha Pak
City announces changes to park use, dock use due to COVID-19

Lee Johnson Field will open for evening activities, 6 to 11 p.m., waterfront parks, docks and piers will close daily at 9p.m

County Fire Marshal issues burn ban

Dry conditions and high heats are in the forecast this week

Most Read