As a result of the laminated root rot outbreak at the , the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission completed the first phase of removing the infected Douglas-fir earlier this month.
Since then local residents, including Ethan Griffith, have been voicing their concerns on how much trees were cut down from the state park. As a result, Griffith, who is a video producer and a Gig Harbor native, recently created a satirical video to raise awareness of Kopachuck’s current situation. Patch caught up with him to learn more about his motivation behind the video.
What is your connection to Gig Harbor?
I grew up in Gig Harbor. I've been going to Kopachuck since I was a kid. I have a lot of great memories there with my family. It's a really special place for me. It's so full of life--even compared to the other beaches in the Sound…I thought I could count on it to be here for the future generations, but it looks like it won't be there for our children. They are going to be replaced with an ecosystem that doesn't represent the Northwest, and I think it's wrong.
What is your motivation for making this video?
I want these parks to be preserved. We're being told that Douglas-firs are dangerous trees. Does that now mean that we should landscape the Northwest with Cedar trees? Do Douglas-firs not belong in the ecosystem anymore because of their vulnerability? Do we not want a natural Northwest ecosystem in our state parks?
How did you find out about this issue?
Three years ago, the state was planning on closing 10 state parks, and Kopachuck was on the closure list. When I heard about it, I was clearly upset. I contacted somebody on Facebook, and she led me to Linda Gough and her group, Preserve Our Parks. They had a rally in winter of 2009, and I came and shot some interviews and made a video called "Save Kopachuck"…Thankfully the park didn't close, and we thought that everything would be ok. Now it looks like Kopachuck got another problem. It seems like the whole struggle with Kopachuck never ends.
Did you actually go to the Kopachuck State Park and look at the trees there?
Yes. I'm no tree expert, but I've read a little bit about the laminated root rot and the signs of it. I examined a lot of trees and took a lot of pictures of it. As I kept looking at the tree stumps in the field, I started finding healthy ones. By the time I was done, most of the ones I looked at didn't have anything wrong with them. The core didn't have any ring on it and didn't have any kind of rot on it. I thought the officials were going to scan the trees one by one, but what ended up happening was just clearcut. They said they didn't want to damage the underbrush, but there's nothing left in that whole area.
What do you think of the government's plan so far?
This plan doesn't really make any sense. When I was observing the field, I saw two stumps and one of them was behind a hemlock and the hemlock was untouched, and they're potentially susceptible tree as well. The fact that this plan is being carried out at several parks across the state--I mean, do all of these parks all of the sudden have this extreme laminated root rot problem all at the same time? This is a pathogen that existed in the Northwest for hundreds of years. I'm suspicious. We should at least be opening it up for questions and examining it more. The government has their own experts look at it, but we need an outside source that would be objective. Parks are having a lot of budget problems. It costs the government money to cut these trees down. When they wanted to close the state park 3 years ago, why are they trying to fix the trees?
You said this video was made with minimal budget. Would you be interested in making an extensive video on this issue in the future?
I'd be totally willing to try to make a longer video to talk to both sides of the issue. It's something I'm really interested in.
What do you hope the viewers to take away from this video?
When you first hear about this problem in the beginning, it seems like a logical and reasonable plan. When you learn more about it and think about it, it just seems more ridiculous. I just want more people to understand how silly this plan is, and why it makes no sense and open more discussion about other options. We can't expect the nature and the world to be like a padded cell. You can get hurt walking down a sidewalk.
Anything else you would like to add?
I really think that people who are running the state parks, I believe, they're intentions are good. I just think they're in a really hard place right now. They're not being supported by the state government. I think our leadership like our governor, senators and legislators; they all need to be supporting parks more. These parks are one of those places that everybody should be able to go to for free or for cheap to go enjoy their life.