Port Orchard petition aimed at saving tree

A group headed by environmental activists is trying to save an old tree that could be cut down to make way for an orthodontics office in Port Orchard.

Johnsonlink Orthodontics is well-established throughout Kitsap County with locations in Poulsbo, Silverdale and Port Orchard, which it has plans for a second location at 791 Mitchell Ave. The property, not far from South Kitsap High School, is home to a towering redwood tree believed to be at least 90 years old.

A recent site plan for the 4,900-square-foot building and surrounding parking space does not include the tree. Additionally, the city “reviewed the proposed project for probable adverse environmental impacts and expects to issue a Determination of Nonsignificance,” according to a revised notice of application/DNS posted July 26.

It’s those decisions Port Orchard resident Claudette Desjardin hopes the parties involved will change their minds on. She has come up with 298 signatures on a petition to keep the tree standing.

“This is an act of caring only,” a statement reads on the petition, “coming from diverse awareness of the inhabitants who are cognizant that the tree is a being that provides oxygen, shade, biodiversity, beauty, etc., which add to its being there.”

Desjardin said she’s motivated spiritually to preserve this tree and the rest of creation. “‘We’re all together’ is the way I look at it. We’re all connected, and we need each other,” she said.

She also cited concerns of a “lack of empathy” from developers for plant and tree life. “We can’t breathe (without them). We get our oxygen from them, and they get their carbon dioxide from us, and if you keep taking out trees, it’s going to cause real damage,” she said.

Rozalia LaJune, a signer of the petition, added: “It grows for itself, and it has every right to live. It absorbs all of the impurities, and it’s our lung. If you cut out our lungs, we can’t breathe.”

Another woman to sign the petition, Iwona Sutton, said she feels terrible when going by new housing developments in the area, knowing the tree life that was there before has just been completely leveled. “It just looks so ugly, all those boxes (houses) there. It’s so ghetto,” she said.

If the effort to save the tree does not work, Desjardin has not ruled out protests that would include chaining oneself to the tree or tree sitting. “There’s all sorts of possibilities. It just depends,” she said. “I’m not the only one, so it depends on other people. I can’t do it for everybody.”

A public hearing is expected in the short term, but Desjardin has reported positive interaction with the orthodontics office.