City will replace evergreen icon that was cut down as a price for progress
Covington’s Christmas tree is gone — for now.
City officials allowed the contractor that is building the street that will connect Southeast 272nd Street to Covington Way, thus providing access to Costco, to clear the tree that has been lit up annually during the holiday season.
But Glenn Akramoff, the public works director, promised that the city will replace the tree before winter this year and in plenty of time for the city’s annual tree-lighting ceremony.
“We knew this was going to be an issue, so we came up with a plan,” Akramoff said. “The reason it was removed was because to rearrange that (intersection), so that we don’t have the big traffic problem and to have that be a through street, that area had to be utilized. So that’s why the tree came down.”
The tree was cleared in early March when Northwest Cascade Inc. began work on the new road at 168th Place Southeast. The project will add a new three lane street on the south end, according to information provided by the city, and the north end will be fives lanes.
This project starts at the traffic signal at Southeast 272nd Place and 168th Place Southeast the moves southeast between Pier One Imports and Fred Meyer. It then turns southwest and will run parallel to the Bonneville Power Administration power lines until it intersects at Covington Way.
Part of the project will include a pair of roundabouts and one of those is being considered among the new sites for the relocation of the tree, Akramoff said.
“One of the first viable places is in the north roundabout,” he said. “It’s not very far from the existing (site) and can be seen from all of the same businesses. It will be a focal point of that area because it’s a roundabout.”
Akramoff said that the city will also be able close the road in between the two roundabouts providing a natural site for the ceremony without diverting traffic. This will allow more space for the tree lighting, which Akramoff said drew about 300 spectators last December, and there will be more parking available at nearby businesses.
This could also create some additional foot traffic as folks may arrive early and patronize businesses they park near or do some shopping after the ceremony, Akramoff added.
At this stage, though, the final location of the new tree has not been settled on.
The city anticipates spending about $2,000 on the tree but would welcome donations or corporate sponsorships of the purchase.
In addition, the new site will be set up with the right infrastructure so that plugging in the lights will be a snap, Akramoff explained.
Plus the plan is to buy new lights of the LED variety which use up to 80 percent less power and last significantly longer that traditional bulbs.
“We’re not taking away Covington’s tradition but we are thinking green,” Akramoff said. “And we’re looking for a tree that is a little more symmetrical.”
The new tree will likely be smaller and Akramoff said the city is looking to purchase one that is about 25 feet tall.
Covington officials are looking at this as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience.
“This is a unique opportunity to make it better,” Akramoff said. “We know that’s a big tradition, and a large number of (city personnel) participates in that tradition every year so, we didn’t want to see it go away. It’s a wonderful tradition for the community. Covington is changing in many ways for the better. But we want to hold onto the old traditions, as well.”
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and firstname.lastname@example.org