Friday, July 25, 2014

Update: Magnuson Park tree-cutting incident


Here is a follow up  to the story of a parks volunteer facing criminal charges for inappropriate cutting of trees. Christopher Williams, the acting director of the Parks Department, met with the City Attorney's office and asked them to drop the charges. They have done so, the volunteer is no longer charged with a criminal act. I've reviewed our procedures in Lincoln Park and am confident that none of us are at risk of committing illegal acts, if we stick with our procedures. Thanks to Christopher Williams for his quick response on this, and thanks to all the park volunteers who advocated for our fellow volunteer.

Sharon Baker,
Volunteer Forest Steward,
Lincoln Park

Below are two letters from Christopher Williams today, the second containing a link to a statement from the City Attorney’s Office:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Williams, Christopher <Christopher.Williams@seattle.gov>
Date: Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM
Subject: Magnuson Park tree-cutting incident
July 25, 2014

Dear Community Member:

Thank you for your letter about volunteer Kurt Zwar being charged with destruction of public property after several incidents of illegally cutting down trees in Magnuson Park.

Charge has been dismissed
I met with the City Attorney’s Office this week, and asked them to drop the charge against Mr. Zwar. They have agreed to do that.

How did we get here?
Parks staff encountered Mr. Zwar in the park illegally cutting down trees several times last year. Parks staff had serious concerns about his conduct and actions that led us to exclude him from the park.

Seattle Police, after investigating, believed the situation worthy of prosecution and forwarded the case file with a recommendation for prosecution by the City Attorney’s Office. The City Attorney’s Office assessed the information provided and agreed that Mr. Zwar should be charged.

In the time that has passed since then, Mr. Zwar has not visited the park or cut down any more trees. Since there have been no further incidents, we decided to request that the charges be dropped.

Volunteer relations 
Seattle parks benefit from the volunteer service of more than 40,000 individuals annually who donate more than 425,000 hours each year. We are deeply grateful for the positive partnership and contributions of volunteers over the decades. That includes the forest stewards who care for our natural areas. Their accomplishments are amazing. Working together, removing invasive plants and planting native ones, we now have 1,000 acres of natural areas undergoing restoration.

Seattle Parks staff have extensive experience with volunteers of all types. Staff and volunteers enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship as they work toward the same goals. The situation with Mr. Zwar, in which staff felt unsafe, was unprecedented.

We are honored that volunteers share their passion and skills and labor with us. We are indebted to them for the thousands of hours that they have poured into improving our parks system. And we regard their service to our community and our forests with the utmost respect.

Sincerely,

Christopher Williams
Acting Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Williams, Christopher <Christopher.Williams@seattle.gov>
Date: Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 11:48 AM
Subject: Magnuson Park tree-cutting case
Dear friends: I wanted to share with you a letter I just wrote to people who had written to me about this topic (see below).

In addition to the letter here is a link to the news release sent out today by the City Attorney’s Office: http://www.seattle.gov/news/detail.asp?ID=14530

Thanks for all that you do for Seattle Parks and Recreation!

My very best regards,

Christopher Williams
Acting Superintendent
Seattle Parks and Recreation
 



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