Vashon Pharmacy closes driveway, takes down tree

Vashon Pharmacy owners had the eucalyptus tree next to the store cut down earlier this week. The word
Vashon Pharmacy owners had the eucalyptus tree next to the store cut down earlier this week. The word 'murder' was stenciled onto the stump.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Owners of the Vashon Pharmacy have taken down the towering eucalyptus tree next to their building and removed a gravel entrance into their parking lot as part of an effort to clean up an area that has long been a site for loitering and drinking.

Dave Willingham, who owns the pharmacy with Tom Langland, said they plan to extend the small pocket park adjacent to the pharmacy so that it spans the entire area between their building and the one to the south. But it won't be a park that encourages lingering, Willingham said. In fact, they plan to remove the railroad ties that now provide a perch for people.

"We're going to make it one big park with no seating," Willingham said as he stood next to the site.

The eucalyptus was taken down, he said, because it was in bad shape and was recommended for removal by their arborist Michelle Ramsden. The driveway was removed due to safety concerns.

"We've had a lot of close accidents here," he said.

Some, however, were troubled by the tree's demise. The word "murder" was stenciled in red paint on the stump of the eucalyptus, with red paint dribbling down the sides of the stump. Peter Ray, an Islander and landscape designer, painted the word on the tree, according to a YouTube video he posted. He also placed candles around the tree, the second of two eucalyptus trees to be felled in the pocket park next to the pharmacy.

In a column he wrote in The Loop, he said he designed the original pocket park in 1984 and planted the trees. He couldn't be reached Thursday for comment.

Willingham said he wasn't terribly concerned about the stencil. "It's fine. People can express themselves," he said.

He said he expects some people will also be upset about the closing of the driveway, which will force Islanders to drive through the alley to reach the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Luke McQuillin, who heads the Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse, applauded the pharmacy's move. The organization has been concerned about those places on Vashon, such as the pocket park next to the pharmacy, that draw vagrants or are sites for drinking and drug use.

"It'll be a big visual enhancement, for sure," McQuillin said of the pharmacy's plans for the site.


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