Editorial: Closing Dockton Road is a notion worth considering

In some ways, it’s a radical notion to suggest abandoning the stretch of Dockton Road that runs along Tramp Harbor and turning it into a promenade for pedestrians and cyclers. In other ways, it makes all the sense in the world.

It’s radical because Americans are loathe to ever put a road to bed — even one that costs a huge amount of money to maintain and takes a heavy toll on the environment. What’s more, it could have an impact on our neighbors — people who live on quiet Monument Road and gorgeous Quartermaster Drive.

It’s hard to advocate something that would directly affect a small group of homeowners so directly and powerfully.

On the other hand, it may be the right thing to do.

As Tom Dean, the director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, pointed out, the restoration of 4,000 feet of shoreline along Dockton Road could make a huge difference for salmon; indeed, it could stand as one of the singular achievements in the region’s much-touted effort to restore Puget Sound.

Thanks to dike removal at the Nisqually Delta, more juvenile chinook salmon — listed as endangered under federal law — are expected to pass by the Island on a regular basis, looking for places to feed and shelter along the way. A long bulkhead is the last thing they need — especially one with a cantilevered sidewalk casting a shadow over the depths and thus making them more vulnerable to underwater predators.

If a homeowner wanted to do what the county is suggesting, he or she would be laughed out of county offices, Dean noted.

But it’s also important to note that the county hasn’t made a decision. Indeed, abandoning the road is one of five alternatives that a Seattle-based engineering firm has been hired to explore — right alongside the more traditional approach in a country built around automobile use: a multimillion-dollar feat of engineering to build a super-structure road to last the ages.

The situation provides us with a remarkable opportunity — the opportunity of a lifetime, really. Here’s a chance to profoundly shape this Island, to get it a little closer to the ideal many of us hold, to boldly put forward a vision that puts the environment above the automobile. But don’t think it would just be for the fish. A waterfront trail that accommodated cyclists, pedestrians, even horseback riders would become an amenity thousands of people over the years could experience and enjoy. Think Stanley Park. Think Lincoln Park. Think future generations.

The county needs to explore this option in good faith and with as much transparency as possible. And we, as an Island, need to consider it in good faith. This wouldn’t be easy. But visionary efforts that change the shape of a place rarely are. Here’s a chance for us to walk our talk.

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