Sunday, October 28, 2018

Community Service at Nisqually

Above: Members of the Olympia Mountaineers and Rotary Club of Olympia worked together Sunday morning to make the boardwalk a safer experience for visitors at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Unfazed by the rain, the Olympia Mountaineers combined forces with the Rotary Club of Olympia Sunday morning to scrape slippery moss and leaves off the boardwalk at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Both organizations are well known for their stewardship and community service efforts.

It was a welcome collaboration for Peter Yager, Visitor Services Assistant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After a brief talk about safety, Yager directed the volunteers to areas that needed the most attention.

Pileated woodpeckers, deer, frogs, hawks and eagles made their presence known throughout the morning’s work.

Above: Pacific tree frogs at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday.

Later, Yager expressed his appreciation for the group’s efforts, saying the Refuge has only one maintenance worker and one part time Washington Conservation Corps crew worker.

“Twelve volunteers worked three hours for a total of 36 volunteer hours. That’s equivalent to a week’s worth of work. This was serious work that needed to get done,” he said.

Asked how many volunteers come to the Refuge do this sort of work, Yager said he doesnget as many requests to work as he thought he would. Yager came to the Refuge two years ago from Yellowstone National Park.

“I do have a group of middle school kids who come to pull Scotch broom every year and some Boy Scouts come and scrub the signs,” he said.

He welcomed the two organizations back. After all, the leaves are still falling.

For more information on possible service projects at the Refuge, contact Peter Yager, Visitor Services Assistant, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Road, Olympia, at (360) 753-9467 or

Above: A safer boardwalk for visitors at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge gave volunteers, including this writer, a great deal of satisfaction.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Temporary Olympia Ice Rink Coming Soon

Above: Scheduled to open November 16, a temporary ice rink currently being installed in downtown Olympia is anticipated to draw families and improve business in the downtown area.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Superhero Night? Rock n' Roll Live Music Night? Princess Night with the Lakefair Court? 

Get ready for some fun times in downtown Olympia this winter. 

A new park located on the isthmus at 529 4th Avenue West will become a covered, temporary ice rink from November 16 through January 6.

The rink area is 4,000 sq. ft. and will hold a maximum capacity of 125 skaters. 

In comparison, the iconic Rockefeller Center ice rink in Midtown Manhattan is a little over 7,000 square feet and has a capacity of 150 skaters at one time. 

So move over New York - here comes Oly on Ice!

When the City of Olympia held a brief event this past July in 91 degree weather to celebrate the beginning of the project, it was hard to imagine.

But now, cooler, foggy mornings have set in and City of Olympia Parks & Recreation staff are busy setting up the tent and equipment.

General admission prices with skates range from $12 and lower for youth, toddlers, foster, military, first responder families, and seniors. There will be day time skating hours, cheap skate nights, 10-skate passes and group rates.

Free public parking will be available at the two lots to the immediate east and west of the ice rink. Free street parking can be found along Capitol Lake. During evening and weekend hours, additional free parking is available at all City of Olympia managed lots and metered spots. There are also pay-to-park lots neighboring the rink.

There is no ice rink parking across the street at Bayview Thriftway or other private lots adjacent to the rink.

Temporary restrooms will be available during the run of the ice rink.

To offset the rink’s costs and keep admission fees accessible, the city actively gathered partnerships to pull it all off.

Community sponsors include a mix of large and small local and regional businesses, including the Olympia AutoMall, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Network, Propel Construction, TwinStar Credit Union, Browsers Bookshop, OBEE Credit Union, Graphic Communications, Capital Medical Center, Anthony’s Homeport/Hearthfire, and the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, among others.

Business sponsorship categories ranged between $400 and $10,000. Depending on the amount contributed, businesses have at least one opportunity to have a table or tent set up at the venue sometime during the run of the ice rink.

“We definitely see this project as a great way to involve local businesses and organizations,” said Anna Robinson, marketing program specialist with City of Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation.

“Even the businesses that aren’t in a position to join us as sponsors are really excited about it. Bringing a fun, family-friendly activity to downtown during what is normally a pretty quiet time of year around here really seemed to resonate with people,” she said.

At the ceremony in July, former City of Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs spoke on behalf of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation. The space that became a park was the result of a lot of hard work.

Jacobs thanked the Trust for Public Lands for their assistance in obtaining a $600,000 grant from the Thurston County Conservation Futures Fund, which the Foundation turned over to the city for capital expenditures at the park.

Foundation board members and other donors also provided a $100,000 cash donation to the city for the park’s capital expenses. He also thanked parks staff for working with the Foundation on park design and improvements.

The park is so far unnamed. At the time, Jacobs suggested that it be called the Capitol Olympic Vista Park, in honor of it being in the center of the beautiful view from the State Capitol Building to the Olympic Mountains.

The park is near the privately owned nine story Views on 5th, a mixed use development currently under construction.

The city estimates that 10,000 skaters will visit the rink over the course of the seven week season.

Above: Former City of Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs, right, plays a game of bean bag toss with Luke Burns, City of Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation staff, on July 26 at the city’s new park on the isthmus in downtown Olympia.

For more information about hours and other frequently asked questions, go to

For more information about downtown Olympia, the area known as the isthmus, the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, parks, and Views on 5th, go to Little Hollywood at and use the search button to type in key words.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Thurston County Courthouse: 3 Possible Sites Chosen

Above: The choice of locations for a new courthouse has been narrowed to three sites in Olympia. The current Thurston County Courthouse, built in 1978, is nearing the end of its useful life and presents the county with a host of security and maintenance issues.

Thurston County is looking at an estimated $200 million project funded by a property tax 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The choice of locations for a new Thurston County Courthouse has been narrowed down from 12 to three. 

After a three month study, the three sites chosen are:

- The former Olympia city hall on Plum Street, now the Lee Creighton Justice Center, which would be demolished;

- Vacant land owned by developer Jim Morris on Olympia’s westside on Harrison Avenue NW;

- A renovation and expansion of the existing courthouse at 2000 Lakeridge Drive.

In early November, the county will hold a series of community open houses and launch a public online survey. The county commissioners will make a final location choice in December.

The courthouse is required by state law to be located in Olympia.

Ron Thomas, Thomas Architecture Studios, was hired by Thurston County to conduct a feasibility study and public process for the site selection.

A 20 member committee advising the county is comprised of local attorneys, Intercity Transit, the Thurston Chamber of Commerce, the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, business representatives, and others.

The group determined various issues to consider when choosing a location such as community values, community development and impact to surrounding areas, functionality of the courthouse, transportation and access, and cost sharing opportunities.

Thomas and team members provided several one and a half hour community presentations for the public at the Olympia Center on Tuesday.  

At each session, Thomas reviewed the public process and outreach schedule, site pros and cons and related community impacts, and answered community questions.

Little Hollywood attended two of the daytime community presentation sessions, which were held in a partitioned room that was not wheelchair accessible. The evening meeting was held in a room that was accessible.

Above: On Tuesday, several chalk outlines of bodies led to Superior Court and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Yvonne McDonald, 56, was an African American woman found with significant injuries to her body but alive on August 7 in west Olympia. She died later that night. There has been little reported progress in an investigation into her death.

Building the Case for a New Courthouse

Built in 1978, the current courthouse complex is a confusing maze of three buildings with little signage. 

The buildings face significant building design issues with security concerns and failing electrical, plumbing, and heating and ventilation systems. There is a lack of conference rooms for attorneys and advocates meeting with their clients and at certain times, inadequate parking.

The courthouse includes Superior Court, District Court, Drug Court, and the County Clerk.

In what Thomas called the “civic center,” portion of the courthouse, other courthouse services include the Prosecuting Attorney offices, Sheriff’s Department, Public Defense, Assessor, Auditor, Treasurer, Environmental Health, Commissioners, Development Review, Community Planning and Economic Development Department, Human Resources, and Pre-Trial Services.

The Olympia Justice Center is located at the Lee Creighton Justice Center on Plum Street, formerly Olympia City Hall. It contains the City Municipal Court, Probation, City Jail, City Prosecutor, and Court and Parking Judication.

To accommodate all these services in a consolidated location, the new courthouse facility needs an estimated 389,000 square feet, Thomas said, and would need room to expand to accommodate future growth.

The current courthouse employs about 400, but by 2050, that number is expected to reach 500.

Anticipated parking needs will require 1,200 parking spaces in a structured parking garage with height zoning changes. 

For each site, Thomas characterized the property, its pros and cons, and ranked each with a transit access and walking score. The maximum score for transit and pedestrian access was 100.

Above: Current Courthouse Location at 2000 Lakeridge Drive sits on 26 acres, characterized by steep slopes, making only 14 – 15 acres available for construction. Its transit score was 40. Its walking score, 21, was the lowest of the three sites due to its geographic isolation. It is currently served by two Intercity Transit routes, Route 12 and Route 42. The only nearby restaurant is at the Hotel RL. Selection of this site would renovate and expand the courthouse complex in phases while maintaining services.

Above: The former Olympia City Hall site at 900 Plum Street, now the Lee Creighton Justice Center sits on 10 ½ acres with two wetlands. Its transit score ranked 56, the highest of all three sites, due to its proximity to I-5 and multiple Intercity Transit routes and their frequency. It received a walking score of 85, also the highest of the three sites, due to its location near restaurants and other services.

City of Olympia municipal court services and the jail are located here and would be demolished. Built in 1966, the building was designed by noted local architect Robert Wohleb and is featured on tours highlighting mid-century modern architecture.

This location is adjacent to the Yashiro Japanese Garden and a proposed site for a city-owned 24/7 emergency housing space for 40 unsheltered individuals using a mix of tiny homes and tents.

In one presentation, Thomas said the wetlands on the property could be filled in, but their function would have to be made up some other way.

Above: Vacant land near a strip development at 4419 Harrison: 27 acres bound by Harrison Avenue NW and Kaiser and 7th Avenue near the Highway 101 interchange, the land is owned by developer Jim Morris. This location ranked a transit score of 34 and a walking score of 50 because there are stores and services nearby. 

Jay’s Farm Stand and a new strip development owned by Morris are near this option. Tenants of that development include Blue Heron Bakery and Don Juan Mexican Restaurant. Intercity Transit does not currently serve the area.

Instead of structured parking at this site, there is room to create eight acres of surface parking, thus lowering the overall project cost, Thomas said. He added that he didn’t think that was the right thing to do.

An extensive onsite stormwater facility would need to be built if this location was chosen. Roads would also be built north and south and east and west through the property to address connectivity issues.

Community Impact

Wherever the new courthouse is located, it will have a dramatic impact on the area.
Whether it is located in a commercial area or residential area, the courthouse will spill out into the area for “blocks and blocks,” catering to employees and clients using courthouse services, Thomas said.

John Vanek, an attorney with the Housing Justice Project program at Thurston County Volunteer Legal Services, a nonprofit arm of the Thurston County Bar Association, provided his thoughts.

Vanek provides free civil legal advice and representation to low-income people facing eviction in Thurston and Mason Counties.

“There is inadequate parking and no meeting space to meet with clients in a confidential location. Many are not familiar with court and they are already traumatized. There is a video screen informing clients of cases but it uses archaic language such as ‘unlawful detainer’ which means eviction. It is not a welcoming is artless,” he said.

Later, he expressed his concerns about locating the new facility on Plum Street, saying the area is built on fill and past core sample results looked like a “gray milkshake.” He also expressed concern that the facility would have a significant impact on the nearby Eastside neighborhood.

One woman, an attorney, said the current courthouse feels dangerous.

“It’s so crowded, stressful and confusing. It needs to be a space that feels safe and secure,” she said. 

She was eager for the project to start and offered suggestions for making the current location more desirable, such as a covered pedestrian bridge linking parking to the facility.

Other suggestions for the new facility besides improved parking, security and added space requirements included an open plaza, an atrium, a central kiosk staffed with a real person to help direct court users, vending machines, and an area for children.

Bob Schwartz of HOK Architects conducted the feasibility study for a new courthouse in 2015.

In an interview after a presentation, Schwartz said he has designed hundreds of courthouses throughout the country in his 35 year career. He recently designed courthouses in Marion County, Indianapolis and Joliet, Illinois, outside Chicago.

“There is a pent up demand for courthouse facilities. Many courthouses date to the era of the WPA (an employment program created by President Roosevelt in 1935). Many are facing issues due to the recession and deferred maintenance, he said. 

Asked which of his most recent courthouse designs could be compared to Thurston County, he said he recently designed the new Kitsap County courthouse in Port Orchard. Thomas Architecture Studios is the firm leading that project as well.

“The region is growing in population and their courthouse needs are very similar - issues of security, code issues, and seismic concerns,” he said.

The $200 Million Dollar Question

The county is looking at an estimated, minimum $200 million project.

Thomas declined to estimate a total project cost for each option, saying that has not yet been determined. Property acquisition costs alone will vary wildly, he said.

There are two options for funding the project. The first is to issue a property tax called a general obligation bond that would require 60 percent of the vote to pass and a 40 percent turnout voting yes.  

The second option is a property tax called a levy lid lift, accomplished with a simple majority vote.

According to the Municipal Research Service Center (MRSC), new state legislation that became effective in June allows cities and counties to exempt senior citizens, disabled veterans, and other people with disabilities as defined in RCW 84.36.381 from a tax increase resulting from a levy lid lift. 

This exemption is optional. If a jurisdiction is planning a levy lid lift and wants to exempt these individuals, it must state the exemption in the ballot measure placed before the voters.

Little Hollywood asked county budget director Robin Campbell on Wednesday what funding route the board of commissioners will choose.

Campbell said the commissioners are leaning toward the levy lid lift because it's a whole lot easier, and would probably consider a property tax exemption for eligible individuals, but added, we're not that far down the road.

Due to another recent legislative change that is special to Thurston County, the levy lid lift would be required to be paid over a period of 25 years instead of the previously required nine years, she said.

When the commissioners choose a funding option, voters will vote on it in August, 2019.

According to a July report in the Kitsap Sun newspaper, an undetermined amount of non-voted bond debt will be used to pay for the Kitsap County courthouse construction.

The report says Thomas shared four design options with the Port Orchard City Council ranging in height from four to seven stories. He cautioned council members that what is eventually built will likely look significantly different given the county's budget constraints and other factors in the planning process.

Open Houses for the Thurston County Courthouse and Civic Center Project  

Several upcoming public open houses are scheduled. On November 6, there will be five sessions with a specific focus for each session. Anyone may attend any session:

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (Real Estate and Design), 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Municipal Employees), 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Legal Profession), 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Other Stakeholders), 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (General Public) at Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia

November 7, 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at City of Rainier, 102 Rochester St. W, Rainier

November 7, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Rochester High School Commons, 19800 Carper Rd. SW, Rochester

Above: John Vanek created and donated his artwork titled, “Justice,” to the City of Olympia as part of the Art in Public Spaces program in 2012. It is at the Lee Creighton Justice Center.

For more information from Thurston County about the Thurston County Courthouse and Civic Center Project, go to

The Center for Court Innovation and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) wrote a report last year assessing the court’s internal processes and facility strengths and weaknesses regarding access to justice. In the report, several recommendations for improvements were made. The report is available at

Recent Little Hollywood interviews of Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim and Prosecuting Attorney candidate Victor Minjares and Thurston County Commission candidate Tye Menser all mention Thurston County Courthouse issues and current law and justice models. Go to and type key words into the search button.

For more information about Yvonne McDonald, go to

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sequalitchew Warehouse Public Hearing on Hold

Above: A red-tailed hawk soars above the trailhead of Sequalitchew Creek in DuPont earlier this month. A public hearing tentatively scheduled for October 24 regarding the proposed development of two large warehouses near the creek has been cancelled.

Project Applicant Meets with Interested Parties

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

A public hearing for the proposed development of two large warehouses in the City of DuPont near a historically and environmentally sensitive area near Sequalitchew Creek has been cancelled.

The hearing in front of a hearing examiner had been tentatively set for October 24 but an environmental determination for the property has not yet been reached.

Once the city gathers more information, an environmental decision about the project will be issued by the city and a hearing date will be set.

The project applicant, DuPont Industrial Partners LLC, represented by Barghausen Consulting Engineers of Kent, is learning more about the concerns of those interested in the area’s environmental and historic significance.

Known as Lot Y, the 21 acre wooded site where the proposed warehouses would be located is on the northeast side of Sequalitchew Creek off Center Drive behind a residential community. 

According to the application, warehouse operations would generate significant traffic and other operational activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The peaceful 1.5 mile trail follows the creek near City of DuPont city hall and ends at the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek and Puget Sound, just north of the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. 

The area is abundant with wildlife and is a favorite destination for families, bird watchers, and photographers.

The Sequalitchew area was the site of a year round village for the Sequalitchew-Nisqually Indians over 5,700 years ago. 

The land for the proposed warehouses is also the site of the historic Methodist Episcopal Mission, the first non-permanent, Euro-American settlement on Puget Sound. Built in 1839, the Mission burned down in 1842.

The site is also the area where approximately 4,000 Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry camped and held several military maneuvers from 1904 to 1912.

A discussion among representatives of invited organizations was held at City of DuPont city hall on October 10th. The meeting was held at the request of the property owner and project applicant. 

Invited interest groups included the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, DuPont Historical Society, United Methodist Church Commission, the Nisqually Delta Association, and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Tacoma.

The applicant sought input from the groups to help identify the cultural and historic features on the site and seek input on how to preserve and tell the history of the site. These and other entities have long worked to create a National Historic District in the project area.

The applicant invited the stakeholders back for a follow-up discussion sometime during the last week of October, City of DuPont community development director Jeff Wilson told Little Hollywood.

Little Hollywood has written several stories about the proposed project. For photos and more information, go to Little Hollywood at and type key words into the search button.

For more information about the property and to stay up to date on future public hearings and meetings, contact Jeff Wilson, City of DuPont Community Development Director and City SEPA Official, at or (253) 912-5393, or go to

Above: The Sequalitchew Creek Trail in Pierce County is a favorite with families. Two warehouses totaling 258,400 square feet, or over five acres, are proposed to be built 100 feet from the creek.