More than 30 trees lining the embankment along Olson Drive KPN have been marked with blue spray paint for possible removal by the Pierce County Public Works and Utilities Department. The contract for the work will be awarded by early spring and paid for with a federal grant.
“Pierce County received a $400,000 safety grant and we have a portion allocated to improve the roadside along rural, two lane county roads,” said Marlene Ford in the Traffic Engineering Department of Pierce County Public Works and Utilities. “We’re going through the process right now of doing a right of way assessment, and the fastest, easiest way for us to do it was to first mark them in the field and then send our survey crew out to determine whether they’re in the county right of way or not.”
Suspect trees have been marked with blue spray paint because of their proximity and possible danger to the road. Some of the largest marked trees along Olson are three to five feet in diameter, making them older than the road they line.
“The maples are just beautiful and people enjoy the tree-lined street,” said Joyce Niemann, who lives on the hill above Olson Drive.
“Both these roads come out of property my grandfather homesteaded,” said Niemann, referring to Olson Drive KPN and the intersecting 92nd Street KPN, where trees have also been marked. Niemann is the granddaughter of Andrew Olson, who homesteaded 140 acres between Vaughn and Glencove in the 1880s. Much of that land has become Key Center, though she and other descendants still live on tracts of the original claim.
“My Grandfather Andrew donated the land that goes up 92nd past his property. My father, I don’t know if he donated or got paid part for the relocated Vaughn-Glencove Road, that’s what they called it, about in 1921 or ‘22,” Niemann said, referring to what became Olson Drive.
“It kind of surprised me,” said Charles Niemann, her son, who lives in the valley below Olson. “Seems to me if they wanted to improve the safety on that road they could put up a guard rail.”
Olson Drive has a local reputation as a dangerous road due to its slope, sharp curve, and large trees lining the steep embankment, though Key Pen Fire Division Chief Guy Allen said, “I can’t remember a single fatality there in the last 10 years.”
About 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, a pickup truck smashed into a utility pole at the curve on Olson, knocking it down before going over the embankment. The driver reportedly “got a ride home at O’Callahan’s without speaking to firefighters or police,” according to Allen.
“Our main thing is, if they’re gonna cut our trees, we want them,” said Joyce Niemann.
“If the trees are cut down, we would first ask the property owner if they want them,” said Ford. “If the property owner doesn’t want those trees, then they would more than likely become the contractor’s responsibility to dispose of however he sees fit.”
“I’m sure there’s overhead wiring that might be in the area that will constrain how the contractor falls the trees, so he might have to take them down in chunks,” said Ford. “We don’t see them as marketable timber.”
“When we determine which groups we are going to be taking and are in the county right of way, any group that we won’t be taking will have the blue marks removed,” said Ford. “Property owners will be getting a letter about the project, but if people have questions they can contact me.”
Marlene Ford can be reached at 253-798-7250.