Trees and Truths

In an exclusive letter to the editor, Sumner city councilmember Randy Hynek discusses his role in the tree cutting incident along the White River.

There has been much disinformation and misinformation regarding the citizen-owned walnut orchard. I hope this clears things up.

A combination of mistakes followed by an opportunist seeking to get rid of an political opponent with a lie and then fear from city employees as they were forced to take actions under threat from the Mayor Enslow. This mayor has again and again prevented me from attempting to clear up what should have been a very simple matter.   

The city has maintained that a crime has occurred along the White River trail just south of the Sumner Golf Course in December of 2011.

 This is the location of an orchard where the cutting of some small trees were discovered and declared to be an act of destruction of city property and vandalism.

What actually occurred was a “thinning to maturity” of the trees. This is a standard agricultural/horticultural practice that occurred at the orchard and not a clear cut. A clear cut implies the cutting of large mature trees over a large area. All of the thinned plants were selectively removed because they appeared to be impeding the growth of the walnut trees.

Very frequently as plants grow and mature, they may become overcrowded with each other. In which case, it is necessary to remove some so that the others may have sufficient room, water and nutrients in order to grow a healthy, productive, mature plant.

None of the thinned plants were outside the perimeter of the orchard, none of the thinned plants were mature and none of the soil was disturbed. As a trained Master Gardener, nothing occurred at the citizens’ orchard that wasn’t in the best interest of the food trees. 

Here is a little history. 

In 2007, I became aware of the large amounts of vacant land that the City owns hoping to make better use of city resources and to better serve the public. I contacted the Sumner Forestry Commission and explained what I wanted to do. The Commission has a small budget for planting trees in Sumner every year and helps to decide what type of trees are planted and where. On the advice of the Forestry Commission, I contacted the Washington State University Agricultural Extension in Puyallup. They informed me that the English Walnut and Italian plum were among the hardiest, most productive and required the least maintenance of any food trees.

They approved funds sufficient to plant 40 walnut trees and five plum trees.  Next I went to the Parks Commission and presented the plan, of which they approved. Then, the plan was presented to the City Council. The mayor complained about the cost to maintain these trees. Yet historically, the City staff has always maintained the trees the Forestry Commission has chosen. It was only when I got involved in helping to choose trees did the mayor object. The mayor insisted that I had to be personally responsible for these trees if they were going to be planted. So, for the first time, in the history of the Sumner Forestry Commission, a citizen was made solely responsible for the care, maintenance and watering of a large number of trees, without compensation.

I agreed to personally maintain the orchard and have spent hundreds of hours nurturing, watering and weeding since 2008. It was my idea to have the walnut trees be the foundation trees of a future food forest. Where additional food trees, bushes (blueberries, etc.) would be planted in the future. Because I felt that since citizens were paying for the upkeep of these properties anyway, why not get a return on their investment. The Walnut Orchard could yield at maturity around 20,000 pounds of walnuts a year.

Consider the following:

*The mayor maintains he had no knowledge that I was responsible for the maintenance of the orchard when asked by the police.

*At a study session and a regular council meeting in the fall of 2008, the orchard was discussed.

*In the fall of 2008 there was an article about the orchard in the Bonney Lake Sumner Courier Herald.  

*The former parks director has stated to the police that Mayor Enslow told him personally not to do any maintenance where the orchard was planted, as this was councilman Hynek’s responsibility.

*Food trees were discussed at several Forestry Commission and Parks Commission meetings and various city officials from 2006-2008

*City employees planted the food trees

*City staff purchased the trees

*Since 2008, on orders from the mayor, I have used the city’s water truck (the small one you see watering hanging baskets around town) to water the orchard.

*On orders from the mayor, City employee, Warren Peloli, was responsible for filling the truck with water

*The first year I watered the trees about 2 hours once a week.  The second year about twice a month, the third year about every three weeks. For over three years, I used the city water truck every summer to water the food forest. It was a common sight to see. 

*On orders from the mayor I was provided with a do-not-duplicate key for the locked gate in order to have access to maintain the orchard.

*Along the White River trail, you will notice the grass in the orchard has never been mowed since the planting of the orchard, while grass on either side of the orchard has been maintained by the city. This shows that the city staff is still following the mayors’ instructions to not touch the orchard area as Councilman Hynek is solely responsible for it.

*Considering all of the previously mentioned facts, when asked by the police if Councilman Hynek had authority to be at the property, why did Mayor Enslow state to the officer that I had no authority to be at the orchard?

In December, if the mayor had told the truth or remembered it, this train wreck would have been prevented months ago.

The walnut and plum trees are planted in an area called an Urban Conservancy Zone. Because this Zone is along a trail, and intended for public use, the citizens may choose what is planted. Also, according to Sumner Shoreline Regulation 16.20.025, agriculture activity is specifically allowed. The United States Department of Agriculture considers walnuts an agricultural crop. Therefore, once the orchard was planted at the present location, all previous plantings and self planted species were now secondary and allowed to be removed as needed to ensure the unimpeded growth of the primary crop.

Until recently, the city has been cutting and removing cottonwoods from along the White River trail, yet the cottonwoods that were recently thinned were considered vandalism and valued at $100 per tree. Does the city intend to charge its own employees with vandalism, or just political opponents of the mayor?

If allowed to be maintained, Sumner will have one of the largest food forests in the nation. However, I have been recently informed that the food forest and Community Gardens may no longer use city equipment. This will be a huge loss to our community.

Since 2009, the Sumner Community Gardens and Farms; for which I was the driving force; has donated over 100,000 pounds of food to those in need.  

According to my research, Sumner has the second largest community garden in the state, based on the acres under cultivation. The only larger one is Seattle and they have five full time city staff and a budget of $500,000 per year. We get $1000 per year and about 40 hours of staff time per year and the use of city equpiment when not needed by the city, as well as my personal 20 hours per week of volunteer time. This arrangement has worked out very well.

I think the question should be, why? Why would there be an issue with my doing what I was asked to do by insuring that the food forest had an opportunity to reach maturity? Why would the hugely popular Community Gardens, that benefits so many, be put at risk?

I personally hope that Mayor Enslow only has the best possible intentions for this community and wouldn’t intentionally do something to cause harm as a way of showing his frustration with me. 

-- Sumner Councilmember Randy Hynek

Do you want to help save the Food Forest? contact  FRIENDS OF THE FOOD FOREST C/O   randyhynek@hotmail.com 
Jill Cartwright April 03, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I encourage everyone to attend the next Sumner City Council meeting in defense of Randy Hynek. This is the same City Council that back in August of last year decided to no longer explicitly encourage public comment during city council meetings. Sumner citizens with complaints, concerns or questions are no longer explicitly encouraged to join in on public comment during city council meetings. Originally, they were encouraged as laid out by the opening line of a passage in revised council rules of order, presented at a July study session. "I don't know if we want to encourage them, necessarily," Councilwoman Cindi Hochstetter said after reading the sentence. "Would you like that to be removed?" City Administrator Diane Supler asked. "Yes, I think so," Hochstetter said. Remind the city council who they represent, if you don't, they'll do whatever they want.
Dan April 03, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Why did we plant so many walnut trees? why not more Italian prunes and berries? I walked the property last night, calling it a food forest is quite a stretch. What truly it is, is an overgrown mess.
Jack Hicks April 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Based on Councilman Hyneck's letter it does seem improbable that Mayor Enslow just "forgot" about Randy's long standing city delegated orchard caretaking responsibilities. I think the ball is now in Mayor Enslow's court to explain his actions in this matter and why he sought felony criminal charges against Hyneck. I note that the prosecutors seem to be not buying the mayor's criminal accusations against Randy. Prosecutors have not filed official charges of any kind, and seem not likely to. I believe a full explanation by the Mayor is in order. Does Mayor Enslow have a rebuttal to Randy's letter? I think this is a good subject for another followup story by local media. Let's have transparency on this strange issue in our city government.
Kathleen April 03, 2012 at 07:31 PM
If Mr. Hynek's volunteer efforts were approved by the Council, then I think it inappropriate to call the police to report a felony crime, when it was done in the course of volunteer work. Mayor Enslow may have had a case of a vokunteer overstepping their bounds (maybe, maybe not), but if the work in that area was for a number of years and open to Mr. Hynek then you can't call it a crime that he removed other trees. What I call it is poor organization and communication from the City to it's volunteers (was there any volunteer job description, list of duties and boundaries set?). As the Mayor, the buck stops with Mr. Enslow. According to Washington State RCW's a City Official (mayor) can only be removed with "cause".by a recall vote. I think that clause should be changed, and any official removed by majority vote by the people allowed at any time. A "Cause" would have to be first proven against Mr. Enslow. I find the Mayor has taken the City in the wrong direction, not listened to it's citizens who pay taxes for his decisions and has overall, not been open and transparent to the public. I would not recommend his re-election by any means. Sumner has better things to be concerned about then petty personal disagreements.
Katharine Rode April 16, 2012 at 12:09 AM
To see or not to see; that is the question. If we could get two council members to say they wanted to see the film, Randy and the Trees,we could get it put on the agenda, I gave them four. They have since changed their minds and now will not allow us to show the film to the council. Ironically there will be a tree themed presentaion! There is also a public comment period. Come and speak your mind or to show support for Councilmember Hynek. Mon. April 16 7pm


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