Part of the plan for redoing Fir Street includes making this east parking lot at Helen Haller Elementary a one-way road into the main parking lot. Staff with the City of Sequim said it won’t takeaway parking lots though. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Part of the plan for redoing Fir Street includes making this east parking lot at Helen Haller Elementary a one-way road into the main parking lot. Staff with the City of Sequim said it won’t takeaway parking lots though. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Construction to make Fir Street one-way, move Lavender Festival’s Street Fair to Carrie Blake Park

More details are cementing into place for the long-planned reconstruction of a portion of Fir Street by Sequim School District’s campuses.

Designs to reconstruct the deteriorating stretch from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue are anticipated to be complete this spring with construction beginning in July and slated to last around 18 months, said City engineer Matt Klontz.

The project will be one of the City of Sequim’s biggest road projects in recent years costing $4.5-$5 million largely coming from grants to redo water, sewer and irrigation lines while reconstructing the pavement that encounters flooding and potholes throughout the year.

Some of the many aspects to the project include widening it to include bike lanes and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks/curbs on both sides of Fir Street, adding a traffic light at the intersection of Fir/Fifth Avenue and a pedestrian crossing signal with flashing strobe lights at Fir/Sequim Avenue, and moving utility poles underground.

Klontz said the street will widen to 45 feet from Sequim Avenue to Fourth Avenue and 53 feet wide from Fourth to Fifth Avenues. Part of that includes two 5-feet wide bike lanes from Sequim to Fourth and two 6-feet bike lanes from Fourth to Fifth.

But the details of how construction will go down is largely left to the contractor who will be selected after bids go out in the spring, Klontz said.

“We don’t know if they’ll want to do it block by block or block off the whole stretch,” he said. “We do know for traffic control, we’ll be making Fir Street one-way for westbound traffic. (Drivers) will be able to use Second, Third, and Fourth (Avenue) intersections to turn but they won’t be able to when (the contractor is) working in the intersections.”

Schools’ impact

With such a large project in the pipeline, Sequim school officials shared their concerns with Klontz and David Garlington, Sequim public works director, on Jan. 2, at the Sequim School Board’s regular meeting.

Before and after school, a bottleneck of traffic occurs at Helen Haller Elementary, Olympic Peninsula Academy and Sequim High School that could be intensified with construction, school officials said.

Part of the project opens up a staff- and disabled-only parking lot between the district’s bus drop-off area and the main parking lot to be one-way with its only entrance on Fir Street and exit into the main lot.

Helen Haller principal Becky Stanton said she’s concerned about students walking along the sidewalks in the small lot during pick-up and drop off times

“That’s a really huge concern for safety for us with 300 kids,” she said. “That’s our main through-way to that bus stadium parking lot.”

Board member Robin Henrikson asked if there was a disadvantage to leaving that parking lot blocked off to prevent traffic from coming through.

“Is there a way to keep a sort of a wider area so parents can line up along the side of the sidewalks before pickup and drop off times?” she asked. “If that pull out is going away, is there an opportunity to build in a wider area that’s even bigger than the thing you are taking away?”

Klontz said there may be an opportunity to make sidewalks wider but it would likely shift more into the school’s property and cut down on parking.

City staff said they don’t want vehicles pulling into bike lanes to pick up children.

Henrikson said she anticipates traffic worsening in years to come as more parents opt to drop their children off.

“This is just an opportune time to think about more strategic ways to have that road help out,” she said.

Garlington said the possibility of having bike lanes and a parking lane will require another 10 feet of right of way.

“Maybe the city and the school district can work on some strategies of using the same configuration but different ways we can route people or maybe different pickup points,” he said.

“The traffic on Fir Street is a mess… It’s going to be exacerbated if (parents) are parking in a bike lane when kids are getting out of school and riding bikes.”

However, Garlington said “there’s really no good way to (add more lanes) without a whole lot more right of way because you’re asking for so many things to share that road.”

When the project is finished, the existing parking lots and fields will move 4-5 feet and include a landscaping buffer by the lots, Klontz told the Gazette.

“Parking is at a premium,” he said, “so what we don’t want to do is take away parking.”

While traffic may be messy along Fir Street for more than a year, Klontz said the bus parking will remain unaffected.

For more information on construction, contact Sequim Public Works at 360-683-4908.

Lavender Festival on the move, temporarily

Vehicles traveling to and from schools make up a bulk of the traffic on Fir Street from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue, but on the third weekend in July Fir Street becomes a land of lavender.

This year marks the 22nd year for the Sequim Lavender Festival run by the Sequim Lavender Growers Association from July 20-22 but due to construction slated for up to 18 months, city staff and festival leaders have been working on an alternative location for the Street Fair.

Colleen Robinson, assistant executive director for the festival, said they’ve confirmed they’ll move the fair, its 100-plus vendors and live music, to Carrie Blake Community Park next to the Albert Haller Playfields and James Center for Performing Arts.

“We’re excited for the new opportunity,” Robinson said. “We let vendors know last year this may be a possibility. It’ll be the same great festival and great experience we’ve always had.”

Robinson said they considered other options in downtown Sequim but felt issues with parking became greater so “by process of elimination, Carrie Blake Park was the front runner.”

During the weekend, vendors will set up along the new one-way road between the bridge by the pond and the bandshell, which will host all the festival’s performers.

The park was used for two summers in recent years by the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, who split off from the Sequim Lavender Growers Association, for its Sequim Lavender Farm Faire before opting to focus on individual events at each farm.

Robinson said the fact that the venue was used before for a similar event is a non-issue.

“We’ve moved so far passed that scenario that most people don’t remember the details behind that,” she said. “They just want to have fun and enjoy lavender.”

Robinson said her concern is the potential impact on downtown businesses as the event moves east.

“As a part of the downtown merchants group, I want to know the impact on the inner city of Sequim,” she said.

Sequim city engineer Matt Klontz said with construction likely beginning in July and running 18 months, the festival may have to move for two summers.

Robinson said they haven’t discussed 2019 and they’re still determining details for this summer.

She said despite the move, there will still be a shuttle coming to and from the Street Fair from as far away as JCPenney and through the city.

For more information on the Sequim Lavender Festival, visit www.lavenderfestival.com.

At last year’s Sequim Lavender Festival’s Street Fair, Ariana Flores assembles a bouquet of lavender for a customer at the Graysmarsh Farm booth. This summer, the Street Fair will move to Carrie Blake Park while Fir Street is under construction. Sequim Gazette file photo by Erin Hawkins

At last year’s Sequim Lavender Festival’s Street Fair, Ariana Flores assembles a bouquet of lavender for a customer at the Graysmarsh Farm booth. This summer, the Street Fair will move to Carrie Blake Park while Fir Street is under construction. Sequim Gazette file photo by Erin Hawkins

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