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On the waterfront: A thought experiment

Imagine Seattle's waterfront as bare land, then start planning.

Perhaps the folks trying to decide the fate of the Seattle Viaduct should consult Professor Jerry F. Franklin, the eminent professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources. Three decades ago, before Franklin became the leader in his field, I interviewed him on the topic of forest management and practices.

Franklin told me to envision the land without any trees, and then — using what we know about soils, climates and forest practices — decide where to grow trees, where to harvest and where to leave them alone.

Imagine the Seattle waterfront without its buildings and Alaskan Way Viaduct cutting the city off from its biggest resource, Puget Sound. What would we build — or, more importantly, not build — on that swath of land?

Certainly not Speaker Frank Chopp's monstrosity, perhaps not a viaduct at all. An interesting concept when you look at the issue from a different perspective.

Floyd J. McKay, professor of journalism emeritus at Western Washington University, was a print and broadcast journalist in Oregon for three decades. Recipient of a DuPont-Columbia Broadcast Award for documentaries, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, he is also a historian and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He resides in Bellingham and can be reached at floydmckay@comcast.net.


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