Over the past few weeks, a group that has been trying to save an historic Akebono Cherry Tree located at the corner of Ambaum Blvd. SW and SW 144th Street has met with three Burien City Councilmembers.

The tree was endangered because this corner lot – which was contaminated from its years as an electrical substation – is owned by Seattle City Light, which recently cleaned up the site.

City Light says that the tree was likely planted sometime between 1948-1950, about the time the substation was built. Many of the cherry trees that line the walkways in Washington, D.C. are Akebono cherry, most of which were planted in 1912.

At one point though, it appeared this tree would be cut down, but that didn’t happen.

“It would have been inexpensive for Seattle City Light to just clean the contamination and cut everything down and sell the property to a developer,” Organizer Karen McMichael told The B-Town Blog. “Most likely this is what would have happened had the citizens of Burien not intervened.”

McMichael adds that “the time is coming for City of Burien to make a decision,” which may be sometime in June.

“The mood of the City Council and indicators of potential funding and City priorities do not sound hopeful from the discussions we have had,” she said. “There are many priorities for our City. Our hope is that for future City Planning and inevitable growth in the area, this portion of the city in North Highline, now a very attractive location for passersby, might be retained by the City of Burien.”

Seattle City Light has now finished the clearing of all contaminants, so they have completed their part of the commitment. They were required to clean the soil but they had no obligation to save the trees, or add healthy mulch and soil to support the trees’ continued health, which they did.

“We are trying to cover OUR commitment by asking the people in Burien/Normandy Park as well as tree-lovers everywhere, for a small donation,” McMichael added.

As we previously reported, organizers are seeking $9,000 to save the tree, but as of May 7, they’ve raised just $980.

To contribute to the cause, visit


Residents are also being asked to sign a petition:


Karen also shared this update with us:

At this point, the following facts seem to be evident:

  1. Because the property is owned by Seattle City Light, an agreement was made with the City of Burien to decide by June if there is some way to buy the property or SCL is entitled to put it up for commercial sale.
  2. Initial interventions on our part with Burien Parks and Recreation, which started in mid-January 2015, prevented the cutting of the trees and resulted in a decision that $9000 would be a target for fundraising to demonstrate “good faith” intentions of efforts to Save the Cherry Tree. The $9000 figure is intended to pay in part for the clean up of trees on SCL’s previously contaminated property. The amount was specifically related to the trees on the Ambaum side of the property. Through an agreement between Seattle City Light and City of Burien, the additional figure of $9800 paid for the soil vactoring (clean up) process that allowed for the Cherry tree and adjacent pines along 144th to be saved from the initial plan for cutting.
  3. Any petition signatures gained are intended to demonstrate community interest in saving the trees to the City Council.
  4. Although the trees have been presently “saved” by our intervention efforts, a future commercial buyer would be entitled to cut down all trees if the property is retained by Seattle City Light and sold to a commercial buyer.

With these facts in hand, we wanted to advise those who have been interested in saving the trees and also those who have committed funds to this effort as to our progress to date. We have determined that our continued efforts to inform the community will continue until the City of Burien makes a decision in June.

A lot of time and effort has gone in to trying to find ways to increase the potential source of funds with such things as Community Matching Funds. In addition, local Boy Scout troups have expressed willingness to build planter box projects in completion of some Eagle Scout requirements. A local, professional landscape contractor has also indicated interest in helping to create a landscape plan. Using native and hardy plants would be a priority.

Suggestions have also been made to connect with So. Seattle Community College or Highline College Horticulture programs to determine interest in planning and partially maintaining the area should it become a “pocket park.” Because the property is relatively small and on a busy corner, the intention would be to create a low maintenance environment that might be an ongoing project for local youth in Scouts or other uses. Each of these entities are interested in helping in a future community garden plan, but without the city’s OK to purchase the land, continued effort seems moot. Clearly, these efforts would apply only if the property is purchased.

Our appreciation for the interest and participation of those who have already expressed interest and involvement is huge. Only time can tell what the outcome will be. In the meantime, petition signatures to express interest are a great help and for those interested in financial support to demonstrate to City of Burien that there is energy to fulfill a commitment of goodwill to “Save the Cherry Tree,” your help is greatly appreciated and no amount is too small.

A very small group has been committed to this effort since late January and the time is coming for City of Burien to make a decision. Thanks so much for your interest. Questions may be directed to 206-619-0249. Further questions may be directed to City of Burien, Parks and Recreation 206-988-3700, or City Hall 206-241-4647.

For general information go to www.facebook.com/CherryTreeBurien, for petition signatures the online address is: http://www.petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-the-burien-cherry/

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9 replies on “UPDATE: Here's the latest news on Burien's endangered, historic Cherry Tree”

    1. I didn’t hear about the CVS tree until after it was too late, we could still try to save these though….

      1. What a waste of time and energy. Go out in your yard and plant another tree. One tree cut down would represent 100 new trees being planted. Cut down the tree and make Seattle City Light clean up the pollution.

    1. “Why is it so expensive to keep the tree?”
      Thats what I would like to know, that tree has been there how many years without needing anything but a little rainfall?
      Sounds like another way for SCL to scam a buck (or $9800.00)

      1. It’s not expensive to keep the tree, it’s expensive to own the land the tree sits on. It currently belongs to Seattle City Light and they no longer need it so they’d like to sell it. If it’s bought for a park the tree stays. If it’s bought for commercial use the tree MIGHT be saved.
        It appears that SCL could have just cut down all the trees, removed the contaminated soil and had a clean lot. Removing the soil from around the trees without killing them is what costs the extra money.
        Yes it would be great if 100 people planted new trees in their yard. In 20-40 years they’d all have some pretty impressive trees if they (the trees and the people) lived that long. Meantime this tree is amazing right now.
        By the way, neither option (saving this tree or planting new ones) precludes the other. Plant at least one new tree this year.

  1. Has anybody talked with a plant nursery, I had old fruit trees on my lot and was told that fruit trees have a lifespan and when they start sprouting from their base they are trying to regenerate. Let’s get some factual info on this species before everyone gets all worked up.
    They can also rot from the inside out….

    1. Good point, Julie. Ornamental cherries have an upper lifespan of about 20 years. That’s not particularly long as trees go. Sure, it can live longer but will decline fairly rapidly as you pointed out. In the case of the CVS tree it is very sad that we couldn’t have forced them to save it – it might have lived another 500 years. I donated to save the cherry tree property for Burien because we need to preserve our green belts, however small. Pocket parks are important to the quality of life in our community – but I’m afraid that the tree itself isn’t a long-term proposition.

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