Team Osprey
Editorial Page, January 2024

Team Osprey

By the Vashon Loop Editorial Board

At The Vashon Loop, it is hard for us to not take certain issues very seriously these days – that’s because these are serious times. Last year, The Loop took the opportunity to dive deep into the structures of several local administrative organizations. The experience was so eye-opening that we wrote a number of critical articles. 

In some cases, we critiqued these organization’s plans for levies that would further raise our property taxes (which have already more than doubled in the past 10 years). Most importantly, we felt compelled to critique the management of these organizations – especially serious deficits in their communications strategies and a lack of transparency and real community engagement in their decision-making processes. We have actually observed a pervasive problem. 

Here’s the thing. We live on an Island. Most of us chose to be here and not somewhere large and anonymous like Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia. Vashon operates like a small town, and its residents have traditionally wanted to understand what is happening in their community. We want a detailed and robust local dialogue – this is a completely reasonable expectation. 

What we are not here for is to experience the distanced, unresponsive, and even condescending bureaucratic structures that now manage our larger cities. Locally, some of our problems have been profound, like events at the Vashon Island School District – hidden for some time but ultimately recognized and acted on. Other problems are in earlier stages and don’t involve interpersonal harm, but still reveal troubling patterns. 

In the week between Christmas and New Years’, such a problem showed itself. On a local Facebook nature and wilderness page, a resident asked what had happened to the osprey nest located adjacent to VIFR headquarters. The nest was apparently removed as part of a renovation, but without any community consultation, such as with local Audubon members. Another Facebooker reviewed recent VIFR minutes (updated most recently in October 2023) and did not find ospreys mentioned in renovation discussions.

Dozens of people expressed serious concerns, to the extent that when VIFR posted its year-end review of activities on another local Facebook page, posts asking for information on the ospreys dominated. This was followed by a VIFR Commissioner interjecting multiple times to encourage people to attend the next monthly VIFR meeting, in person or by Zoom, to “ask questions and become informed.” 

This commissioner told us that the Fire Chief could not be expected to answer these questions online. Once questions are asked online and responded to, only more questions will follow, you see, and that is troublesome and difficult to manage. This is confusing to us at The Loop because, last year, when campaigning for their substantial levy lift, the VIFR used a very emotional, high-touch outreach strategy. Is it only a priority for VIFR to be responsive at some times?

Fortunately, after New Years’, the VIFR did release a statement on their Facebook page. They reiterated that moving the active osprey nest was an essential part of the main fire station renovation, said that they had consulted with wildlife specialists during this process, and have since met with local Vashon Audubon representatives. It’s still to be determined if we will have an acceptable solution. 

Providing this response was a good step on the VIFR’s part, but the underlying issue still remains – at what point did it become acceptable for officials to ignore and deflect to such a degree? We agree that more people should track and attend meetings. But community meetings should never be the only means of communication.

Please keep in mind that there is a big difference between expressing criticisms of our service systems and not appreciating our service providers and our ability to access these systems. This year, The Loop will be paying more attention to strategies that could improve or re-envision our Island services in a way that better matches current and (more importantly) future needs. Going forward, we will discuss all community issues in the realistic context of money being harder to come by, and the assumption of ongoing ferry disruptions – recently acknowledged by the Seattle Times as expected to extend five years or more. We invite you to join us if you want to explore and write about these topics. 

If you want to talk more with the VIFR about the ospreys or other topics, the next public Commissioner’s Meeting will be on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 6:30 PM at the Penny Farcy Training Facility (10019 SW Bank Road). Pay attention to this date – incorrect information was shared on Facebook saying the meeting would be on January 20, 2024. As of this writing, no Zoom link for this meeting is available, but VIFR has indicated that this link will be posted closer to the meeting date. 

January 8, 2024

About Author

caitlin I’m a member of the Vashon Loop Editorial Board and write about medicine, health, and society. I’m a research geek and an MPH, and I’m also a mom, farmer, teacher, and apocalypse librarian. I edit things. If I’m not doing something, it’s probably because I am asleep.