Recent local blog posts

Wolf Haven International Provides Sanctuary and Breeds New Pups

Thurston Talk - Tue, 08/02/2016 - 6:00am


Wolf Haven International, near Offut Lake in Tenino, has a rich history, dating back to 1982. During the past decades, the non-profit organization has helped more than 200 wolves. Wendy Spencer started as a part-time volunteer almost 18 years ago and has since become a fixture within the organization. As we walk around the wolf […]

Reader’s Choice: ThurstonTalk’s Most Read Articles in July

Thurston Talk - Tue, 08/02/2016 - 6:00am


It appears that ThurstonTalk readers were hungry in July. Our top three most-read stories for the month all revolve around food. And, with our markets overflowing with fresh produce and the weather simply perfect for evening outings, it’s no wonder people are charmed by these foodie reads and restaurants. Take a peek and don’t miss […]

Saving Face Skinspa Takes Years Off Your Face with Microneedling

Thurston Talk - Tue, 08/02/2016 - 6:00am


At Saving Face Skinspa, esthetician Wendy Christman is focused on results. With 15 years in the field, she knows all the latest procedures and treatments to make your skin look its best. “I really, really enjoy it. I like making people happy, but more importantly I like seeing change. Everybody leaves with a change every […]

Towards Cascadia is not a particularly useful book about Cascadia

Olympia Time - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 9:17pm

I had been incredibly interested in reading Ryan Moothart's Towards Cascadia. The book had been advertized on one of my favorite soccer podcasts. And, being not eager to read the entire thing on my phone, I spend a little money on a cheap tablet that I could use as an ereader since the book at that point was only available in ebook form.

In the end though, Moothart does not impress.

Overall, he seems to skip over the part where any writer who takes on the topic of Cascadia should describe and backup what they actually mean about Cascadia. I'm familiar with the Cascadia that Moothart writes about, it is the one that comes almost directly from David McCloskey and r/Cascadia. While I'm not a particular fan of this version of Cascadia, I understand where it comes from. And, unfortunately, Moothart does a poor job presenting it.
For one, he seems to over-estimate the average citizen's commitment to particular political ideals. Take for example this passage:We do not have to choose between our local differences east and west of the Cascade Mountain Range in an attempt to gain a dominant influence throughout the entire region; we're in this together as Cascadians, regardless of our differences, whatever they may be.Here Moothart seems to gloss on what really are fundamental differences on politics and society between people from urban Seattle and rural Franklin County.

He also seems to misunderstand the nature of society here:

In Cascadia, our understanding of freedom and status quo extends to the environment that surrounds us. The living communities that exist in nature are part of us; we take into account their right to exist, free from overconsumption or exploitation.What now? Really?

Even the most pollyannish assessment of how we are doing in terms of protecting the environment around here would state that most of us act like "nature is part of us." This is simply not true. While commendable as a goal (I really do think we should act more like this), it isn't the way things are. And, if this book is supposed to be a reflection of reality, it simply isn't a good one.

The main jabs of the book are two longish and detailed detours into what I could only describe as political science descriptions of how Moothart sees the political nature of Cascadia. But, these detours lack specifics I'd find useful.

Where Moothart does a great job is describing how exactly a regional secession would work. This is a well detailed chapter and breaks down in both American and Canadian terms how the states and provinces that make up Cascadia (even on a sub-state level) would actually leave. Moothart does a great job of even showing how this process would be peaceful. I've often been curious about these processes if they existed, and he does an admirable job of walking the reader through them.

Olympia’s Green Cove Basin Watershed Threatened by Possible Rezone

Janine's Little Hollywood - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 12:48pm

BranBar, LLC is seeking a rezone near Cooper Crest Neighborhood
Above: Sal Munoz, president of the Cooper Crest Neighborhood Association, walks on the sidewalk of Cooper Crest Drive NW, a narrow street that leads to property owned by BranBar, LLC. He was one of several individuals who testified at a hearing last week  against a proposal to rezone BranBar property for a housing development. The BranBar development would be using Cooper Crest roads, as there is no other way in or out of the neighborhood.
By Janine
The slow death by a thousand subdivisions of the environmentally critical Green Cove Basin watershed continues in west Olympia with the possibility of a land use rezone, and with it, the possibility of yet another housing development.
A request to change the zoning of about five acres at the west end of Crestwood Place NW from residential one unit per five acres to another category called residential low impact (RLI), would allow up to 20 single family dwellings on the property.
There is no actual land use application for the property pending before the city, so it is difficult to ascertain the full impact of the proposed rezone, but neighbors of the adjacent Cooper Crest neighborhood are upset.
The undeveloped, heavily wooded property, owned by BranBar, LLC, of Covington, is represented by Brandon Anderson, and was annexed in 2006 from Thurston County into the City of Olympia, along with the Sundberg property off Cooper Point Road.
These annexed areas contain the only areas of the city zoned residential one unit per five acres, which was a remnant land use designation prior to annexation.
The RLI designation is intended, the city says, to protect sensitive drainage basins.
The RLI definition states that it accommodates some residential development within sensitive drainage basins at densities averaging from two to four units per acre, provided that the development configuration avoids stormwater and aquatic habitat impacts.
The actual density for this parcel would range from 10 to 20 units. Lacking an actual application, the city settled on assuming the maximum would be desired.
The site lies in the Eld Inlet watershed within the 2,626 acre Green Cove Drainage Basin, considered to be critical aquifer habitat. The Green Cove Creek basin has its own comprehensive plan, adopted by Thurston County in 1998.
For more information about this watershed, see Little Hollywood’s story, “Housing Development Threatens West Olympia’s Green Cove Basin,” May 9, 2016, which focuses on Parkside, a preliminary plat application currently before the city that proposes to subdivide 30 acres near Cooper Point and 20th Avenue into 65 to 75 single family lots.
Above: Cooper Crest Drive NW, currently a dead end labeled as a future neighborhood collector, leads to the BranBar, LLC property. The street is surrounded by wetlands, which are labeled as protected by the City of Olympia.
The City of Olympia is supporting the BranBar rezone and issued a state environmental policy act determination of non-significance on June 22 for the proposed project. The comment deadline was July 6 and the appeal deadline was July 13.
The determination was not appealed, but several residents of the Cooper Crest Neighborhood Association showed up in force at a public hearing in front of Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir on July 25 at Olympia city hall to express their opposition to the rezone. The hearing lasted three and a half hours.
Scheibmeir, who said he made a site visit to the neighborhood and the property earlier that afternoon, said he would issue a decision in a timely manner and has up to 14 calendar days from the date of the hearing to do so.
Several speakers mentioned the Green Cove Basin Comprehensive Plan in their testimony, but it was only after Lisa Reiner, president of the nearby Burbank/Elliott neighborhood association, asked him directly if he had read the plan, that he responded that he had not, and in fact, no one had provided him a copy. He requested that city staff provide him with a copy of the document.
Residents brought up issues primarily related to traffic.

“….Although I’ve known and appreciated the environmental sensitivity of this area for years, it was not until I began reading, viewing maps, and comprehending the cumulative developments in the basin over the last 20 years that I became alarmed. My original testimony plan focused almost exclusively on traffic with only a brief mention of environmental issues,” said Russell “Rusty” Horton, an original resident of the Cooper Crest neighborhood, in an interview with Little Hollywood after the hearing.
Horton says the Green Cove Creek and Basin are special areas worthy of protection.
“In Cooper Crest, only a few hundred feet from the BranBar parcel, I have personally seen nesting Bald Eagles fledging their young in multiple years, coyotes, owls, hawks, long and short-tailed weasels, deer, cougar, pileated wood peckers, rough-skin newts, and salamanders. The water from BranBar drains directly to Green Cove Creek where the sensitive mudminnow and salmon and trout species spawn. I realize these are not all threatened species, but they are all indicative of the balanced ecosystem we want to see,” said Horton.
Little Hollywood asked Cooper Crest Neighborhood Association president Sal Munoz why the neighborhood did not appeal the state environmental policy act (SEPA) determination.
He said the $1000 appeal fee for the SEPA determination was difficult to pull together in a short period of time.
“We don’t spend that kind of money casually and we don’t know what the hell we’re doing – we just don’t know land use. We assume it would have required the hiring of a land use attorney, and that would have required a significant expenditure of money,” said Munoz.
Horton echoed that thought, and said he is looking ahead to the next step in the process.
“While extremely frustrated that the SEPA document defers all study until the rezone is approved and a development proposal is submitted, I thought that any appeal effort might be better focused on an actual development proposal SEPA - to try and force an environmental impact statement.
“Personally, I find it incomprehensible that we cannot use our imaginations and study theoretical densities that would be allowed by a rezone prior to the development proposal being submitted. We should have a right to not give away a greater density designation without first understanding its potential effects,” said Horton.
Above: Cooper Crest Neighborhood Homeowners Association president Sal Munoz discusses the history of the neighborhood near the BranBar LLC property. Here, Munoz describes how the streets were damaged by past BranBar, LLC activity to access their property. The road shows visible gouges. 
Cooper Crest History
“In my opinion, it is not wise or safe to add additional burdens to our streets…it’s not just volume, it’s about the character of daily life…this is a spot rezone to aid one owner at the expense of others,” testified Sal Munoz, an original, 11 year resident of the Cooper Crest Neighborhood Homeowners Association, at the public hearing on July 25.
Developed by Tri Vo of Triway Enterprises, the Cooper Crest neighborhood has had a long and torturous history. 
Touted as Olympia’s first so-called low impact residential development, the neighborhood features 138 homes built close together and narrow streets with multiple bulb-out curbs that constrict traffic. 
Residents are tight-knit and appreciate the family friendliness of the neighborhood, but also struggle with the challenges and realities of the development.
Residents immediately complained of shoddy workmanship and the area’s high water table, resulting in poor soil drainage, causing extreme flooding issues. Most of those issues have been corrected, but stormwater issues are constant, as most of the development features varying elevations.
Most important to the neighborhood right now is the fact that the BranBar development would be using Cooper Crest roads, as there is no other way in or out.
A city traffic impact study by the city states that the BranBar development would put the neighborhood at its fullest capacity.
Neighbors say the count conducted on March 8 by the city was low by 40 – 60 vehicle trips, and did not take several factors into consideration, such as several vacant homes, an extended vacation by a resident, and cars accessing the mailboxes on Cooper Point Place.
In general, the narrow streets are usually clogged with resident and guest vehicles, which, when parked in driveways, spill over onto sidewalks. Parking enforcement issues are constant.
Traffic is bad enough when residents need routine homeowner maintenance or other professional services, but they cannot imagine construction crews for BranBar moving through their streets.
Currently, with cars parked on one side of the road, each main access road is essentially a one way street.
Children routinely play in the street at Cooper Crest. Neighbors, who govern themselves through a private homeowner’s association, know to crawl through the neighborhood at 5 to 10 miles per hour. Many are worried that residents and guests of the proposed BranBar neighborhood will not be so careful.
Prabakar Manoharan, a 10 year resident of Cooper Crest, testified at the hearing and remarked that he has never seen such narrow streets anywhere in Washington State.He said residents and their guests routinely use a fire lane, originally meant to be gated and used only in case of emergency by the fire department.
“Especially while entering the community, it is inviting to use the fire lane as a short-cut for more than 60 percent of the homes in the community,” said Manoharan. He said that he is sure that if the BranBar property is rezoned, residents who live there would do the same.
“The fire lane was funded and created specifically for Cooper Crest home owners and we maintain it. Has the city given a thought on how to control excess traffic in the fire lane or does the city have any future plans for the fire lane?” he asked.
He and others urged the city to create a separate access point from 20th Avenue to BranBar, identified as Road 65 NW, near Julia Butler Hansen Elementary School. The road would connect Cooper Crest Drive and Crestwood Place to the corner of 20th and Road 65 NW.
“The only benefit in the whole rezoning process is to the developer in saving some money from constructing an access road. Approving such a project increases the burden for existing and new homeowners, increasing the accident risks in the neighborhood. Please don’t be a part of it,” urged Manoharan.
Rusty Horton, who lives on Cooper Crest Place, a relatively minor street, says his street has become a de facto neighborhood collector for the lower half of the neighborhood.
“It was designed for a maximum of 500 vehicle trips per day…even now I have to deal with the speeding, safety, and access concerns of a street that is functioning like an avenue. I especially worry about the safety of my very active five year old and his young friends…Even without the new 20 homes from BranBar, Cooper Crest Place is nearly at its design value and will become a failing road if as few as eight new homes are built in BranBar,” he said.

Something Historic is Happening at Harlequin Productions

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 12:01pm


Submitted by Harlequin Productions Something historic is happening at Harlequin Productions. Harlequin is preparing to stage the third musical of their 2017 season. The company has never produced three musicals in the same year. This special third musical is a commemoration of Harlequin’s 25th anniversary season. “We wanted to do something special to celebrate our silver […]

Fiftieth Sculpture Unveiling at Westport Winery Garden Resort

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 11:55am


Submitted by Westport Winery Garden Resort The Roberts family of Westport Winery Garden Resort is reaching a historic milestone when they unveil the fiftieth commissioned piece of art in their outdoor sculpture garden this month. Winery co-founder Blain Roberts said, “This is one of the promises we made to our community when we opened the […]

Inaugural CENTER Stage Awards & Gala Raises $80K

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 11:42am


  Submitted by The Washington Center for the Performing Arts The Washington Center for the Performing Arts hosted its inaugural CENTER Stage Awards & Gala on Thursday, July 28. The format of the event was kept under tight wraps, and the 175 guests attending were treated to an element of surprise when they entered the […]

Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 11:32am


Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton This lovely young girl is Coco. She is a 3 year old Pit mix who is super sweet. She has been spayed, is current on her vaccinations and is now ready to find her forever home. Coco is a very loving and gentle girl who loves kids of all ages. […]

Friendly Grove Blueberry Farm Attracts Pickers Young and Old

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 7:58am


Blueberries have grown on the site of Friendly Grove Blueberry Farm for over 70 years. The protection of the Henderson Watershed has created the ideal conditions for the blueberry bushes to flourish in the acidic peat bog. Five varieties of blueberries grow at this rustic u-pick blueberry farm just a few miles from the bustle of […]

History of Lacey’s Annexation Battles in the 1960s

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 6:00am


When Lacey became a city as the result of a positive election in November 1966, that wasn’t the last battle for the survival of the new city. Lacey as a community, if not an incorporated municipality, had been around since the late 1800s. But it wasn’t until suburban developments began sprouting up after World War […]

Olympia’s Mel Smith Right at Home in the Pool

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 6:00am


Mel Smith tells people he plans to quit swimming when it ceases to be fun. But judging by his involvement at the Washington State Senior Games that shouldn’t occur anytime soon. For the last five years, Smith has pulled double duty at the largest Olympic-style multi-sport event in Washington – participating both as a swimmer […]

Get to Know ThurstonTalk’s Four Sister Sites Across Western Washington

Thurston Talk - Mon, 08/01/2016 - 6:00am


  For more than five years, ThurstonTalk has provided Olympia and Thurston County residents with positive news and information about the people, businesses and organizations that make Thurston County a great place to live, work and play. But did you know that ThurstonTalk is one of five NorthAmericaTalk community social networks serving Western Washington? Nearly […]

Paddle to Nisqually Lands at Port of Olympia

Thurston Talk - Sun, 07/31/2016 - 6:07am


The historic Paddle to Nisqually landed at the Port of Olympia on Saturday, July 30.  Festivities continue for the next week.  To learn more about volunteering at Paddle to Nisqually, click here.

The SPSCC Foundation – Supporting Students, Enriching Education, Creating Community

Thurston Talk - Sun, 07/31/2016 - 6:00am


South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) is a bustling campus hub nestled on 102 acres in west Olympia. Most Thurston County residents recognize the corner signage at the busy Mottman Road – Custer Boulevard intersection or have visited the beautiful Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts. However, once you venture beyond the parking areas […]

Celebrate 11 Great Years with Medicine Creek Winery

Thurston Talk - Sat, 07/30/2016 - 6:00am


Hallmark celebration gurus report that steel is the traditional eleventh anniversary gift. Personally, a steel gift wouldn’t guarantee eleven more happy years. I suggest joining in the celebration—and stocking up for future festivities—at the Medicine Creek Winery’s anniversary party instead. A not-to-be-missed boutique winery, Medicine Creek is known for wowing visitors to its unique tasting […]

The Washington Center Season 2016-2017 has Something for Everyone

Thurston Talk - Sat, 07/30/2016 - 6:00am


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is a cornerstone of downtown Olympia. The premiere arts and entertainment venue in our region, The Washington Center is truly a community hub. With a wide variety of mainstage shows throughout the year, it’s easy to find something that piques your interest,and, this year is no exception. With […]

Anthony Zender’s Grit and Determination Makes Him a Winner in his MMA Career

Thurston Talk - Sat, 07/30/2016 - 5:58am


Anthony Zender’s dream of fighting mixed martial arts professionally seemed simply that – a dream. To really appreciate what fighting professionally means to Zender, to appreciate his gritty determination and commitment, you need to know one thing about him. He’s not a quitter. About a year and a half ago, he had lost his first […]

No Theater Review This week

South Sound Arts - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 1:13pm
I am taking a break from writing theater reviews. Watch for upcoming season previews in both The News Tribune and the Weekly Volcano and for a story about Olympia's story slam, Story Oly in the Aug. 11 edition of the Weekly Volcano.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Colored pencil art

South Sound Arts - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 1:09pm
Photo: “Len (Roofer)” colored pencil, by John Smolko, courtesy American Art Company

Surprisingly impactful show at American Art Company
Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 28, 2016
“Len (Roofer)” colored pencil, by John Smolko, courtesy American Art CompanyThe Colored Pencil Society of America's 24 International Exhibition at American Art Company is surprising on many levels. For starters, the 119 works of art that crowd the gallery walls are really paintings, not drawings, by almost any criteria, despite being done with pencils. Second, the detailed technical expertise and attention to detail in each and every work is mind-boggling.
As a longtime artist, critic and former teacher, I feel obligated to point out that pretty pictures skillfully executed do not necessarily qualify as art. (I think this is what the critic Peter Plagens was referring to when he coined the phrase “wall fodder.”) Art must at least strive toward something higher — call me an elitist or a snob if you must, but art should be transformative.
These are not transformative works, but they are mind-boggling in their skill. The intensity, dedication and patience it must have taken for these artists to create these works is almost beyond comprehension.
Nearly all of the works shown are photo-realist or trompe l’oeil paintings. In most, you have to look close and hard to even see that there are pencil marks; in some, I would defy anyone to see a single pencil mark, not even with a magnifying glass.
There are a few exceptions, and I wish there were more. One of the exceptions is John Smolko's "Len (Roofer),” a portrait of a working man taking a break from his work. He sits on the peak of a roof looking out in a contemplative stare. It is a highly realistic picture, yet Smolko does not attempt to hide his pencil marks. There are definite contour lines, most noticeably on the arms. Energetic, swirling lines almost reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting fill the background and even overlap the figure in places. The use of these marks seems to be the artist’s way of reminding the viewer that it is, after all, a drawing. Plus, these marks unify figure and background and energize the picture.
Another exception is Jill Kline's "Cause and Effect." This is a picture of a young woman seen in an extremely foreshortened view standing on or above what looks like a landscape seen from an airplane. There is a heroic and almost unreal quality to the image, even though she too is drawn realistically. The shading is simplified and looks like it was done with pastels, and there are definite outlines around the body that, like the marks in Smolko’s drawing, announce that yes, this is a drawing.
Perhaps the most astounding of the many astoundingly hyper-realist works is Jesse Lane’s “Resolve.” This is a portrait of a dripping-wet man in extreme close-up. Water drips down his face and pours off his chin. The background is solid black, and his face glows as if under a spotlight. The luminosity and heightened contrast of this one is powerful, but may be a little too stagey for some viewers.
There are a lot of flower pictures, many portraits, a lot of old things — such as old typewriters and rusted old cars and trucks — a few landscapes and animal pictures and dreamscapes. As noted, they are all realistic in style. Most are also nicely composed. They have to be admired for their technical skill. They also have hefty price tags, ranging from around $2,000 to $20,000.
Despite what might have been implied by my earlier remarks about pretty and skillful not being sufficient to constitute art, I very much enjoyed seeing this show.
Colored Pencil Society of America's 24 International Exhibition, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Aug. 13, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment
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