Eugene and Barbara Norcross-Renner have created a garden of surprises — gently tamed wild spaces adjacent to beautifully curated beds. Don’t miss this year’s Music in the Gardens tour, Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


I’m afraid I’ve given up the fight. So when the big booms started at the end of June (six days early!), Jackson and I packed our bags and headed for other climes where more reasonable firework policies prevail.

Despite the concerted effort by the “Not-a-Ban, a Better Plan” folks and their community survey showing that a vast majority of Peninsula residents and business owners want firework’s days and hours drastically shortened, our officials have made no changes. One big fat zero, nada!

The only substantive difference after nearly four years of Not-a-Ban meetings, information gathering, presentations, negotiations, and confabs was simply the enforcement by Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation of a law already on the books — no camping on the beach. So despite even a county burn ban and extremely dry conditions, the fireworks insanity went on as usual.

According to Asia Fields (The Seattle Times, July 3, 2019), “With mostly dry conditions this week, a potentially bad wildfire season ahead and hundreds of injuries from fireworks in the state each year, officials have a simple message: Leave fireworks to the pros this Fourth of July. In many cities, you don’t have a choice (unless you want to face fines, which in Seattle can reach $5,000). Fireworks are banned in most cities in King and Snohomish counties, including Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way and Seattle.” (To discover what the actual firework regulations are for all Washington state counties and cities, check this out:

There are a variety of reasons our Peninsula could take the initiative to restrict fireworks — trash on the beach, disruption for local pets and wildlife, fire hazards, and drunken behavior, just to name a few — but our elected officials have wimped out again.

Revenue vs. costs?

And, again this year, the dedicated Grassroots Garbage Gang came to the rescue with post-party clean-up on July 5th. Though even after a morning of hard work when members of our amazing community were on the beach on the job, there was still another evening of fireworks. Tell me how that makes sense?

For the next several years, Independence Day takes place on a weekend which means that the Peninsula will experience sequential extra-long days of partying. Remember it was this extravaganza of mayhem — a four-day Fourth of July weekend in 2015 — that catalyzed the Not-a-Ban conversation in the first place.

Shelly Pollock, founder of the Grassroots Gang, says, “I wasn’t out on the beach the night of the Fourth, but I can tell you that the bag handout on the Fourth and the dumpsters at the beach approaches make such a big difference. State Parks picks up the tab for those dumpsters and that’s a huge chunk. We’re so grateful for that and our amazing clean-up crew. We had over 600 volunteers this year, but it’s discouraging because the day after there is still another load of garbage. It would be nice not to have to clean up again.”

Shelly also points out something that is coming more and more into environmental focus, especially for us coastal-living folks: “The amount of plastics on the beach…it would be so different if the fireworks could decompose.” As Vicki Vanneman, part of the Not-a-Ban group, comments, “We tried to offer a suggestion of limiting Pacific County fireworks sales to the non-plastic varieties. Then at least the paper left on the beach would be biodegradable.” Oh, but, did I mention that our “leaders” didn’t change anything, and that though fireworks are not legal in residential areas there is no enforcement of even that?

What kind of crisis would it take to re-evaluate our fireworks policies in the county? I’d love to know what the concomitant cost is for our local police and state patrol as misbehavin’ takes place all over the Peninsula on this holiday weekend?

I heard tell that a domestic argument on the Bay Avenue approach required four or five squad cars to converge in Ocean Park (rumor has it that an axe was involved). And, from another bystander, that a match thrown into a dumpster on the Cranberry approach caught the dumpster contents and a car on fire. So, what’s the sum total of business revenue versus county expense for this particular weekend? I can’t help but notice that it’s us residents who don’t want the chaos that end up paying for it twice — both emotionally and financially.

Music in the Gardens

In happier news, I spent a lovely afternoon with gardeners Eugene and Barbara Norcross-Renner a couple days ago; this year they have invited us into their garden for touring.

Yes, unbelievably, it’s that time again — Music and Art on the Gardens takes place this weekend, Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Details here: Tickets are $20 as always and, as in past years, the gardens, the music, the artists and the small bites are all fabulous.

The Norcross-Renner garden is one of the most enchanting I’ve seen in my many years of garden-touring. I think what most impressed me was the contrast of the gently-tamed wild spaces adjacent to the beautifully-curated beds. Barbara has taken it as her mission to create meandering pathways and loop trails through the tall trees, grasses, and natural thickets on their five acres; while Eugene appears to be the specialist in unusual plantings — he has a bed of over 40 different types of heather; and another with 12 varieties of mahonias. The two of them together — dreaming, planting, digging, mulching, trimming, and hauling — are a dedicated duo. They’ve produced a truly charming garden.

The heaths and heathers are a low-growing shrub in the Ericaceae family. Eugene’s goal has been to experiment with their uses in a way that provides seasonal variety in both texture and color. His pièce de résistance is the heather bed that gives their circular driveway drama. Eugene has discovered that properly selected and tended, heathers do extremely well in our climate of sandy salty soil and ocean conditions. And he discovered that 750 varieties of heather are commercially available, particularly at a local nursery, Heaths and Heathers in Shelton. (

Author and gardener Maggie Stuckey wrote the garden descriptions this year, and her exquisite prose and accurate botanicals are a treasure in themselves. As Maggie writes, this year’s gardens give us the amazing range of styles and experiences we’ve come to expect from this stunning annual tour, including a “perfectly imperfect woodland paradise,” backyard whimsy, “undulating terraces,” “ecocentric wit,” and the legacy of “rhodies past and present.”

Music in the Garden co-chairs Nancy Allen and Darlene Houser have done it again. If you’ve seen the tour in past years, you know how special it is. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure — please, treat yourself to one of the best things about the Peninsula summer: a chance to take a peak into the private lives of our neighbors with extraordinary and talented green thumbs.

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