Renton’s “Little Mountain” Project Blessed and Dedicated

In Renton’s Earlington Hill neighborhood, a humble hillside transmission right-of-way is bringing the community together with Seattle City Light.

Since 2007, organizations as diverse as City View Church, the City of Renton, DIRT (Duwamish Infrastructure Restoration Training) Corps, the Earlington Hill Neighborhood Association, Seattle City Light’s Vegetation Management, Sustainable Renton and Vetcorps have been organizing volunteers to beautify and restore native vegetation to the hill. In a recent ceremony, the transmission right-of-way was given additional purpose and identity by community leaders.

On May 2, Cecile Hansen of the Duwamish Tribe blessed and renamed the hill “Little Mountain,” as it was formerly known in Duwamish lore. Renton Mayor Denis Law was also on hand to dedicate the newest aspect of the project, a community garden.

Duwamish Tribe Chairwoman Cecile Hansen blesses and renames the site “Little Mountain”

The community project started as a hillside clean-up effort. In 2007, City Light Plant Ecologist Marie Swanson began working with Rhoda Green of the Earlington Hill Neighborhood Association to transform the site from a trash-filled and overgrown lot into a community benefit. Soon they had a design and a small grant from the City of Renton, and the organizing began.

Over the next several years, the community gradually cleaned up the site, removed noxious and invasive plants from the landscape and raised a sign welcoming people to Earlington Hill. The reactivated space made the hillside a gathering place for the neighborhood, reducing the likelihood of crime in the area.

A sign at the base of the hillside welcomes visitors to the neighborhood

In 2015, plans for the space expanded and more land was cleared for the community’s benefit. “We want to keep going up the hill,” says Swanson. “We want to install rain gardens and raised vegetable gardens.”

To that end, Sustainable Renton is lending their expertise to install a water collection system, which will complement a community vegetable garden and the native, low-growing plants that have been introduced in place of invasive species.

The hillside is ready for raised vegetable boxes and a rain collection system to be installed

Steve Randolph from Sustainable Renton expects that vegetables harvested from the pesticide-free, bee-friendly community garden will be available in 2017. “It takes a while to put this stuff together,” says Randolph. “We’ve got to get the ground leveled, we’ve got to get it laid out, we’ve got to get beds built and we’ve got to get pathways built, and we have to build a water collection system. There’s a lot that going to happen this year.”

Stakeholders and volunteers at the blessing and dedication ceremony

Continuing volunteer work parties will teach the community about restoration techniques, wildlife habitat and the historic significance of the hillside to the Duwamish Tribe. Although the Little Mountain hillside will still serve as a transmission right-of-way, the space is bringing more than electricity to the area; it is fostering environmental stewardship at a grass-roots level.

Seattle City Light Helping Restore Hillside in Renton’s Earlington Hills Neighborhood

Volunteers at work during an earlier restoration work day at the Earlington Hills site in Renton.

Seattle City Light staff will team up with the City of Renton, Earlington Hills Neighborhood group and the City View Church to restore a hillside in Renton this Saturday, Nov. 21. Volunteers will be out planting 520 native plants.

Since 2007, Marie Swanson from City Light’s vegetation management team has been organizing volunteers and working with these groups to restore the hillside, which once contained invasive weeds, noxious weeds and soil erosion issues that caused water runoff onto the adjacent sidewalk. The community decided to take action and transform it into a sustainable and green landscape.

The location also serves as City Light’s Beacon Hill transmission line right-of-way. The hillside is connected to other green belts, creating a corridor for wildlife.

Through the collaboration of these partners, invasive and noxious weeds were removed and soil erosion problems were eliminated. After the transformation, the area is now thriving and self-sustaining with little maintenance and the corridors are diversified in native plants to support the resident and migrating wildlife.

Saturday, a large volunteer group will join forces with the Earlington Hills Neighborhood group to help plant and gain field experience. The volunteer group called DIRT (Duwamish Infrastructure Restoration Training) Corps is made up of environmental restoration students.

The volunteers will be out planting trees and native plants from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.