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.
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.
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.
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.