Green Seattle Partnership has plenty to celebrate on its 10th birthday

When people picture the Pacific Northwest, visions of mountains and lush greenery come to mind. Though our infamous rain fall helps, maintaining Seattle’s urban forests and keeping our city healthy and green is a big job. Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) was created to aid in that effort. GSP turns 10 years old this year, and the organization has a lot to celebrate.

Seattle Parks Plant Ecologist Michael Yadrick gives a tour in the West Duwamish Greenbelt to highlight the Green Seattle Partnership’s restoration efforts.

The Green Seattle Partnership is a unique public-private venture dedicated to promoting a livable city by re-establishing and maintaining healthy urban forests. It was created in 2004 by a Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Cascade Land Conservancy (now known as Forterra). The GSP is a 20-year investment in the restoration of our forests.

The GSP works with many community partners such as EarthCorps and Goodwill. The GSP has trained more than 200 volunteer forest stewards who lead volunteer work parties throughout the city. The GSP coordinates with Seattle Parks crews and plant ecologists to ensure its volunteers are equipped with mulch, plants and necessary tools to complete their work.

Seattle’s urban forests were damaged as a result of 150 years of logging, view clearing and neglect. The trees were plagued with invasive plants like Himalayan blackberry and ivy. Of the 3,700 acres of openspace managed by Seattle Parks and Recreation, GSP was tasked with restoring 2,500 acres of forested parklands.

GSP representatives have been busy reaching out to Seattle communities and businesses to educate people and get them involved in environmental stewardship.  And their efforts have paid off. After 10 years, GSP has enrolled 1,299 acres of parklands into restoration. Between 2005 and August 2014, people donated 694,159 volunteer hours to the organization. So how were those hours spent?

GSP forest stewards and volunteers have removed 816 acres of invasive species, installed 528,806 plants and watered 1,023,538. In fact, this year, GSP’s work was credited with helping make Seattle the most sustainable city in the nation.

In its next 10 years, GSP hopes to enter nearly 1,500 more acres into restoration, restore trails and make tree canopy coverage more equitable across Seattle neighborhoods.

According to Seattle Parks Plant Ecologist Michael Yadrick, once our urban forests are healthy, keeping them that way becomes pretty straightforward.

“You can stack the deck in favor of native plants and make life hard for the invasives,” Yadrick said. “You can help the Green Seattle Partnership change the outcome of the battle by getting out there and removing the invasive plants, replanting the natives and monitoring their growth for future health. If you do it right, that victory will last.”

To learn more about GSP, visit greenseattle.org. If you’d like to volunteer with GSP, you can find plenty of events here.

The GSP’s biggest volunteer push of the year, Green Seattle Day, is coming up on Saturday, Nov. 8.

Volunteer in honor of Love Parks Day Aug. 15

It’s like a Valentine for the trees.

Join Seattle Parks Foundation and EarthCorps for Love Parks Day on Friday, Aug. 15! Show your appreciation for the City’s park system by volunteering in Cheasty Greenspace.

Volunteers will remove invasive plants and spread woodchip mulch to prepare areas of the park for winter planting. Invasive plants like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry can outcompete native plants and interrupt the balance and cycle of a healthy, functioning forest.

 

All volunteers will receive a t-shirt, water bottle and lunch. Small and large groups are welcome. For more information and to sign up to volunteer, please visit https://www.seattleparksfoundation.org/2014-pages/get-out/2014-event-registration-love-parks-day.

Please contact Seattle Parks Foundation Development and Community Engagement Director Lee Warnecke at 206-332-9900 ext. 16  with questions.

Seattle Parks Volunteer Naturalists meet the Duwamish River Valley

Seattle Volunteer Naturalists Kevin Tsui, Patty North, Chris Hoffer, Mary Kay Sykes and Karl Seng watch a trio of osprey circle over the Duwamish River in search of prey.

 

Long known as an industrial area, Seattle’s Duwamish River Valley is also a great place to learn about nature.

The valley is home to Seattle’s only river, the cultural center of Seattle’s first people and a landscape of river bends, industrial areas, fishing communities and rare birds that truly represent urban nature at its most threatened and most resilient.

In 2014, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Environmental Learning Centers (ELCs) began to work in partnership with Duwamish River Valley communities to create environmental education opportunities in the Duwamish River Valley. In order to accomplish this, ELC staff have begun to build their capacity of volunteers and develop meaningful partnerships with Duwamish Valley communities.

Building volunteer capacity

On Sunday, May 18, ELC staff hosted Meet the Duwamish River Valley, a continuing education session to introduce 10 of their most committed volunteers to some of the unique parklands, habitats and communities of the valley. These Seattle Volunteer Naturalists spent the day on the river in order to educate the public about ecology and community in the Duwamish River Valley.

Penny Rose, a Public Education Program Specialist with the ELCs, kicked off the day by telling the group how she had been inspired by the irrepressible beauty of the river and its wildlife.

“I used to ride my bike along this trail, through this industrial corridor, and I kept seeing some amazing and unique birds every time I’d pass through,” Rose said. “It took me a while to make my way to one of our parks along the river to see what a special place this really is. And that’s my goal with our work in the Duwamish River Valley—that we can show others who live in the city how truly important the river is to wildlife and to people.”

With the Duwamish River below, Public Education Specialist Penny Rose scopes out a peregrine falcon alongside Seattle Volunteer Naturalists.

 

Nature in action

Volunteers explored the restored salmon habitat at the heart of Herring’s House Park, the historical home to one of the area’s older Duwamish tribal villages, which provides respite for young salmon making their transition from fresh water to salt water as they move down river. During their visit, a red-tailed hawk made its way toward the river from its nest in Puget Park—only to be chased off again by a pair of agitated crows.

At the mouth of the river, the volunteers watched in wonder as a peregrine falcon—one of a pair that nests and rears its young every year on the underside of the West Seattle Bridge—snatched a starling out of the air for a meal.

Sharon Leishman, coordinator of the Duwamish Alive Coalition, told the volunteers why the river is so special to her.

“All of Seattle’s history and culture can be found right here,” she said. “It’s the home of our native people and the site of changes in the landscape by European settlers. It saw the growth of industry and pollution, and is now seeing our attempt to restore the natural environment. And, it is home to some of our most diverse neighborhoods.”

With towering cranes in the background, seals sunned themselves on floating buoys as giant barges rolled past. In the fall, salmon will pass through and be caught by tribal fishers, and hundreds of volunteers will spend thousands of hours restoring riverbanks.

“The Duwamish River Valley is such a rich place to do environmental education,” Naturalist Justin Hellier said. “We are able to see some amazing wildlife, but also some incredible community organizing for a cleaner river. We are able to look at how our economic systems interact with our ecological systems, and how these affect our communities. This river allows us to think about the really big questions of our day—how we live on the land, and how we treat each other.”

New community partnerships

The ELC staff work on the river has focused on developing and deepening partnerships with community groups and organizations that call the Duwamish Valley home.

Recently, the Naturalists have collaborated on programming with the Duwamish Tribe to provide environmental education at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. They are excited by their initial foray into the program—an event exploring Duwamish River birds attracted 34 people out on a recent Friday afternoon, and an event on the river’s geology brought out more than 100.

In addition, the Naturalists have begun conversations with the Duwamish Alive Coalition, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, EarthCorps and others to continue to develop relevant, accessible, community-based environmental education opportunities. This fall the group will join Duwamish River Festival at Duwamish Waterway Park in South Park.