Letter to the City Council

I am a forest steward with Green Seattle Partnership since 2011. I am also a regular voter, and have voted for everyone on the City Council.

English ivy is a serious problem in Seattle. It’s taking over our forests, preventing regeneration of seedlings and shortening the lives of our mature trees. It’s epidemic throughout our park system. With no action taken, it will seriously degrade our parks and make them not only unusable for people, but destroy their ability to provide many of the ecological services parks provide.
Unfortunately, the most effective way to remove ivy is by hand. This makes it prohibitively expensive to control – unless you have a large pool of dedicated volunteers, and a large organization that can provide city-wide logistical and material support.

Green Seattle Partnership forest stewards are that pool of volunteers. They provide hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of volunteer labor annually. The Green Seattle Partnership is that organization. It provides tools, training, resources, outreach assistance, and coordination of logistics. It helps avoid duplication of effort, and makes sure we’re all working towards the same goal with the same tools and techniques.

My work is concentrated in North Beach Park, a 9-acre ravine park in Northwest Seattle. Green Seattle Partnership was there from the start. We’re now entering our fourth year of restoration. More than 20% of the park has been cleared of invasive plants, and a couple thousand trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants have been planted. North Beach Park has become an education resource for everyone from elementary students in the school across the street to UW students in the Master of Environmental Horticulture program. It has become a source of community and friendship to the regular volunteers and those who drop in just once or twice. These work parties provide an important contact to local nature, and help to instill and improve our sense of place.

Multiply this across the city, from the largest to the smallest natural area, and you can see the tremendous impact that the Green Seattle Partnership has on Seattle.

As we remove invasive monocultures and restore native diversity, we’re doing more than making the parks prettier for the human users. We’re providing resources for all wild life, from larvae through adult insects and the birds that eat them. We’re improving the ecological services that the urban forest provides: the stormwater retention, the erosion control, and the water purification. We’re bringing back iconic plants, such as the Western Red Cedar, the Douglas-fir (and the more humble but no less iconic low Oregon-grape and Western skunk cabbage) – plants that say “this is the Pacific Northwest.”

To pay for all this work directly would cost many times the request of Green Seattle Partnership in the proposed Parks budget. This is why I say that the Green Seattle Partnership is not a luxury but a necessity, not a liability but a valid and rewarding investment.

Please restore the Green Seattle Partnership funding to the proposed parks budget.

Thank you for your time. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

April Work Party at North Beach Park

Saturday, April 26th, 9 a.m.: Spring is in full glory in North Beach Park. All the leaves are fresh and bright green, more things are blooming every day. The birds are singing their hearts out and it’s just a joy to be there. Join us as we begin our 4th year (!) of restoration and clear new areas of invasive plants and work to restore this park to native diversity. Please sign up so we can make our plans.

We meet, rain or shine, at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Parking is on 90th St., east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

Save the date for upcoming workparties: June 28th, July 26th , and August 23rd. They’re also 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and meet at the main entrance to the park.

Can’t join us for a work party? Save the date for GIVE BIG SEATTLE (May 6) and GIVE BIG FOR NORTH BEACH PARK. Give Big Seattle is a special one day online citywide fundraising event coordinated by the Seattle Foundation. A certain percentage of all donations will be stretched by the Seattle Foundation. There will be more information coming soon via postcard and email. All moneys received will go to restoration efforts for North Beach Park. Donating is an important and appreciated show of community support.

News: We would like to thank Groundswell NW for awarding one of their 2014 “Local Hero” awards to Luke McGuff for his work in the role of the restoration efforts at North Beach Park. The award is both flattering and inspiring. Thank you!

March Work Party Report

March work party crew
The valiant crew: Loren, Drexie, Morrie, Ryan, and Tasha (left to right).

The day was cloudy, but dry; the temperature cool enough to get us moving, but not warm enough to make us uncomfortable. The ground was wet from the March rains and we were all eager to get some work in. All in all, this made for a very productive work party.

TIdying the mulch pile
Loren tidies the mulch pile.

We started by tidying up the mulch pile. We’d ordered it last summer for a big project that cooler heads decided should be done by people experienced with steep slope work but have been nibbling at it ever since. This has allowed us to do some low-priority but still important mulching — such as along the 90th St. edge.

90th St.
Drexie, Ryan, and Tasha spread the mulch.

This doesn’t get much run off, but it’s a visible little slice of the park — not only the people who live up on 25th Ave. drive past it, but the moms’n'dads picking up their children from North Beach Elementary park along the other side of the street.

The mulching didn’t take long at all, which allowed us to go to the newly cleared area at 850 feet. We started working in this area in February, and we’ll work our way upstream until we meet where EarthCorps left off last year. In the fall and winter, we’ll plant it up.

We picked this area because it’s fairly dry and stable, and so overgrown with blackberry it’s a monoculture.

Cleared area
Everything at Loren’s feet is blackberry cane; rising up behind him are the brambles.

One nice side effect of the clearing was that it made more of the park that’s across the stream visible, such as this grove of skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage grove

Before we cleared the blackberry, it was completely obscured. The area we’re working in is also a big gap in the canopy, so it will be a good place to prioritize conifer reintroduction.

In April, we’ll continue working here. We have to balance where we work against a couple logistics: Don’t want to work too close to the stream bank until the summer, when it’s dryer; and don’t want to work in areas with a lot of piggyback or Pacific waterleaf until those have bloomed and died back. One lesson (among many) I’ve learned repeatedly is that a gradual approach is best, to take some time and learn the lay of the land and get to know the processes of the forest better.

Our next work party is April 26th, 9 a.m. to noon. As ever, we’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, at 90th St. and 24th Ave. All ages and skill sets are welcome.

If you can’t join us for a work party, you can support our work by making a donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation and earmarking it for North Beach Park. All proceeds donated will go to support the Friends of North Beach Park in our restoration efforts.

March at North Beach Park

Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m.: Spring is busting out all over in North Beach Park. Skunk Cabbage is coming up in the wetlands, Pacific water leaf up in the trailsides, red flowering currant and Indian plum are blooming on the slopes, and everything is leafing and budding and getting ready to pop. Please sign up in advance on Cedar so we can make our plans.

We meet, rain or shine, at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Parking is on 90th St., east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

After the workparty, starting about 12:30, join us for a Washington Native Plant Society field trip and restoration seminar. Here are the details:

Restoration Seminar of North Beach Natural Area, Saturday, March 22, 12:30 – 2:30
North Beach Park is a 9 acre ravine park in NW Seattle that has been under restoration since 2011. The bottomland is a permanently saturated wetland, yet there are also dry upland slopes, providing a variety of microenvironments in a small area. We’ll talk about some of the issues and opportunities facing restoration in small urban forests. We’ll also talk about the different forest types and what they mean to restoration efforts. We’d like this to be a seminar on restoration, and welcome any and all input.

Trail description: The trail has some moderate elevation changes, and is occasionally narrow and slippery. There are two log stream crossings.

Contact: Luke McGuff, 206-715-9135, lukemcguff@yahoo.com (email preferred).

Save the date for upcoming workparties: April 26th, June 28th, and July 26th. They’re also 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and meet at the main entrance to the park.

Can’t join us for a work party? Donate to the Seattle Parks Foundation to support restoration efforts at North Beach Park. Visit their website and click on the “Donate” button. Your donation is tax-deductible. Money will be used for tools, materials, and supplies. Donating is an important and appreciated expression of community support.

February Work Party at North Beach Park

Saturday, February 22, 9 a.m.: Show some LOVE to our favorite ravine with the Friends of North Beach Park. Join us to remove some of the bluebells that come up every spring. There are already plenty of other signs of spring: skunk cabbage is coming up, osoberry and other shrubs are starting to bud. Sign up in advance so we can make our plans.

We meet, rain or shine, at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Parking is on 90th St., east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

Save the date for upcoming work parties: March 22nd, April 26th, and June 28th. They’re also 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and meet at the main entrance to the park.

Can’t join us for a work party? Donate to the Seattle Parks Foundation to support restoration efforts at North Beach Park. Visit their website and click on the “Donate” button. Your donation is tax-deductible.

January Work Party at North Beach Park

Saturday, January 25, 9 a.m.: Work off some of that holiday “celebration” and meet new friends with the Friends of North Beach Park. Join us to begin a year of after care for all the tremendous plants North Beach Park received in 2013. We also have some wetland plants to install (this work will be muddy). Sign up in advance so we can make our plans.

We meet, rain or shine, at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Parking is on 90th St., east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

Another event of interest is the Project Heronwatch Open House sponsored by Heron Habitat Helpers. Saturday, January 18th, Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Learn about Heron Habitat Helpers and their proposed live streaming cameras. There will also be representatives of Green Seattle Partnership, Seattle Parks & Recreation, The Burke Museum, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Chris Anderson, biologist with the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, will give a speech at noon. We’ll be sharing a table with Groundswell NW.

Save the date for upcoming workparties: February 22nd, March 22nd, and April 26th. They’re all 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and meet at the main entrance to the park.

Can’t join us for a work party? Donate to the Seattle Parks Foundation to support restoration efforts at North Beach Park. Visit their website and click on the “Donate” button. Your donation is tax-deductible and all of the proceeds will be used to fund the restoration efforts.

Diversity Report

Two of the other forest stewards and I were planning 2014 (the planning was fun and we’re looking forward to the activities), and the question of plant diversity came up. How much had we increased native plant diversity in North Beach Park? We had a couple plant lists handy, and were quickly able to come up with a pretty good idea. Other than the first order (made in 2011, before I barely knew anything), we’ve concentrated on ordering plants we knew to be under- or unrepresented in the park. Once I got home, I looked through previous lists and came up with a pretty definite figure.

But first, why does increased native plant diversity matter? It’s such a mantra for forest stewards the question deserves to be asked.

  • It provides more food sources for the creatures that eat plants. That’s, basically, everything else. If a creature doesn’t eat plants directly, it eats things that eat plants. More insects eating plants means (we hope) more birds eating insects. Invasive plants don’t provide food for insects that eat plants, which is why native diversity is important.
  • It also increases the length of the bloom season. Particularly helpful are plants that bloom early in spring or late in summer.
  • The greater variety of food sources and extended bloom time are examples of functional redundancy. There isn’t just one plant blooming, but several, which serve different pollinators. And there isn’t just one genus of wetland plant filtering the water, but three or four.
  • It improves the soil structure with a diversity of roots. Plants taking water from the soil and releasing it through their leaves (evapotranspiration) is important to soil stabilization. And a variety of root structures will make the soil more lively, which will feedback and make the soil better for the root structures.
  • The Pacific Northwest forests need plants at every canopy level — from ground covering forbs and ferns up to the tallest Douglas fir trees. Because (see first item) there are things that eat plants at every level.
  • Many of the forest types we target in our restoration have similar plant communities and associations, with the main difference being proportions between the plants. Planting with as wide a palette as possible provides the opportunity for the plants to sort themselves out a bit.
  • Plant diversity also builds in resilience to disturbances, whether fire, flood, famine, or climate change. And given that we work in a ravine, we could well be creating a refuge for many plants to escape the worst effects of climate change.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is what I can think of off the top of my head.

Oh, the statistics. We — the people engaged in restoration in North Beach Park, whether EarthCorps, a crew contracted by the Parks Department, or people working with Friends of North Beach Park — have planted 63 different species of plant in the park. Of these, 39, or 62%, were unrepresented in the park. Note that these aren’t necessarily rare plants, they’re just unrepresented in North Beach Park. And I’m not saying we’ve increased the diversity by that much. That would need a complete survey of all the plants in the park, native and invasive. But it’s still a fairly good number.

The Last EarthCorps Work Party

EarthCorps coordinated five work parties in North Beach Park, starting in April and ending last Saturday, November 9th. They accomplished a tremendous amount of work, clearing more than 10,000 square feet of space and more than 240 plants, ranging from ground cover up to conifer and deciduous trees.

The day started earlier than usual, with some volunteers arriving a little before 9 a.m. to stage and place plants.
Early Morning Workers
Yep, the weather was gorgeous and stayed that way throughout the work party.

Here are two of the 24 or so volunteers that were there.
Volunteers
I think they were UW students, but I’m not sure.

Here is a family group (well, the kids are from different families) from Meridian School.
Family group
I really like family groups at work parties. I think (hope) it gives the kids the idea that nature is not something that we just visit, but that we have to take care of as well. And the work is fun and invigorating. Well, that’s a lot to ask, so if the kids just have fun playing in the woods, that’s great.

Some empty buckets:
That's a lotta plants!
This was taken just before the lunch break, which means there were plenty more buckets added to the stack by the end of the work party. (Also, just noticed I forgot to “fall back” on the camera timestamp.)

It was a great experience having EarthCorps at North Beach Park. We’d love to have them back another time.

September Work Party Report

It was pretty darn wet this morning, but at least it wasn’t cold. Five of us set out to do some survival rings on trees that desperately needed some help. As we walked down the trail, I tried what I remembered of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech. The bit about “those who lay warm in their beds” sounded entirely too tempting, so I stopped quickly.

Our goal was simple: put survival rings on some trail side trees on the south slope. The trees here desperately need it. There were four trees easily accessible, and we got them cleaned up in almost record time. Many of the trees that need work are in places inaccessible to volunteers — in some cases, just plain inaccessible. But these trees were very handy, with only a little brushing needed to get to work.

Here’s new volunteer Steve, posing beside a tree he cleared in record time.
Steve

Some of the ivy had been on the trees so long the roots had formed mats that came away in big sheets. Other roots had made furrows in the tree as they inhibited its growth.

Here’s Tad at the tree he cleared.
Tad

The stuff hanging down behind him is ivy that had reached the ground and rerooted. It would have broken off the branch it was dangling from in short order.

One of the last (“but not least”) things we did was get a tire in which a laurel tree had grown.
Laurel tree surrounding a tire

I’ve found this amusing since my early days exploring North Beach Park in 2008-9. I didn’t mourn its passing, though.

Usually work parties run for three hours, but since it was raining heavier by the minute, we were all bespattered, and had done the work we’d set out to do, we called it a day and headed out of the park. On our way out we found some more bottles’n'cans and took the opportunity to remove another tire.

All in all, a good, solid little work party.

North Beach Park September News

Another busy month for North Beach Park: EarthCorps 9/14, Friends of North Beach Park 9/28, and Sustainable Ballard 9/29! We hope to see you at one of these events.

EarthCorps at North Beach Park: Saturday, September 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
EarthCorps begins four fall work parties by moving into some new territory. We’ll continue removing ivy and blackberry in a more mixed plant community than previous work parties. There is a lunch break at noon, so bring a sandwich. To sign up, visit their volunteer calendar and click on the North Beach even for Sept. 14th. (And if you’re planning ahead, future EarthCorps events are scheduled for Oct. 12 and 23 and Nov. 2)

Friends of North Beach Park: Saturday, September 28, 9 a.m. to Noon.
Join us on the 4th Saturday to help make North Beach Park a better park and Seattle a better city. We provide tools, gloves and guidance. You bring a willingness to play in the woods. For registration and further details, please visit the Green City Partnerships website.

Details for both events
Meet at the main entrance to the park, 90th St. and 24th Ave. NW. Wear sturdy shoes or mud boots and weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance; the work ranges from light gardening to pretty vigorous. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be kept under parental/guardian supervision at all times. Bring water and snacks as you need them. EarthCorps provides a portapotty, but there are no permanent facilities in North Beach Park. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th. The #61 bus goes past the park, and routes #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th. Check Metro KC route planner for further information.

Sustainable Ballard Festival, Sunday, September 29, Ballard Commons Park (56th and 22nd), all day long
Green Seattle Partnership will have a table at the 10th annual Sustainable Ballard Festival, promoting Green Seattle Day (Nov. 2nd), Seattle ReLeaf, and park stewardship of Carkeek, Golden Gardens, and of course North Beach Park. There will also be many other booths and much information about solarizing your home, rain gardens, bike riding in the city, and more. To find out more about Sustainable Ballard, please visit their website.

Seattle Parks Foundation
Support the restoration at North Beach Park by making a tax-deductible donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. Visit their website and click on the “Donate” button. All proceeds donated will be used in our restoration efforts.