holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Join Friends of North Beach Park for the wrap up of the planting season on Saturday, January 23, 2016. We’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. The work party will run from 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.

We’ll be planting at the main stream crossing and streamside up and down from that point. We’ll also be transporting some mulch down to the planting areas. The plants we’ll be planting have been provided by Green Seattle Partnership and the Washington Native Plant Society.

We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Please wear weather appropriate layers than can get dirty (likely very dirty) and closed-toe, waterproof shoes. Rain gear will be helpful; expect late-January weather, whatever that means these days. Even in cold weather, it’s a good idea to bring some water and a snack. Note there are no facilities at the park.

Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming.

All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 and #40 buses stop a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

As always, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

If you’re looking for something on Martin Luther King Day, there are a number of special events all over the city.

If you can’t join Friends of North Beach Park in January, save the date for one of our upcoming work parties: February 27, March 26, or April 23. All work parties are 9 a.m. to noon, and will meet at the main entrance to the park, 90th St. and 24th Ave. NW.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

It was rainy for the 10th annual Green Seattle Day, but this was hardly the worst weather I’ve experienced. There were about 16 events all over the city; I went to St. Mark’s Greenbelt. We had 300 plants to put in and ably met the task. There are five forest stewards at St. Mark’s, some of whom have been working there as long as ten years, some only a couple.

Low Oregon grape, sword fern, salal, and some other plants ready to be installed.

Low Oregon grape, sword fern, salal, and some other plants ready to be installed.

There was a good crowd of people, about 25 to start with.

Getting to work

Getting to work

The rain never got too hard to be soaking, but it did give all the plants a nice thorough drink as we planted them. We installed Douglas and grand fir, tall and low Oregon-grape, sword and deer fern, nootka and bald hip rose, cascara, and a few others. In preparation for the planting, invasives had been removed over the summer and the work area covered in burlap. When my coworker pulled the burlap aside once, we found two different kinds of insect eggs, I have no idea what kind.

Two kinds of insect eggs.

Two kinds of insect eggs.

Getting all the plants in took less than the allotted time. A number of people took off before we had the chance for a group photo, but here are the stalwarts.

About half the workers.

About half the workers.

The fun wasn’t over yet, though, as we set to removing ivy that had grown up into the canopy of a few nearby trees.

They could sure use it.

They could sure use it.

Attacking the problem.

Attacking the problem.

Result!

Result!

Two important clarifications: (a) The two people in the second-to-last photograph were not the only ones who worked. (b) There were several more trees worked on than in this photo.

By this time, almost everyone but the forest stewards and four or five die-hard volunteers had left. There was still the all-important “must be present to win” raffle. I even think it went to the hardest-working volunteer.

Angel, with the backpack donated by REI.

Angel, with the backpack donated by REI.

One thing I like to do when volunteering at Green Seattle Day or Duwamish Alive, or any other large planting effort, is think about all the people all over the area (the Green/Duwamish watershed or the city of Seattle) who are pitching in to help make the future a little better, and how all our work connects together.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Duwamish Alive! is an annual event held to bring awareness about the Duwamish River and its importance to the history and ecology of Seattle. It also provides a focus of energy, as all the different groups involved in the restoration of the Duwamish River sponsor events. This year there were more than 15 events, including a shoreline restoration challenge, a kayak clean up, and numerous native planting work parties. Sponsors included Forterra, EarthCorps, Nature Consortium, the Rose Foundation, and many others.

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

King County Parks held a work party in Cecil Moses Park, located at the north end of the Green River Trail, which travels along the shore of the Duwamish River for 19 miles, to the North Green River Park in Kent. Cecil Moses is located at an important transition point in the river, where tidal influences mix the fresh water of the river and the salt water of Puget Sound. Young salmon pause here on their way to the ocean to acclimate themselves to salt water. Cecil Moses is also located close to North Winds Weir, an important historical location to members of the Duwamish tribe.

The day started cool and cloudy, with just three of us and an awful lot of plants.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

We kept plugging away, though, and as the day continued, the sun came out more strongly and we were soon enough joined by two families. That made the rest of the day a breeze, and we got all the plants in the ground and most of them mulched.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

I like to see children at a restoration event. The families live near the park and regularly walk the trails together. They’ll be able to see the changes over time as the restoration progresses. That’s what it’s all about.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Join Friends of North Beach Park for the start of fall planting on Saturday, October 24, 2015, from 9 a.m. to noon. We’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW, rain or shine.

We’ll be planting in two areas in the main body of the park, near the headwaters and further along the stream. Both areas will require some clean up. We will also transport mulch down to the sites using wheelbarrows and buckets.

We love the smell of fresh mulch in the morning.

We love the smell of fresh mulch in the morning.

We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Please wear weather appropriate layers than can get dirty. Rain gear will be helpful; expect late-October weather, whatever that means these days. Even in cool weather, it’s a good idea to bring some water and a snack.

Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming.

All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 and #40 buses stop a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

If you can’t join us in October, save the date for November 28th. Bring (or escape!) the family and work off some of those Thanksgiving calories. And give thanks that this little ravine graces our corner of Seattle.

As always, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation.

All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)


Tristan Donovan
Chicago Review Press, 2015.

An engaging read about the wild animals that live in cities with us — from raccoons in Berlin to leopards in Mumbai, rattlesnakes in Phoenix and African land snails in Miami, to foxes in London and subterranean crabs in Rome.

These animals have come to be in cities in many ways. Raccoons are not native to Berlin, but were escapees after the brief fad for raccoon coats in the early days of automobiles. Foxes in London had the city built up around them – it’s not that they were pushed out of the city and moved back, but they stuck around when new food sources presented themselves. African land snails were imported by accident.

Living in the city affects the animals in many ways, — good, bad, and neutral. Bird song has to change to adapt to city noise, such as getting louder, changing pitch, or both; birds colliding with skyscrapers is a problem for Chicago, which is on the Great Mississippi flyway. In many cases, such as coyotes and foxes, the animals live longer, healthier, and with much smaller ranges than in the wild. The smaller ranges happen because food is more abundant; this results in greater density, which can be a problem if there’s an infectious disease outbreak such as mange. Another change that happens across many species is animals becoming nocturnal in the city, as that helps them avoid humans.

Donovan talks to people doing on the ground research and control of animal species, and examines the issues using references that range from scholarly articles and to general interest books, news articles, and blog posts. In the final chapter (which provides a good, inspiring end to the book), he looks at how we can use cities as conservation agents and not only improve them as homes for the animals that live with us, but bring more animals into the city.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

When we began working on North Beach Park, there were numerous places where ivy formed a monoculture on the ground. Looking back, we think about 40% of the trees had ivy up into their crown.

Today, the only places with ivy monocultures are areas that are too steep for anyone but professional crews to work. And Less than 5% of the trees have ivy up into their crowns. In many places of the park, a new generation of trees and shrubs are establishing and in a few years they will become luxurious groves of saplings, shrubs, and groundcover. We’ve seen native plants spring back after invasive removal.

However, there is still plenty of work to be done to restore North Beach Park. There is ivy, blackberry, holly, laurel and bindweed to remove. The alder and big leaf maple trees are at the end of their normal lifespan, and falling at about the rate of three to five a year. This makes it imperative that we keep working to establish a healthy, mixed conifer-deciduous urban forest.

Your donation today, as part of Give BIG, will help us continue this important restoration work. Your generous donation would help us buy more plants and replace tools that are falling apart. Even if you’ve already contributed to another organization, $10 or $15 for Friends of North Beach Park will be a tremendous help for us.

Please donate at this link: The Seattle Foundation | Friends of North Beach Park today. The Seattle Foundation will stretch a portion of your donation. Your generosity will be greatly appreciated and put to good use.

I and all the Friends of North Beach Park thank you.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

We’ve set up the first batch of work parties at North Beach Park — come join us for invasive removal, planting, meeting people and sharing good work.

All events start at 9 a.m. and run until about noon, rain or shine. All events are on the fourth Saturday of the month, with specific dates below. Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming!

We welcome all ages, but children must be accompanied by an adult. High-school aged people should have a Youth Waiver Form signed when they arrive. The form is on the sidebar of the event page.

Please wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and closed-toe shoes that can stand up to a little mud. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and snacks as you need them, but there are no facilities at the park.

For events in the main body of the park, parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave. Parking near the South Plateau is more limited, as the nearest public streets are residential. The #40 and #48 buses stop within a couple blocks of the park. Check Metro Trip Planner for details.

Alright! Now onto the event-specific information:

South Plateau Planting Work Party
January 24, 2015

This is the third of four planting parties in North Beach Park during this planting season. We’ll be installing upland trees and shrubs in the South Plateau area of the park. The entrance is located at 27th Ave NW and NW 88th St. If we have time or enough people, we’ll also do some invasive removal.

Directions: From the intersection of 24th Ave. and 85th St., head west to 26th Ave. Turn right onto 26th Ave. and continue north to 87th St. Turn left onto 87th St. and look for parking. The entrance to the park is a half block or so up 27th Ave., which looks like an alleyway at that point. The South Plateau is below street grade, but the work party should be easily visible.

Wetland Trees and Shrubs
February 28, 2015

Join us for the final planting work party of the planting season! We’ll be planting trees and shrubs appropriate for wetlands and streambanks. They’ll add a nice mid-canopy layer to the wetland stretches of the park. These trees and shrubs were purchased as part of a stewardship grant from the Washington Native Plant Society.

Spring is Bustin’ out all over
March 28, 2015

March is the start of the really pretty days for North Beach Park. Several herbaceous plants and many shrubs are already in bloom and all the deciduous plants are leafing out. If you visit the park sometime when no one else is there, you might be surprised at the amount of bird song you can hear. (During a work party, it might be too noisy to hear much.)

April Work Party
April 25, 2015

This is the last work party of the winter and spring series. Just about everything that can be in bloom will be at this point, and everything is fully leafed out. If the weather is gorgeous, but you can’t quite clear your schedule to get out of the city, come join us in the woods.

That’s it! We take a break in May for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s too close to Memorial Day weekend, and everybody has more fun things to do (I mean, WE think pulling ivy in the park is fun…) The second, and more important, is that it’s the height of nesting season, and we don’t want to disturb the ground and shrub nesting birds that make North Beach Park their home.

And as ever, if you can’t attend a work party, your financial support is more than welcome. Just visit the Seattle Parks Foundation’s North Beach Park page and make a tax-deductible donation. All funds will be used for purchase of materials, supplies, and plants. Thank you in advance!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Saturday, September 27th was a beautiful day for a work party — and a good time was had by all!

Friends of North Beach park welcomed 16 students from Seattle Pacific University as part of their Cityquest program: Incoming freshman students are sent to locations all over Seattle for a little community service.

Two forest stewards had made elaborate plans for the group, and we were able to keep them busy for all four hours of the work party (FoNBP events are usually three hours). We worked on the South Plateau, which is a great place for a larger work party and needs a lot of attention.

Our plan was to remove as much of the nipplewort (Lapsana communis) and herb robert (Geranium robertianum) as possible. It really got out of hand this year, and unfortunately, the nipplewort had already set seed. It’s normally very easy to remove — it’s a shallow-rooted annual, so just grasp at the base, lift, knock off the dirt, and drop it. But the seed set meant we had to remove it. I’m sure a lot of seeds got knocked off in the process, but it was still better than leaving it there. The herb robert is also easy to remove, but it needs constant attention. It can flower any time of the year, greatly outcompetes native groundcover, and even poisons the soil against other plants. It’s other common name is “stinky bob,” and it has a pungent smell when uprooted.

Our plan was to put down lots of burlap and mulch once the herb robert and nipplewort had been removed. To which end, we had a truck full of burlap.
Tools and burlap

And a big pile of burlap and a lotta buckets!
Assemblage

In fact, about lunchtime we went back and got more burlap. And we had a group of students moving mulch from another location, adding it to the pile above pretty much all day (okay, we fell a little short on the wheelbarrows).

Speaking of lunchtime, it gave us all a chance to sit down and for the students to get acquainted with each other a bit.
Lunch

After lunch, it was back to the work: removing nipplewort and herb robert, putting mulch around already-installed plants, and building some ivy platforms.

Here is a group of volunteers in the basin of the South Plateau. When residents of Labateyah began working in the South Plateau in 2012, this was an impenetrable mass of blackberry and ivy that one forest steward thought it would take years to clear.
The South Plateau

By the end of the day, we were definitely dragging. But we had enough energy to smile for a group photograph.
The valiant crew!
Morry (in the back left), Tad (on the right, in a white hat) and Wenny (first row right, in the fuschia hoodie) were from Friends of North Beach Park. Everyone else is form SPU!

Thank you, SPU and Cityquest! We look forward to hosting you again next year.

(As usual, there are some more photos on Flickr.)

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Welcome fall to North Beach Park! Some of the leaves are already turning and dropping. Now is the time we prepare for the planting parties in October and November.

Saturday, September 27: Work party at the South Plateau. Please note the time and location!

This work party will happen from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (different time!) at the South Plateau, located at NW 88th St. and 27th Ave. NW (different location!).

Directions: To get to the South Plateau from the intersection of NW 85th St. and 24th Ave. NW:

  • Head west on NW 85th St. two blocks.
  • Turn north (right) onto 26th Ave.
  • Drive north on 26th Ave. to where it ends at 88th St.
  • Turn right (west) onto 88th St. and look for parking. PARKING MIGHT BE LIMITED.
  • The entrance to the park is about half a block north.

This is a special work party where we’ll be joined by students from Seattle Pacific University and their CityQuest Program. There will be about twenty students, so we should get a lot done.

We will weed, mulch, and prepare the site for January planting. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. We recommend you wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and closed shoes. Bring water or a snack if you need them. We’ll take a lunch break which will provide some socializing time.

Please register here so we know you’re coming.

Save the date for these upcoming work parties: October 25 and November 22 (in the main body of the park) and January 24, 2015, once again in the South Plateau (for planting). All work parties are on the 4th Saturday, and will run from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

Blog posts. Every Monday, Nature Intrudes features another excerpt from the Restoration Management Plan for North Beach Park. The first two posts look at the history of the park, and show more than you might have thought was there.

History of North Beach Park.

History of the restoration efforts.

(Feel free to look at other posts on Nature Intrudes, of course!)

As always, if you don’t have the time to join us for a work party, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

That’s all for now, but we hope to see you in the woods soon!

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

I’ve just finished my MEH degree at the University of Washington, and hope to be able to start blogging here more frequently.

This began as a school project for Antioch, and paradoxically, school has interrupted it frequently.

We’re going to start with a series of posts on Mondays based on the final product of my time at the UW, a “Restoration Management Plan for North Beach Park.” I probably won’t post the whole thing here, but will post large chunks of it.

I also hope and plan to start reading books about restoration and stewardship, greening and wilding cities, and posting reviews here. Also, shorter responses to papers about these subjects.

And of course, news and announcements about North Beach Park as they happen.

Thank you to all who read this!

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

As you may remember from the April work party report, a video crew joined us to see how we used burlap sacks in our restoration.

And here it is! (About three minutes.)

I’m on camera once or twice and used a little bit in a voice over. The best parts for me, though, is the videography — some of the close ups of the park, and the long shots of the forest.

So, thank you to all: Distant Lands Coffee, for the years of burlap sacks to all parks; to Nicole Sanchez and Seattle Channel for reporting, and to Vital Content PR for setting this up.

And a reminder: Our next work party is coming up — June 28th. See you then! Help us give our new plants the after care they need for a good start.

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THANK YOU!

May. 7th, 2014 10:40 am
holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Thank you to everyone for a very successful GiveBIG for Friends of North Beach Park. We raised more than $800, with donations coming from as far as Atlanta, GA and as nearby as the rim of the park itself.

This generosity is flattering, humbling, and challenging. Flattering, because it means the work of Friends of North Beach Park is being recognized. Humbling, because it causes us to reflect on how much work there is to be done. And challenging, because it gives us a tool to do that work.

Thank you, for all you’ve done for North Beach Park. And we look forward to working together in the future.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

There are some important ways in which the work of Friends of North Beach Park has been recognized.

In 2012, we received a Groundswell NW microgrant of $500 that we used for the purchase of tools and some outreach supplies.

Tools purchased with the grant money from Groundswell NW
Some of the tools we purchased.

In 2014, Groundswell NW again recognized Friends of North Beach Park by awarding Luke its “Local Hero” award. This award is shared among all the people who have worked to restore North Beach Park, particularly the other forest stewards who are there week in and week out, or who come to every work party.

And, although details still need to be ironed out, Friends of North Beach Park was just awarded a Washington Native Plant Society Stewardship Grant. This grant is another recognition of the growing success of our work in restoring North Beach Park, and will add to that success. We will use it to purchase a suite of wetland plants to plant into the bottoms of the park. Our native wetland plants have much deeper and more complicated root systems than the invasive ivy and blackberry they’re replacing.

There is, of course, still years of work to be done. You can help us with this work by donating to Friends of North Beach Park, tomorrow, May 6th, any time between midnight and midnight.

Donating during GiveBIG is a great way to support our restoration efforts. Your tax-deductible donation will be matched by the Seattle Foundation, and all moneys received will be used for the restoration of North Beach Park. We’re entirely volunteer run, with no paid staff or office costs, so even $25 will have a large impact.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The day started out cool and foggy, as a couple early arrivals helped us unload some late-season wetland plants.

Unloading the plants.
Drexie, Julie, Damore’ea, and Keishawn finish up unloading.

The Plants
The plants came to us in early December, and had been stored through the cold snap in the Carkeek nursery. Hopefully they’ve survived our benign neglect.

Sometimes we get ESRM 100 students at a work party. This is a class on the environment that everyone at the UW has to take. One of the assignments is to attend a 3 hour restoration work party and write a brief paper. I knew Damore’ea and Keishawn were from the UW from their address on the sign-up form, but I had no idea they were stars of the football team. Tad did, though, and was very impressed.

Football stars
John, Keishawn, Tad, Damore’ea.

Once we got all that sorted out, we set to work. First the ESRM students transported a few cubic yards of mulch into the forest, then Tad worked with them to clear some ivy and plant. As frequently happens, I didn’t get a picture of everyone working.

But here are three volunteers.
Headwaters Bowl
That’s Julie, Wenny, and Drexie (left to right) planting wetland plants into the bottom of the Headwaters Bowl. This is a permanently saturated area and everything we plant does well. So we’ll keep planting away as long as we’re able.

There were also some signs of spring in the park:

Siberian miner’s lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) is starting to sprout.
Sign of Spring
This is a very tasty little plant that goes well in salad mixes.

SIgn of Spring
The Pacific Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes) is also starting to come back. This sprouts in the spring (I think this is a little early, because we’ve had such a relatively warm winter), blooms in early summer, and then dies back completely by August. The blooms are nothing to write home about, but the pollinators love them. I remember one summer the Waterleaf patches were humming with bees.

In addition to the planting that other people were doing, a high school student and I did some mulching.

Before
Before the mulching.

After mulching
After mulching — much better. This strip along 90th St. gets some street run off, so the mulch there will help slow it down and infiltrate the soil, rather than just run off onto the slope.

After that, it was mostly wrapping up. The last few plants were planted, Tad took the ESRM 100 students on a tour of the park, and we had time for a last group shot:

"After" group picture
Back row: John (left), Damore’ea (right). Middle, left to right: Morry, Tad, Julie. Front, left to right: Keishawn, Drexie, Wenny.

Our next work party will be February 22nd. All the usual details apply. We hope you can join us, the park should be much greener then!

There are a few more pictures on flickr.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Here is another requested topic: What one thing do I wish everyone knew about urban restoration and why?

I wish everyone knew that it’s so multi-faceted!

That’s both a dodge to avoid having to pick out one of the many things, and also the truth.

The first thought many people might have when they hear the term “urban restoration” is exactly what I do: work in forested parks and nature areas to remove invasives and plant natives. This is the most basic meaning of restoration, as in the Latin origin of “to give back something lost or taken away.”

But I tend to give terms broad definitions, to the point of making said terms too general in some people’s viewpoints.

So here are some other things we’re doing that I think fall under the umbrella term “urban restoration.”

Group Shot
We’re restoring communities based on shared work. Despite the lie of “the rugged individual”, there’s a good tradition of shared work in the US. Barn raisings are a good example. The social glue of the work far outweighs the cost of the few hours of labor. And barn raisings were a great deal of fun: People would come from miles around, the women would be cooking all day, the men working on the barn, the kids either helping or running all over the place. People caught up with neighbors they might not have seen since the last barn raising, and it all ended with a banquet and GoH speeches. I don’t think it’s stretching the point to say that park restoration is a 21st C. version of that. It’s certainly a bigger task than any one person, or even a small group, can do. The social aspect, in fact, is something that brings people back to restoration projects. I think it’s at least as important as the physical work.

Salamander
We’re restoring contact with local nature. The attitude that the built and the natural environments are different, even antagonistic, is getting a lot of deserved critique. This leads people to say “I love being in nature!” while standing on a carefully-groomed ADA accessible trail (as I have done) and “the city is so artificial!” while missing all the wildlife around them. By working in a local park, we learn that nature really does intrude (*koff*) in places we don’t expect it to. As we restore contact with local nature, we establish a home ground and deepen our sense of place. From that home ground, we see how our choices and actions ripple out into the world. In the case of North Beach Park, there’s a stream that goes to Puget Sound. If we improve the hydrology and nutrient cycling of North Beach Park, the water reaching Puget Sound will be that much cleaner.

Contact with local nature doesn’t have to happen in a park, it depends on awareness more than anything else. Lyanda Lynn Haupt has just published a great book about developing awareness of local nature called The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild. Being aware of the wild life around us increases our awareness of the web of ecologies that we are part of. Awareness of that web follows us home from the park.

Portage Bay Big Band dancers
We’re restoring the idea that a city is a place worth living in. Because we had a frontier, USians never gave cities much credence. And since the end of WWII, the US has actively disinvested in its cities in the guise of “dream home in the suburbs.” The ecological activism of the 1970s accentuated the idea of the city as fallen and Nature as Edenic, and a chasm between the two.

But urban restoration allows us to see that cities provide a lot of good, as well. They provide efficiencies of scale and density that make many services cheaper and more efficient. The city itself can be restored. Designing cities for automobiles makes them sewers for cars; designing them for pedestrians makes all forms of travel – bus, bike, walking, cars – work better.

When we talk about a park providing ecological services such as stormwater retention and filtration, we start to ask how that can be brought out of the park and into the surrounding city. That’s where rain gardens come in, building urban canopy, and more.

I suddenly feel like saying all this just allows me to show off a bit. The one thing that I would like people to realize about urban restoration is that it’s great fun and enlivening.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Last week I attended a lecture on this topic given by Dr. Steven Handel of Rutgers University. In his time as a restoration ecologist, he’s worked on some big projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fresh Kills Park, and the Orange County Great Park, in CA.

Dr. Handel at Fresh Kills Park
Dr. Handel talking at Fresh Kills Park in 2010.

All these sites presented unique situations, plant palettes, climates, and microclimates.

But they all had one dream: Restoring a highly degraded site to ecological function and services. And they all had so much glass on site that Handel and his students felt like they were planting in vitro. (Kind of a joke.)

The dream of restoring a degraded site to ecological function and services is common to everyone who works as a forest steward or practices some form of ecological restoration. The specific aspects of the restoration — getting plants, improving conditions, adapting plans, securing funding, working with stakeholders, effects of land-use changes outside the work site — is where the nightmares come in.

The first question he dealt with is “how far back do you go?” Every restoration project has to ask this question on some level. For North America, it’s a relatively simple question: we try to restore to a state before European contact, as best we can reconstruct it. But there’s no true “going back.” In the Northwest, beaver hunters had extirpated local beaver populations (drastically affecting hydrology) before there was any systematic biology. Before the beaver hunters, smallpox and other European diseases wiped out the majority of Native American populations. In the course of those events, plant and wild life communities that had been stable for perhaps hundreds of years were disrupted.

Luckily for us in the Pacific Northwest, there are still some relatively intact areas where we can get an idea of what goes with what in our projects. But we still can’t recreate exactly what was here before, and to some degree, shouldn’t even try.

The main goal Dr. Handel suggests is the restoration of self-sustaining ecological services: food for birds and wild life; a more-natural hydrology (another speaker I saw last year pointed out that cities are built on watersheds but designed as sewers); self-sustaining plant life that can suppress weedy invasives.

Full restoration is often affected by land use changes outside the project area. Sometimes this is positive: for an early project, Dr. Handel managed to get topsoil from a Manhattan construction site and compost from Teaneck, NJ. The soil on site was basically dead from compaction and lack of biotic processes. Without the topsoil and compost, the project would have been much less successful and taken longer.

Another surprising interaction for this project was pollinator visits. Handel’s team measured pollinator visits to the nearby clumps of plants, and as expected, those clumps located closest to the woodland and other stands got more visits from pollinators, with number of visits lessening as the distance increased. But then, there was a large spike in pollinator visits very far from anything other than other nearby restoration sites. What could be causing that?

Part of the landfill had failed and was degraded to bare soil. An engineering failure, but a boon to native ground-nesting solitary bees. The engineers wanted to repair the failure, of course, but Handel convinced them to install raised beds of bare dirt to preserve the nesting habitat.

Sometimes the interaction is not positive: That same project had great seed dispersal by birds, much higher than expected… until an adjacent woodland was cut down for a strip mall. Then bird seed-dispersal plummeted.

This same thing could happen in Seattle or anywhere. Nearby unprotected lands might be contributing to the success of our projects and we have to be aware of the repercussions if they’re redeveloped. As Seattle redevelops to increase density, with resulting canopy loss, our natural areas and the connections between them become even more important.

Is it worth it? Yes. Along with the functioning ecology comes many services that have calculable economic benefits: stormwater retention and filtration, habitat corridors, and increased local contact with nature among them. The projects help develop a sense of place, as we get our hands in the dirt. We learn about the processes of the immediate world around us. Not the processes we impose with exotic ornamentals in our gardens, but the true seasonal cycle of flower blooms, birds nesting, butterflies and beetles pollinating, and more.

The lecture was given to an audience mostly composed of Landscape Architecture students, although there were a couple other forest stewards from GSP and other MEH students there. Dr. Handel’s suggestion to us was to be naturalists — to know about wild life and hydrologic cycles as well as plants.

Another suggestion: Make sure you secure funding. The aftercare of a project is continuous. The forest doesn’t end, neither does stewardship. If it’s possible to have a continuing organization, or a funded conservancy, that would be extremely important. His example was a luxury condo built on Brooklyn Bridge Park with a view of lower Manhattan. It takes one acre out of a large park, but funds the entire park in perpetuity. I don’t think I’ll build a condo in North Beach Park, but funding and aftercare are something to keep in mind.

Handel’s talk made me feel a little optimistic and relieved. Relieved because even though North Beach Park was something of a wreck, it’s not nearly as degraded as any of the sites Handel has had to work on. (I don’t think any site in Seattle outside of the Duwamish superfund area is.)

Optimistic because the sight of his projects at their initial planting and a couple decades later, looking like “natural” woodlands, made me want to see North Beach Park in about 30 years.

I found a recording of a talk Dr. Handel gave in 2010 to the Fresh Kills Park organization. It’s basically the same talk, with some minor differences. Here is the link. You miss the slides, but his words are all there.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The October work party for Friends of North Beach Park featured a number of employees from Nordstrom as part of their participation in Forterra NW’s Carbon Capturing Companies program. This allows Washington based companies to reduce their carbon footprint by helping to fund the planting of native conifers in parks and natural areas — such as North Beach Park.

Donated Coffee
We also had coffee donated by Ballard Coffee Works, greatly appreciated on a chilly morning. And pastries from Larsen’s Bakery, courtesy of a generous donation from a neighbor.

Happily tagged and flagged
Here are the trees, tagged and ready to go. Mostly you see the western hemlock in this picture, of which we had 40. On the left in back are some Douglas Fir, of which we had 20.

We were ready to go by 9:10!
Before
Here we see the folks ready to head into the woods. This picture includes Nordstrom employees, UW students, and forest stewards. (The buckets were for mulch and later for watering.)

This many people meant planting 60 trees took hardly any time at all. In fact, even after mulching and watering and a brief coffee break, we had enough time for a tour of the park. I don’t need much encouragement to lead a tour through the park, stopping every 20 feet to talk about something or other. We did make sure everyone got to see the mature hemlocks in the park.

We also found The Tire.
The Tire II.

It’s such a tradition to find at least one tire per work party, after everyone left the forest stewards were wondering what we’d do if we ever ran out. Unlikely to happen. I do remember the first several work parties we would bring up hundreds of pounds of trash as a matter of course. So a tire and a bag of bottles’n'cans is a vast improvement.

Here’s an after picture.
After
The weather cooperated not just by being pleasantly brisk while we planted, but the sun came out during the time on our tour when we were in the biggest gap in the canopy, allowing us to bask and enjoy it. And just before taking this picture, during an opportune moment of silence, a soft wind came through the park that was too gentle for people to sense but brought a rain of leaves down from the maples.

All in all, a great day.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Next Saturday, November 2nd, is Green Seattle Day, with planting and cleaning events in parks all over Seattle (including Golden Gardens and Carkeek Park in Ballard). On November 9th, EarthCorps returns to North Beach Park for another planting work party. And on November 26th is the last Friends of North Beach Park work party of the year.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The other day, Tad, Drexie, and I built what I hope will be an erosion control structure.

There’s been a seep eroding a section of one of the social trails for a couple years now. It’s been getting wider and taking a greater divot out of the trail.

Notch in trail
This photo is from September, 2011, almost exactly two years ago. The notch is wider now, but as usual I forgot to take a picture before we started working.

The structure we built is a cross between a live crib wall and a soft gabion, although nowhere near the scale of either of those links. We had a small failure, less than five feet wide at the base, and eight feet at its widest.

First, Tad cut points into the 2x4s that would become the uprights. We had eight 2x4s, four for uprights and four for braces.
Seep Structure
(Quite the sawhorse there, eh?)

On site, we cleared the seep and slope wall of ivy.
The work area

The soil in North Beach Park is very sandy. It’s slippery when wet and very friable when dry. It sits on glayed soil, which is compacted anaerobic sand. Water seeps through the sandy soil and then travels horizontally when it reaches the glayed soil. The water then acts as a lubricant between the two surfaces, gradually carrying away the soil above. The more I learn about the hydrology of North Beach Park, the more I realize that working with the hydrology will be an important part of the restoration. But I’m glad it’s been a gradual process; I still feel like I could be rushing in too fast.

We drove in the four stakes to be uprights. Then, in the tradition of all DIY projects everywhere, we immediately saw how we should have done it differently. For the braces, we measured the available space, then Tad (most often) cut a piece to length.

Starting the nails
Tad and Drexie would start the nails, then hand down the brace to me. Sometimes I drove the nails, sometimes Drexie.

Once we had the cross braces nailed in, we began to fill the gap between the structure and seep with brush, using mostly downed branches broken or cut to fit. Finally, we cut salmonberry branches from elsewhere in the park and live staked them into the soil around the structure.

Here is a top view.
Looking down
You can see both the brush used to fill and the live stakes.

We hope that the organic material and soil will be trapped by the brush, but the water will still be able to move through. The structure will stabilize the soil around it well enough for the live stakes to establish. Since live stakes, even with salmonberry, have a low establishment rate, we used a LOT (and could probably have used more). In November, we’ll install native wetland plants and shrubs around the seep and the wall.

Here is a front view, from down in the seep.
The structure

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

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