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April 12th, 2014


06:53 pm - 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!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

March 30th, 2014


02:13 pm - Outreach Resources

Here are the links that were on the handout for the forest steward refresher training on March 29, 2014. At the end I’ve added links and information received from comments during the presentation.

Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward Outreach Toolkit
First place to go for public outreach resources. There is a PDF listing neighborhood events, with the general dates of the events and links to the sponsoring organization when known. </p>

GSP provides a great kit of outreach materials, including numerous brochures, a small banner, and a table skirt. You can also get a pop-up canopy. Contact Andrea Mojzak at least four weeks in advance to reserve the materials. You have to transport to and from the Forterra offices (or storage locker).

ESRM 100 (UW)
All UW students are required to take this class. One of the assignments is to attend a three-hour restoration work party. The attendance can vary widely from the advance sign up, but we’ve found that the students who do show up work. The assignment is due about week six, so you’re more likely to get students early in the quarter.

Write to the TAs at eschelp[at]uw[dot]edu. Provide all the helpful details: the date and time of the work party, address of meeting location, the work you’ll be doing, what you’ll provide (there was a suggestion of “food” which makes sense)bus routes that stop near the park, and parking availability. I always offer a tour of the park or a Q&A about restoration and about half the time it happens. You have to provide a follow-up email to the TA’s saying who participated.

Facebook
There are a number of “Friends of…” Facebook pages that might be of interest to forest stewards. These include Friends of Cheasty Greenspace/Mt. View, Friends of Lewis Park, Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, Friends of the Atlantic City Nursery/Rainier Beach Urban Farm, Friends of the Southwest Queen Anne Greenbelt, Friends of Green Lake, and Friends of the Jungle. If you know of others, please mention them in a comment.

And let’s not forget, of course, Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards, which I hardly need mention because of course you’re already subscribed to that page. ;>

YMCA Earth Service Corps
There are numerous clubs in high schools throughout Seattle. They tend to be focused on on-campus projects, but they might be interested in joining a work parghety or visiting a restoration site. There was a large group from the Ballard HS club that worked in Golden Gardens recently. If a school near your park is not listed on the website above, write to Geoff Eseltine at geseltine [at] seattleymca [dot] org and he’ll let you know if there’s a club in your school. Not every school has a club.

Other Possibilities

This list includes ideas from the workshop and some things I just started looking into. In most cases, the only thing that’s happened so far is I’ve sent a query/contact email.

ENVIR 100
Introductory class for Program on the Environment students. This includes a component for a project in a local park. I’ve written to the advisor.
Seattle One Brick
From their website: “One Brick provides support to local non-profit and community organizations by creating a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for those interested in making a concrete difference in the community. We enable people to get involved, have an impact and have fun, without the requirements of individual long-term commitments.”

I filled out their “Request Help” form Friday evening. Here is more information.

Intrafraternity Council
Panehellenic Association
The fraternities and sororities often have a service component. In both cases, I’ve sent a query email to their general contact address.

If you have any information on ways for forest stewards to do outreach, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I’ll make a new post if something works out really well.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

March 25th, 2014


09:42 pm - 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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

March 9th, 2014


08:21 pm - 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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

February 16th, 2014


06:02 pm - 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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 26th, 2014


01:35 pm - January Work Party Report

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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 19th, 2014


06:09 pm - Heron Habitat Helpers Open House

On Saturday (18th) Friends of North Beach Park tabled at the Heron Habitat Helpers open house. We shared a table with Groundswell NW, who had made the connection for us to be there.

Shared Table
Shared table.

Friends display
Our side of the table.

Looking at this, I’d do a couple things differently. The laptop had a slideshow of photos from the park running on it, but nobody really noticed them. More prints of photos would be good. I like the idea of photos just tossed onto the table, that people can sort through and pick up. Another thing would be a nice poster behind our display. We used to have a trifold that we took to events, but in the course of carting it around, it got a little banged up.

There were some pelts (beaver and raccoon) and stuffed birds (great horned owl and great blue heron) on display. My favorite was the heron skeleton.

Heron skull
The skull felt so delicate I barely dared to touch it (and there was a sign saying “touch carefully” so it was okay to touch).

Heron wing and bones
I was also very impressed with how large the wing structure is, and how small the bones that support it. There are some fingerbones missing, but the main arm bones are there.

At noon, there was a presentation about herons by Chris Anderson, from the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife. He explained a lot about the life and behavior of herons, including what risks they face from predators — or even their nest-mates. In some birds, the eggs hatch at the same time, and the nestlings are roughly the same size. In herons, the eggs hatch over the space of a week or so, with the result that the last born is significantly smaller than the first born. And sometimes the smallest bird gets kicked out of the nest. (I didn’t get any photos of the presentation.)

After the presentation
After the presentation, the event wound down a bit. It was relaxed enough for some chatting and schmoozing. We had a couple “small world” experiences: The DFW speaker knew one of North Beach’s best volunteers, and the husband of the event organizer is the boss of one of my fellow students at the UW.

All in all it was a very nice time. The speaker was informative, the refreshments table well-stocked, and the chance to meet other people interested in urban restoration and wildlife is always appreciated. We even got a couple new names for our mailing list!

There are a few more photos on Flickr.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 16th, 2014


09:00 am - Grantwriting I: Supporting Organizations

I’m going to try to pull together grant information, mostly so I have it in one place myself. Please feel free to add information you think may be helpful; I’m sure this is really incomplete to start with. The specific focus is for people doing parks restoration in Seattle.


Supporting Organizations
These provide information on how to write a grant, workshops or educational information about grantwriting, or are clearinghouses of information about grants.
How To Write a Grant Proposal
Provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Foundation Center
Clearinghouse of information about grants and granting organizations.
Puget Sound Grantwriters Association
Professional organization, just as it says. There’s no information about the cost of membership that I could see on the website, although they offer scholarships.

</p>

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


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January 12th, 2014


09:00 am - 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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 7th, 2014


09:00 am - Hemlock Planting

This year, on the spur of the moment, I decided to “borrow” one of the trees to be planted in North Beach Park for a Christmas tree. This is neither strictly forbidden nor an accepted practice. Most people buy cut trees, after all, and the trees for planting are only a foot or so tall. I picked a hemlock and decided I would plant it on January 6th.

Which I then immediately realized would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. So it had to be. Further reinforcing this idea was that the 6th was a Monday, the day three of us usually work in the park.

The Hemlock
Here it is on the kitchen table. We didn’t really decorate it, just a couple strands of LED lights.

Planting
Here is Tad, planting the tree. I’d picked a magnificent cedar stump that is one of a pair I call the Grandfathers because they’re so large. They’re upended in the stream, and must have fallen there after a landslide.

Nurse Log Garden
Fallen trees or stumps become nurse logs for the next generation. They will be nurse logs as long as they were alive, and contain more living matter as a nurse log than they did as a “living” tree.

This picture shows how complex a nurse log garden can be; there is red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), sword and wood ferns, and several mosses and lichens. Red huckleberry and hemlocks are known for growing in cedar nurse logs and stumps. Another plant that grows well on cedar and conifer nurse logs is bunchberry (Corylus canadensis), a dwarf shrub in the dogwood family. We’re going to introduce that to the park soon.

A sense of scale
To give you an idea of the size of this stump, this picture was taken at my eye height, about five and a half feet. It reaches well over my head.

Hemlock I
Here it is, all mulched in place and with its happy flagging tape. This lets us know it was planted in the 2013-14 planting season.

As we walked away, I thought a little bit about calling the stumps the Grandfathers. Both my grandfathers were dead before I was born, and one grandmother died within a few months of my birth. The remaining grandmother was stern and not very warm. She lived down the street from us in a small apartment, then with an uncle, then with an aunt on the other side of the country. So I never really had the experience of grandparents.

My nieces and nephews, however, had a great experience of grandma in my mother. She had 30 years as a grandmother, and loved every minute of it. Everyone called her Honey, all her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and so on.

My father, on the other hand, had very little experience as a grandfather, dying about two years after my first nephew was born. I felt that my parents were reunited now, and Honey could tell Daddy all her stories of being a grandmother.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 6th, 2014


09:00 am - 1493

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (Vintage)
Charles C. Mann
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011

Before Columbus landed on Hispaniola, China was the most technologically advanced country in the world. Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) was larger and cleaner than any Spanish city. There were empires and pig iron in Africa, and empires across the Americas. Europeans were malnourished, disease ridden, and living in filth.

But there was no contact. For better or worse, that contact was established by Columbus. That contact set off an exchange of produce, metals, commodities, cultures, and perhaps most important, diseases, that continues to this day. Globalization has been happening for more than 500 years, and only accelerates.

I was stunned repeatedly while reading this book. Particularly intriguing to me were the stories of 16th century Mexico City, the first global city. Silver from South America was counted there and sent to China and Spain. Porcelain and silk came from China before going on to Europe. The trade and peoples of the world flowed through Mexico City.

This is only one chapter in a long book that sets the received stories of the colonization of the Americas on its head. It wasn’t an orderly colonization of a nearly-empty continent. The very first settlers found a populous, healthy land. Smallpox, malaria, and other diseases endemic to Europeans needed to depopulate the continents to make European conquest possible. Even so, it was the 19th Century before there were more Europeans than Africans in the Americas.

Frequently I felt as if no good has come from the Columbian exchange, even though I’m a product of it. So many wars, famines, plagues. It’s brought vast wealth for a few kings and individuals, but complete social destruction for many cultures.

That was my own agenda in reading 1493, though, not Mann’s in writing it. He takes scrupulous care to be evenhanded, to not make judgments to one side or the other, just to show objectively the effects of the Columbian exchange. There’s a lot to talk about, and this long, invigorating book ranges over the centuries and the planet.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 21st, 2013


03:06 pm - How Much Open Space?

A friend recently asked me: How does anybody figure out how much greenspace would be good for a city?

Whenever I’m asked a question, I usually start prattling away, and convincingly sound just as if I know what I’m talking about. I’ll be honest here, though, this question stumped me. It’s not surprising, either, that this turned out to have a complicated answer.

The first thing I thought of was asking around, as it were. For instance, what is Groundswell NW‘s goal for its service area? It wants to create open, public space in every arterial quadrant. That means a green space of some kind will be available to anyone with just a short walk, and without crossing a major street. This plan takes into account topography, bus lines, and so on. “Quadrant” in this case is a square or rectangle formed by four major streets. The quadrant Julie and I live in is four blocks east to west, but 10 blocks north-south. Groundswell is starting an open space survey this year which will count and look for opportunities for more greenspace, including curbside raingardens, greenways (streets modified to encourage bicycle and pedestrian traffic), intermittent use of roadways (Farmers Markets, festivals), and p-patches (public gardens).

The city, working at a different scale, considers its “open, usable space” (OUS) without regard to arterial roads or topography. The city first looks at “breathing room or total open space.” That’s parks, greenspaces, trails, playfields, community centers, and boulevards. Over the entire city, the desirable goal is 1 acre per 100 residents. The acceptable goal is 1/3 acre per 100 residents. This is split up into different types of neighborhoods. For a residential neighborhood, the desirable goal is 1/2 acre within 1/2 mile of all residents; the acceptable goal is 1/2 acre within 1 mile (there are offsets for school playgrounds, among other things). In an urban village, an area zoned for greater density (we live in the Ballard HUV, “hub urban village”), the requirements are slightly more complex: One acre of open space per 1,000 households, and 1/4 acre within 1/8 of all locations in urban village. In the downtown urban core, 1/4 acre of open space per 10,000 jobs. Sheesh. The answer quickly gets pretty arcane and wonky.

Another important consideration is canopy coverage. In fact, as we better understand the value of the urban forest, percent canopy coverage (which includes trees on public and private land) is increasingly important. Seattle’s canopy was measured a couple years ago at 23%. This is done by using software to analyze aerial photographs.

Seattle reLeaf has a goal of 30% canopy cover. Why 30%? It’s a realistic stretch goal, considering our urban density. It also brings us on par with Portland and Vancouver BC, to which we’re always comparing ourselves. Increasing open space will help the city get to 30% tree canopy, but most of this increase is going to come from adding trees to front and back yards and parking strips. That’s why “Trees for Neighborhoods” gives away 1,000 trees a year. There are six or seven different kinds of trees, a few of which are suitable for planting under power lines. Most are deciduous, and usually only one or two are native to the PNW. Native trees, particularly the conifers, are too large for most urban spaces.

Seattle has had a few bold plans for urban greenspace. The Olmsted Brothers firm had a great proposal, but it didn’t get very far, despite their having designed the Alaska-Yukon Exhibition and the University of Washington Campus. The Municipal Plans Commission had another one that was rejected by the voters in the early 20th century. Either one would have made Seattle a much greener city than it is now (but probably also correspondingly more expensive). In the 1990s, Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder) had a big plan for a park in South Lake Union that was soundly rejected by voters as a billionaire’s park. Alas, I was one of the people who voted against it.

Currently, there is a committee working on a “Parks Legacy Plan” which would, among other things, create a metropolitan parks district with taxing authority. It’s probably the only way to get the funding the parks department needs (lots of deferred maintenance, which doesn’t even include the restoration work people like me do).

This answer only touches the surface of how to figure out what is enough greenspace in a city. I’d hoped to look at it in more detail, but even this little glance is a little intimidating.

Acknowledgments
I’d like to thank Jana Dilley (Seattle Trees for Neighborhoods) and David Folweiler (Groundswell NW) for information they provided for this post. Any errors are mine, of course.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 16th, 2013


09:00 am - The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild


By Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Illustrations by Tracy Noles-Ross
Little, Brown and Company, 2013

Crow Planet introduced me to the idea that nature and the city or built environment are intertwined in a way that we don’t usually acknowledge. Her idea is that we have to acknowledge this twining because the decisions we make here affect the entire world.

She returns to that idea in The Urban Bestiary with a different tack: writing a contemporary bestiary of the common urban creatures, many of them considered pests, which we might see on a daily basis but dismiss due to their familiarity.

The medieval bestiaries included the myth, folklore, and what passed for scientific knowledge of the day. The Urban Bestiary incorporates all those elements in three main sections: The furred, the feathered, and the branching and rooted.

The chapters of the three sections each consider one (sometimes two) subjects, looking at their ancient folklore, current scientific knowledge, and perhaps most important (and no more accurate than medieval science) contemporary folklore. Moles, because the mounds they create are unsightly to gardeners, are considered pests. But they aerate the soil, eat grubs and insects that would eat the plants, and generally improve. A mole in a garden is a sign of a healthy garden, but gardeners will go to great, expensive, and futile lengths to try to eradicate them.

Every chapter has several examples of the facts challenging contemporary folklore about an urban animal, and Haupt frequently has her own preconceptions challenged. The idea is to learn about the lives of the wild life that surrounds us, how we interact with it and how it has adapted to us. But more than just the bare facts, to share their lives – there are sidebars in every chapter on identification of tracks and scat, how to look for an animal and what to do if you find one. As we learn more, we bring these creatures closer to us.

And as we bring these creatures – the neglected, the uncharismatic, the pesty, the unseen – closer to us, we bring ourselves closer to the web that weaves among us all.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 10th, 2013


09:00 am - 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.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 9th, 2013


09:00 am - Elwha: A River Reborn


Words by Lynda V. Mapes
Photography by Steve Ringman
Mountaineers Books, 2013

The Elwha River flows out of the Olympic Mountains north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s wild and steep, and until dammed in the early 20th century was known for its dense fish runs.

This book tells the story of the Elwha, from the time the dams were built until the beginning of their removal. The history of the dams is excellently covered, and the reporting of the efforts to remove the dams – who wanted them removed, who wanted them to stay, how they were to be removed, who did the pre-removal baseline monitoring of the ecosystems, who would do the post-removal restoration – gives I think a fair credence to all sides of the story.

There’s no question that the dam removal was necessary. They were built without even the few safeguards and fish passage required in the early 20th Century, making them basically always illegal. The Olympic National Park boundaries later included the upper dam. In both cases, removal was cheaper than updating and refitting for new licensing compliance.

In the meantime, the power they provided to Pt. Angeles and its lumber mills was replaced by power from the Bonneville Power Administration, so they were not only illegal but irrelevant. There’s a large emotional aspect to dam removal, on all sides of the issue. People like me, who feel “it’s the right thing to do” as strongly as we can point to river warming, blocked fish passage, silt-transport blockage, and so on. Or people who feel “they should stay” as strongly as they can point to power provided, dam maintenance jobs, and even novel ecologies that will be lost when the lakes are drained. I think Mapes, in fact, could have covered the anti-removal side of the story in a little more depth; it might have helped me understand it a little better.

This is a minor lack in otherwise excellent coverage. The writing verges on the poetic when describing the “Niagara of the West,” and just as easily switches to conveying scientific details. The words and pictures unite to tell us just about every aspect of the story: The politicians and activists who worked for and against removal; the people it would benefit; the scientific research being done under sometimes very trying conditions (such as dry-suit snorkeling in shallow tributaries fresh off the glacier).

The Elwha dam was completed in 1910, with no fish passage. The Glines Canyon dam was completed in 1927. The first movements to remove the dam began in 1986. The upper dam is still being removed in 2013. The project, because of obstructionism, became vastly more expensive than originally estimated, and left almost no one satisfied with the process. The restoration is vastly underfunded, partly because the purchase price of the dams became so inflated.

Despite the difficulties of removal, I think it’s a success story: for the environmental and social justice of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, for the ecologies of the river and the forest it drains, and the fish that can now swim to their spawning grounds.

The book ends with a moving depiction of the ceremony at the very start of removal (September 2011), and a ritual of the Lower Elwha Klallam to call the fish back to their home. This is an appropriate and optimistic place for the book to end, but the story continues, and will continue, for at least as many generations as it has already.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 7th, 2013


09:45 pm - Year in Review

2013 was a really great year for North Beach Park. The previous two years of restoration were starting to have visible effect, and the work of EarthCorps and the contract crew really made a great deal of progress.

In all, we had 17 work parties this year. Six were run by EarthCorps and 11 by the Friends of North Beach Park. In all there were 160 adult and 16 youth volunteers for a total of just over 530 hours. Three volunteers had more than 20 hours, five volunteers had between 10 and 20, and five volunteers had between 5 and 10 hours. Thank you all!

We estimate that 1751 plants were installed in the park. This includes plants from the Seattle Parks Department, EarthCorps, Carbon Capturing Companies, and Green Seattle Partnership. These plants were installed all over the park, from the highest slopes to the bottoms of the wetlands.

The EarthCorps volunteers and crews cleared about 10,000 square feet of the park, between the trail and the stream. They also engaged in a big bucket brigade for some mulching needed deep in the park. They replanted both sides of the trail. Masha (from Russia) was the EarthCorps lead for all the work.

The Seattle Parks Department brought in a contract crew to work in areas where volunteers can’t, specifically the slopes of the Headwaters Bowl and just below 90th St. and 25th Ave. They cleared invasive plants, put down erosion controls, and installed plants. They worked at the South Plateau as well (entrance at 88th St. and 27th Ave.), installing a great number of plants and doing some much-needed erosion control work.

The outreach highlights included tabling at Art in the Garden in August (always a treat) and participating in our first “Give Big” in May. This raised more than $1,000 for North Beach Park, and we’d like to give a special shout out to Doris Katagiri and Julie Fretzin for their very generosity.

For 2014, we’re going to make sure the plants installed this year get some good aftercare. This won’t be “taking it easy,” but will make sure that more of them get established well and be able to live on their own. Our first work party of the year will be January 25, at 9 a.m. Hope to see you there!

If you can’t make it to a work party, a big way to help North Beach Park is by making a donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. Even a small donation will make a big difference. We use this money for materials and tools, outreach assistance, and coffee’n’pastries for volunteers.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 5th, 2013


09:00 am - One thing about urban restoration…

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.


 

December 3rd, 2013


09:00 am - My Favorite Plant

Note: On another venue (Dreamwidth), people were declaring December a “topic open house,” and asking for topics to write about. So far, the requests I’ve gotten are on-topic for this blog as well, so I’ll post them here (probably more spread out than every day). The first question was “What is my favorite NW Plant?”

My first thought was: how could I choose between osoberry and skunk cabbage? Both are very early bloomers, the first plants you’ll see blooming in the forest — skunk cabbage starts appearing in early March.

Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) Madonna

North Beach Park looks like a terrible wreck during the late winter: all the seeps look highly eroded, the leaves have rotted, everything is all twigs and branches. When these plants start appearing, I feel a sense of relief that it’s going to be all right.

But soon enough, osoberry is joined by red-flowering currant (another early-blooming shrub), then a number of shrubs burst out at roughly the same time, and osoberry blends into the shrub layer until late August, when it’s one of the first to drop its leaves.

However, skunk cabbage remains distinctive, and that’s why it’s my favorite. Its leaves are bigger than anything you’d expect outside of a tropical rain forest (four and a half feet/ 1.5 meters), which makes it stand out all season long. In the wet areas it thrives in, there isn’t a whole lot else growing. There have been times when we’ve cleared an area but been unable to plant it in the fall, only to see it come back lush with skunk cabbage in the spring.

Also, I know more of its uses: It was an early-spring famine food, even though it’s not very tasty. The leaves were used to line baskets, berry drying racks, and steaming pits. I like this story, related in Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (Pojar & Mackinnon):

In the ancient days, they say, there was no salmon. The Indians had nothing to eat save roots and leaves. Principal among these was the skunk-cabbage. Finally the spring salmon came for the first time. As they passed up the river, a person stood upon the shore and shouted “Here come our relatives whose bodies are full of eggs! If it had not been for me all the people would have starved!” “Who speaks to us?” asked the salmon. “Your uncle, Skunk Cabbage,” was the reply. Then the salmon went ashore to see him, and as a reward for having fed the people he was given an elk-skin blanket and a war club, and was set in the rich, soft soil near the river.

Here are all the photos on Flickr tagged “skunk cabbage.” The variegated purple ones are Eastern Skunk cabbage, and there’s a white one that looks like Calla lilies to me, but the one around the PNW is the yellow-flowered one.

I also have a favorite groundcover, Pacific Water leaf (photos) and a favorite fern, maidenhair fern (photos).

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

December 2nd, 2013


08:56 pm - Topic Open House II
Administrivia: There are still plenty of open spots for topic suggestions! LiveJournal. DreamWidth. Topics appropriate for Nature Intrudes will be reposted there.

Today's Topic from jamie: 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."

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.

It's 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.

By restoring a park, we restore 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.

(Leave a comment)

09:00 am - Intelligent Tinkering


Intelligent Tinkering: Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice
Robert J. Cabin
Island Press, Washington, DC, 2011
216 pp., with index and selected bibliography

The tropical dry forests of Hawaii are an extremely endangered environment, threatened by almost everything. They were slow to evolve, because of the dryness and frequent interruption by lava flows. Plants and wild life had evolved together for thousands of years before the Polynesians arrived. There was so little competition in the benign environment that roses had lost their thorns; some birds had lost their flight. The Polynesians began shaping the land to their needs, resulting in the extinction of some local species and introduction of many others.

The catastrophic shocks, though, were felt when the Europeans arrived, and began removing forests for plantations and farms. Today, all four counties in Hawaii are in the top five counties for federally listed endangered and threatened species. Some remnants are so small with no regeneration or succession that they’re considered living dead ecosystems. Hawaii is an ecological disaster.

Is it even possible to restore these endangered ecosystems? Is it “worth it”? There are about 12,000 species that exist nowhere else in the world. More new species are being discovered, and supposedly extinct species rediscovered, regularly. 90% of the flowering plants and 80% of the birds are endemic to the islands. Most of the climates and ecosystems of the world exist somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii is also one of the most racially diverse places in the world – and also, unfortunately, one of the most economically stratified.

Cabin spent several years in Hawaii, performing both the science of restoration ecology and the practice of ecological restoration on the tropical dry forests, an ecosystem so endangered you might not have heard of it. An early experience with a restoration work party had a strong resonance with me:

As the morning progressed, I couldn’t help noticing how different we all were. In almost any other situation, most of us would have little if anything to say to one another, and if for some reason we did strike up a substantive conversation, we probably would have discovered that we had radically different opinions about such things as politics and religion. Yet here we were, donating our time on a beautiful Saturday morning and working harmoniously together.

That is exactly my experience, right down to the Saturday morning. Volunteer-driven restoration brings people together in a way that rarely exists in the United States any more. I frequently think that we’re restoring the idea of community built through shared work (as in quilting bees or barn raising) as much as we’re restoring ecological functions.

But a problem with volunteer-driven projects is we are, to some degree, amateurs. On the other hand – on the other side of the wall, to some degree – there are all the scientists doing research into restoration ecology. Cabin asks the question, what can we do to bridge the science and practice gap?

This is a big and important question, but frankly, I was more taken with his stories of the on-the-ground restoration: the physical details of working in a tropical climate to eradicate, even over a few hundred square feet, something as pernicious as fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). How much political effort it took to build a six acre exclosure. The reward when you return to a spot after a couple years and are surprised and gratified at how well it’s doing. And the disappointment when you return to a spot and nothing has established, or it’s not doing nearly as well as you’d hoped.

The practice of ecological restoration is holistic; you have to be aware of many of the influences – the water, the soil, the aspect of slopes, the surrounding mosaic of land uses – that can affect your project. The science of restoration ecology is necessarily reductive, with its need for clearly delineated experimental design, replicability, awareness of control factors, and a falsifiable hypothesis. There is also the short-term cycle of much scientific research. A grant might only be for a couple years, a master’s or doctoral research project will only last for a few years. Ecological processes can take decades .

Despite these differences, I think research in the science of restoration ecology can have a positive effect on the practice of ecological restoration. For instance, it was a Master’s thesis at the UW that provided a lot of the background for GSP to institute its target forest types. Other research can settle the “obvious” questions that might otherwise be a source for endless debate. Which is best for a cedar seedling: mulch, irrigation, or irrigation gel? (Mulch.)

I think my own practice could benefit from a much more methodical approach, and better record keeping. The truly successful projects, the restoration work that has been going on for ten years and more, are all methodical in their plans and record keeping. (Well, the ones that I know of, at least).

Cabin suggests a model that he calls “intelligent tinkering,” a phrase from Aldo Leopold. It relates to keeping all the cogs and gears of a car as you take it apart. You don’t know what’s essential to the machine, what’s sacrificeable. Your first actions are small and cautious, but as you learn more about the machine, you can take bolder actions.

I think this is happening all over Seattle, in all the different parks and nature areas being stewarded by GSP volunteers. Some of the parks are large, with many different habitat types (Carkeek, Golden Gardens, Discovery). Some are very small, less than two acres (John C. Little). North Beach Park, at 9 acres, is about mid-sized.

It may not be the case that a restoration ecologist could come into one of those parks, and do a specific experiment that has immediate results. But I think it is the case that the general work being done, in all environments and look at many different questions asked by the science of restoration ecology, can have a positive effect on the practice of ecological restoration.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

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