Luke McGuff (holyoutlaw) wrote,
Luke McGuff

North Beach Park: Restoration History

Note: This is the second in a series of Monday posts about the Restoration Management Plan for North Beach Park. To read the others in the series, please click the “Restoration Management Plan” link in the tags at the bottom of the post.

This section is drawn from personal memories, work logs, and notes.

State of the Park at the Beginning of Restoration

Records of the condition of the park at the start of restoration weren’t very well kept. There was (and still is) graffiti on the trees. There was trash throughout the park, ranging from bottles’n’cans, through tires and wheels, and up to water heaters and a 300 gallon drum (which is still in the park). For the first several work parties, at least a couple dozen pounds of trash came out of the park, sometimes quite a lot more.

At least 40% of the trees had serious ivy infestations reaching up into their crowns. In some cases, the ivy reached back down to the ground from overhanging branches.

When Luke, Drexie, and Tad took Lex Voorhoeve (instructor of the Master Forester Class) through the park for a site review (September 2011), he said there was a “depressing amount of work.”

There were extensive ivy monocultures in the Headwaters Bowl, particularly along the rims and the dryer areas. There were also extensive ivy monocultures in the South Plateau and on the South and West Slopes.

The vast majority of the canopy was deciduous, with Alnus rubra (Red alder) on the bottomlands and Acer macrophyllum (Big leaf maple) on the slopes and dryer areas. For HMU-specific information about canopy coverage, please see the relevant sections in the “Wetlands” or “Uplands and Slopes” chapters.


The first meeting about restoring North Beach Park took place on March 17, 2011. Attending were Michael Yadrick (Parks ecologist), Mark Mead (Urban forest manager), Joanna Nelson de Flores (Forterra/Green Seattle Partnership), Theresa McEwan (North End volunteer coordinator), Patrick Merriam (North End crew chief), Morry Browne (neighbor) and Loren McElvain (neighbor).

The first restoration work party was held April 30th, 2011. Fourteen people attended, an unusually high number.

From the start, Friends of North Beach Park (FoNBP) had five priorities for restoration work:

  1. Hedera helix (ivy) off the trees – rough estimates (made long after the fact) are that 40% of the trees in the park had ivy up into their crowns.
  2. Ivy off the ground – there were many places were ivy formed a groundcover monoculture that have been cleared. There are still monocultures on some slopes (See “Uplands and Slopes.”)
  3. Rubus armeniacus (Blackberry) off the ground and dug up.
  4. Smaller Ilex aquifolium (laurel) and Prunus laurocerasus holly pulled, larger marked for herbicide.
  5. Invasive groundcover removed and replaced with native plants.

Work was done both at the front of the park, to make visible changes that made the restoration work obvious; and in the forest, getting the ivy off the trees.

First Workparty Group Portrait

Many of the people in this photo (and the person taking it) are still involved in the restoration of North Beach Park.

Many of the people in this photo (and the person taking it) are still involved in the restoration of North Beach Park. Photo by Drexel Malone.

Friends of North Beach Park settled on the 4th Saturday of the month because earlier weekends were taken: Golden Gardens GGREAT (Golden Gardens Restoration and Trails) meets on the 2nd Saturday, Friends of Llandover Woods meets on the 2nd Sunday, and Carkeek Park STARS (Streams, Trails, and Restoration Stewards) meets on the 3rd Saturday. We thought that the 4th Saturday presented the least conflict.

The 4th Saturday schedule does mean that the work party conflicts with Memorial Day in May and the Christmas – New Year holidays in December, so there is no work party on those months.

In summer of 2011, Luke McGuff, Drexie Malone, and Tad Anderson met while taking the Master Forester Class taught by Lex Voorhoeve at Carkeek Park. We were assigned North Beach Park as our project.

In September, EarthCorps Science (Nelson Salisbury and Ella Elman) mapped North Beach Park and delineated the Habitat Management Unit boundaries.

At the end of 2011, Friends of North Beach Park had had 55 adult and three youth volunteers, for a total of 165 hours. We had planted a grand total of 13 shrubs and 8 herbaceous plants, and had more than 0.05 acre in active restoration.

In terms of public engagement, Luke spoke to the Olympic Manor Community Association and the Ballard High School “YES” (YMCA Earth Service Corps). There was a post to in November about the restoration efforts. Friends of North Beach Park also began working with the Seattle Parks Foundation as fiscal sponsor.


The Master Forester class concluded with a successful three-part presentation about restoration of North Beach Park. This was the same day as the work party would have been, so there was no 4th Saturday work party in January of 2012. However, January 2012 did have a very successful work party and trash removal with a group of 8th graders from a University District alternative middle school, on their “Rite of Passage” program. This was the largest amount of trash removed during a single work party.

Rite of Passage students

This was the single largest pile of trash removed from North Beach Park at one time.

This was the single largest pile of trash removed from North Beach Park at one time.

Early February featured the first annual Friends of North Beach Park potluck, which includes forest stewards and volunteers from Carkeek and Golden Gardens, as well as North Beach Park. At that potluck, we formed an official steering committee of seven.

In summer 2012, an independent forest steward worked in the South Plateau, a large, flat area about 80 feet above the main park. Working with residents of the Labateyah community, they cleared most of the ivy and blackberry off the .57 acre plateau in one summer of weekly work parties. They installed steps into the park, and had plans for a native plant demonstration garden modeled after the garden outside Daybreak Star Indian Center. However, when the rains returned, we found out that the South Plateau received street runoff that accumulated for blocks. The Parks Department had to remove the steps and put in fascines and rip rap. See “South Plateau” in the “Uplands and Slopes” chapter.

Also in the summer of 2012, Doug Gresham, of Gresham Environmental, delineated the wetlands. GPS points for the delineation flags were later established with Nelson Salisbury of EarthCorps Science.

In September of 2012, “Knotweed Hill” was created by Luke and a group of middle schoolers who were on a field trip to the park. They cleared a large area of ivy underneath a canopy gap. Before the clearance, the ivy had covered up some of the steepness of the slope. Removing the ivy revealed the slope to be much too steep for inexperienced volunteers. Also, we had been working on private property without realizing it. This lead to Luke, Drexie, and Tad spending many weekdays in the park, staking down burlap sacks, and work parties where dikes were built across the slope.

At the end of 2012, Friends of North Beach Park had had 343 adult and 162 youth volunteers, for a total of nearly 1150 volunteer hours. We had planted 227 trees, 112 shrubs, and 105 herbaceous plants. Nearly three-quarters of an acre was in restoration.

Public outreach in 2012 included tabling at “Art in the Garden” for the first time, and tabling at “Sustainable Ballard” with the Green Seattle Partnership. “Art in the Garden” is a neighborhood event located very close to the park. We meet neighbors of the park, including people who played in it as children. “Sustainable Ballard” is a much larger event, for the Ballard area as a whole. At this event, we’re helping Green Seattle Partnership promote Green Seattle Day (the first Saturday in November).

In 2012, FoNBP participated for the first time in the Seattle Foundation “GiveBIG” day of online giving.


2013 featured many different groups working in North Beach Park: EarthCorps, Parks Department contract and Natural Area crews, and Friends of North Beach Park.


EarthCorps ran seven work parties in North Beach Park, from April through November. During this time, they mulched Knotweed Hill, and cleared along the trail from Headwaters Bowls through the Central Valley. During the planting work party, they added density to both sides of the trail through their cleared areas, and added density to Knotweed Hill.

EarthCorps volunteers mulch Knotweed Hill.

EarthCorps volunteers mulch Knotweed Hill.

EarthCorps volunteers mulch Knotweed Hill.

Contract Crew

The Parks Department Natural Area and contract crew worked on the North Slope, removing invasives, putting done jute net and coir logs, and planting. On the South Plateau, they installed rip rap, meanders, and fascines to help control the erosion. They also helped clear a trail of fallen alder trees.

Friends of North Beach Park

The FoNBP had their second annual potluck, again with forest stewards from other NW area parks, including Llandover Woods.
There were ten 4th Saturday work parties in 2013: January – April, June – November. The January work party featured some plants donated from the Swanson’s Nursery “Trees for Salmon” program.

By the end of 2013, most of the safely accessible trees in the park needing ivy survival rings had been protected.
2013 had 189 adult and 20 youth volunteers, for a total of nearly 665 hours. Friends of North Beach Park planted 346 trees, 672 shrubs, and 675 herbaceous plants.

More than half an acre was brought into restoration, and nearly 1½ acres were in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of restoration.
Public outreach included an article in the Ballard News-Tribune (Bryan, 2013) and tabling at “Art in the Garden” and “Sustainable Ballard.”

2014 (to date)

The start of 2014 featured nearly 200 extra plants from the Parks Department. The summer work parties have concentrated on after care of plants, mostly watering and weeding to help them deal with the heat stress of June and July.
There were numerous site reviews, from Seattle Public Utilities (with their drainage and wetland scientist), a big site review with the Parks Department to talk about target forest types, the South Plateau, and to plan crew time for the next couple years.

The forest stewards returned to working in the South Plateau once a month. We also wrote a letter to the neighbors of the South Plateau explaining our plans.

In June, we executed a cross-gradient belt transect, crossing three HMUs and going from the highest points on the rim to the lowest points of the park floor. The information this provided is used throughout this report.

In July and August, Friends of North Beach Park participated in Groundswell NW’s open space inventory.

Public outreach this year has been limited to “Art in the Garden,” which was very successful for us.

FoNBP participated in the Seattle Foundation’s “GiveBIG” day of online giving again, and raised more than $800.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

Tags: art in the garden, earthcorps, givebig, green seattle partnership, news, restoration management plan, seattle parks foundation

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