On November 18, I took a three hour Wetlands Best Practices class that was being offered to Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards. The class was held at Discovery Park. Seattle.gov says this about Discovery Park:
Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park operated by the Seattle Parks and Recreation. It is the largest city park in Seattle, and occupies most of the former Fort Lawton site. The site is one of breathtaking majesty. Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park offers spectacular view of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. The secluded site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. The role of Discovery Park is to provide an open space of quiet and tranquility away from the stress and activity of the city, a sanctuary for wildlife, as well as an outdoor classroom for people to learn about the natural world. Maintained in its semi-natural condition the park will continue to offer a biologically rich and diverse natural area for urban dwellers and an unmatched opportunity for environmental education.
The park is immense. I can’t even imagine being a Forest Steward for this much property. My mind is totally occupied by the little patch of Greenbelt that I am a Forest Steward for and it is just under an acre in size.
The class began with a lecture by Doug Gresham, a Wetlands Specialist at Washington State Department of Ecology. The lecture portion was held in the park’s Environmental Learning Center.
I was very interested to learn that wetlands have many functions. Among them are:
- flood control
- erosion control
- water quality improvement
- maintain stream base flow
- nutrient and chemical recycling
- nutrient production
- fish and wildlife habitat
- recreation and aesthetics
- education and research
We were told many ways to identify wetlands, the time of the year that it is appropriate to work there, the types of plants that will do well in wet soil, and much more. After the one hour introduction, we took a break and then walked into the park. Michael Yadrick, one of the Seattle Parks Department Plant Ecologists, led the experiential part of the class. Doug Gresham, whom I mentioned before, Lisa Ciecko, the Seattle Parks Department Plant Ecologist who supervises my work, and Elizabeth Housley the person who organizes trainings for Stewards who work with the Washington Native Plant Society and/or the Green Seattle Partnership, also participated in the outdoor segment.
Doug had taught us how to identify wetland soil. On the walk, he dug up some dirt and showed us the difference up close. This first photo is of dry, sandy soil that came from a slope on higher ground.
The wetland soil looked dramatically different. I think the photo below makes that point even though it is not as focused as I would like it to be.
There are many different types of drainage systems for dealing with underground springs. The first one we saw was quite artistic. It consisted of a series of these structures. The series started close to the top of a hill and then similar structures were placed along the slope, each one draining into the next.
Further on in our walk we saw another type of drain.
And then another. This one is more like the drains I have seen in the past.
We saw trees that were growing diagonally. Someone speculated that they grew that way because the dirt is so wet that it can’t support the weight of the tree trunks.
I wondered if the shape of the tree in the background of the photo below was the result of the wet land or if it occurred because the tree was seeking more light.
We were shown different types of wet lands and also land that was in different stages of restoration. At one point, we were taken to an area that had not been worked on at all. We were asked to spread out and explore the land, talking about how we would handle the restoration if we were in charge of that project, i.e. what area would we work on first, how many volunteers would we want to have, etc.
As we were walking back to the Environmental Learning Center, we saw some interesting plants. Someone said they thought this gigantic shrub was a huckleberry. Another person guessed that it was boxwood. I had never heard of boxwood before.
On our way out of the park, another shrub caught my eye. It was the white one in the photo below. I asked what it is called, and learned that it is known as Pearly Everlasting. The shrub in the foreground is really beautiful too. I will have to find out what it is. I hope they will both be available when we make our 2018 plant order!
There is no way I can share all the information that was given to me in this post, but hopefully I at least gave you a tiny glimpse of what I learned about wetlands during the class. I look forward to studying more about them in the future.