Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: DocuSign Planting Day November 13, 2019

On November 15, 2017, a corporate group from DocuSign came to work at our restoration site for the first time. The event was held on their Global IMPACT Day. At that time, I looked up the philosophy behind Impact Day and found this statement:

We believe character is defined through action. With DocuSign IMPACT, we are committed to putting this character into action by harnessing the power of DocuSign’s people, products, and profits to make a difference in the global communities in which our employees and customers live and work.

Employees from DocuSign also worked in our site in April 2018, November 2018, April 2019; and on November 13, 2019, they returned to do our fall planting.  DocuSign has become a valuable part of our restoration team.

Prior to the event, the spots where the trees, shrubs and ground covers would be planted were cleared and marked with green or pink flags. The pots containing the plants were put next to the flags a day or two before the work party

When the big day arrived, 21 DocuSign employees and 2 students from Seattle Central Community College participated. Our staff consisted of Claire, Shirley and me from GreenFriends; Susan, a Forest Steward from another Cheasty Greenspace site; John, who is a neighbor; and Antje, who is one of our team leaders.

Following an initial orientation, everyone divided into four teams and got to work. After each plant was planted, the volunteers put a ring of wood chips around it. The wood chip rings help in retaining moisture and reducing weed growth.

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

Once the teams finished planting their areas, they did other restoration work. Two of the four groups added wood chips to rings around previously-planted trees and shrubs. The third group cleared invasive vines from the land on the sides of the Hanford Stairs. The fourth group finished clearing an area along Cheasty Boulevard and then planted some shrubs and ground covers in that area. This was the first time we had planted in that part of the site.

One hundred and sixty-seven trees, shrubs, and ground covers were planted that day. The gallery below shows some of the species we planted.

[The plants from the November 2019 planting will all be tagged with light blue flagging tape. You can see it in most of the photos. Flagging stakes, such as the one in the first photo, still need to be added to some of the smaller plants. The flagging tape allows us to know when a particular plant was planted. This blue tape will be used for the November 2019-March 2020 planting season.]

And here are some photos of the newly planted Cheasty Boulevard area.

The DocuSign employees, students, neighbor and team leaders did amazing work and I think everyone had a good time. Rumor has it that DocuSign may come back again in April. I sure hope that is the case!

I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in our November 2019 planting day and to those who helped prepare for it. Each person made a significant and important contribution to the goal of returning this stretch of Seattle’s Greenbelt to a healthy forest.

Greenbelt Restoration Project: Service-Learning Sessions 5 & 6

Session 5

The primary task for the 5th service-learning session was to clear away the leaves, wood chips and weeds from all of the spots where new native trees, shrubs and ground covers would be planted on November 13th. Prior to the work party, Shirley and I had placed a green or pink flag at each of those locations.

Two staff members from Carlson Center, the University of Washington program that coordinates the University’s service-learning programs, came to our site that day. They wanted to talk with Shirley and me about how the students were helping to meet Green Seattle Partnership’s goals, to see our site, and to watch and talk with the students. They stayed with us for about an hour. I enjoyed their visit.

After a break, the students continued to clear the areas where native trees, shrubs and ground covers would be planted the following week.

Session 6

The 6th service-learning session took place on November 12, the afternoon before DocuSign, a corporate group, would be coming to plant everything. In-between the 5th and 6th sessions, the plants had been distributed to the locations where they would soon be planted.

Every year, each new plant is marked with a soft flagging tape. The tape may be attached to the plant itself or may be on a nearby stake. The tape is different for each planting season. Blue and white checkered tape was used for the Nov 2017 to March 2018 planting season and red with black polka dots for 2018-19. This season the tape is a light blue. You can see it on many of the plants in the photos above.

[The same tape is used in all Seattle Parks, so if you know the colors that were used for each season, you can go to any park and know what season a particular plant was planted.]

The flagging tape had been placed on all of the larger plants prior to the 6th session. When the plant is small, though, there may not be a branch that is strong enough for tagging. In those cases, we put the flagging tape on a stake and then put the stakes in the ground near the plants when they are planted. (The photo to the left shows one of the stakes.)

During the first part of the 6th service-learning session, three of the students made 100 of these stakes. While they did that, one of our staff members raked some of the paths on the site and another student put the stakes in or near the pots that contained small plants.

After a break, the four students who attended that day divided into two groups. Each pair planted a hemlock tree. Once the tree was planted, they put a ring of wood chips around it. The wood chips help retain moisture and reduce weed growth.

After planting the trees, the students hunted for areas where flags had been placed since the previous session and cleared the ground around those flags.

By the time this service-learning session was over, the land was ready for the next day’s planting work party!

Greenbelt Restoration Project: Service-Learning Session 4

The service-learning students and our forest restoration team leaders, who are also volunteers, accomplished so much during the 4th service-learning session.

[For those of you who may not have read previous posts about the service-learners, they are students from the University of Washington who are working on our site as an adjunct to their course work. They come once a week for seven weeks.]

Session 4

We worked in an area that was full of horsetails, bindweed, dried branches and other weeds. The horsetails had started to die down for the year, but there were years of dried stalks underneath the live ones. We left the live horsetails alone as much as possible because they are a native plant. However, it often wasn’t possible to remove the bindweed without removing the horsetail, because both break easily. The horsetails have been around since before the dinosaurs, though, so we know they will be back in the Spring!

This is what the area looked like when we started the session.

We hadn’t planned to create a path that day, but it soon became clear that one would be helpful. Here are before and after photos of the new path.

We worked on the path and on removing the invasive weeds throughout the three-hour work party. Most of the weeds were taken to drying racks.

[We’ve started bagging bindweed and putting it in the trash in case being on the drying racks isn’t enough to prevent the invasive vine from re-rooting.]

Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.

The transformation in the land was remarkable. Compare the photos below to the first one in this post.

Thanks to the effort of all of the volunteers, it had been another productive work party. Step by step, and with the blessing of Mother Nature, we are creating another healthy forest in Seattle.

Greenbelt Restoration Project: Service-Learning Sessions 1-3 (Autumn 2019)

This quarter, we have students from the University of Washington’s Service-Learning program (Carlson Center) helping on our site. The Carlson Center’s service opportunities are tied to academic courses. Two of the students are from an introductory level course in the College of the Environment and four are from an English composition course that is focusing on social issues.

The service-learning students will work in our forest restoration site every week for seven weeks. Each session will last three hours.

Session 1: October 8

Our forest restoration project gives everyone who participates the opportunity to practice flexibility, especially the leaders. That was certainly true of the day the students came to our site for their first session.

In the week that led up to the first session, the weather forecast changed many times; in fact, sometimes it changed several times a day. (We can work in the rain, but we have to cancel if it is windy since many of the trees on the site are old and it is not unusual for branches to fall during wind storms. And we didn’t like the idea of the students’ first experience being in heavy rain.) Often the weather during our work parties is better than the forecast, so we hoped Mother Nature would support us in that way again.

On the day of the event, the weather changed even more often. An hour or two before the work party there was some lightning. (We wouldn’t work in lightning either.) As I was doing the final setup for the work party, the rain was pouring.

Shirley, who co-leads these sessions with me, and I had decided to hold the orientation in my house and to make it much more comprehensive than normal. When the students arrived, it was still raining, but the rain wasn’t as heavy as it had been earlier. After the orientation, Shirley and I took them on a tour of the site. By then, the rain had changed to a light shower. And, by the time we were ready to do the restoration work, the sun was shining!

We had reviewed the plan for what work we would do during the first work party numerous times over the preceding week. As we took the tour of the site, we decided the five students and two leaders would break into two teams; we would cut back the blackberry vines that were shooting into the site from the blackberry barrier that goes along the southern border, separating our site from the neighbor’s land.

Click on any of the photo galleries below to enlarge the photos.

In the two photos above, you can see some of the many piles of blackberry vines that were removed during that first session. The cuttings were carried on tarps to drying racks in other parts of the site. In the photos below, you can see what two of the border areas looked like when we finished that day

Session 2: October 15

Six students attended the second service-learning session. Antje, one of our other team leaders, also participated. We worked together near the red twig dogwood area, an area that is very near wetlands. That land is full of horsetails, a native plant that is older than the dinosaurs. It also contained invasive bindwood, blackberry and ivy vines, as well as nightshade and other weeds. We removed the invasive vines and weeds, but left the horsetails alone.

You can see before and after pictures of the area the students worked in that day below. The invasive vines are gone and the native plants are more visible.

After a break, the students removed a big pile of dried cuttings from another area, and took them to a different part of the site where they will break down even further. We will be able to plant shrubs in the space where the large pile of debris the students moved that day once stood.

Session 3: October 22

During this session, five students and the three leaders tackled an area that had been worked on twice during summer work parties. There was still plenty of clearing that needed to be done.

Dried blackberry canes and branches covered the ground, as well as live ivy, blackberry vines and other invasive plants. Under the dried debris, we found layers and layers of ivy vines. They criss-crossed so much that they seemed woven. It is possible that these layers represented 50 years of ivy growth. The students carried many loads of invasive vines to drying racks that day.

This is what the space looked like at the end of the session. It is another area where native trees and shrubs will be planted in November.

This group has accomplished so much during their first three service-learning sessions. I am always amazed by how much the land transforms during each work party.

Greenbelt Restoration Updates

Service-Learning Students

The Carlson Center at the University of Washington coordinates the University’s service- learning programs. They describe service-learning this way:

Service-learning combines service in the community with structured preparation and reflection opportunities. Service opportunities are tied to academic coursework and address concerns that are identified and articulated by the community.

 We had our first group of service-learning students during Spring Quarter 2019. This quarter, we have another group. The first time we had four students; this quarter we have six. Two of the students are taking ENVIR 100 Introduction to Environmental Studies, and four are taking ENGL 121D Composition Social Issues (Environment). These students are working with us three hours a week for seven weeks. They are interested and enthusiastic and have already made a significant contribution to the project.

Amazing Tree Growth

When we planted alder trees in November 2018, they were about four feet tall. Most of the alder trees are now around 5 ½ feet. This month we discovered that there was one alder that is 10 feet 4 inches and another that is 6 feet 5 inches. Both are near the red twig dogwood area, a moist part of the site. I think it is astounding growth for one year. How big will they be by this time next year?

Capstone Interns

We are in the process of picking two senior students from UW’s College of Environment to intern at our site. The Capstone’s Program is described this way:

Students majoring in Environmental Studies gain valuable professional experience and explore potential career paths through a 3-quarter Capstone Course Series which includes a quarter-long internship, study abroad experience or research with a faculty member. Students produce a written deliverable and tie this professional and hands-on component with their academic study.

The Capstone is usually centered around an internship with a community site partner. Potential Capstone sites range from local non-profits and government agencies to faculty research projects and private sector initiatives and the Capstone instructor organizes a “Meet and Greet” small career fair with site partners who have pre-selected projects for students to work on.

The interns will start their formal internship program in January 2020, but they will have the opportunity to start gathering required hours with us this quarter. They will become valuable members of our team.

Transformation of the Greenbelt

In September 2016, when GreenFriends members started their forest restoration work in this Greenbelt site on Beacon Hill in Seattle, most of the land looked like the two photos below.

We have now planted trees, shrubs and ground covers in at least 20 areas on the site. The next four photos show the transformation that has occurred between the time two of those areas were planted and August 2019.

Example 1:

Example 2:

Many of the elderberry shrubs have become very big. We have one that is around 17 feet tall. The photo below is of the second biggest elderberry shrub.

Three of the Douglas Firs and several of the Alders are more than 5’ tall. The Cedars are smaller, but they are so beautiful.

If you click on the photo gallery you will see an enlarged view of the photos.

The transformation that has occurred on the site is remarkable and is thanks to Amma’s encouragement to serve Nature, the support of the Green Seattle Partnership staff, the effort of hundreds of volunteers, and the blessings of Mother Nature.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Expedia Day of Caring

Friday, September 6 was Expedia’s Day of Caring. Twenty of their employees chose to work in our Greenbelt site on that special day. It was wonderful to have them. Many of the volunteers had previous experience doing forest restoration work; their experience was an added bonus.

After an initial orientation, the group divided into four teams. One or two of our team leaders guided the work of each team.

Team 1: Shirley’s team removed weeds and other invasive plants in an area we had begun to clear during a previous work party. While it will take numerous groups to completely clear this section of the Greenbelt, the Expedia team made tremendous progress.

Team 2: Susan’s team started clearing an area along Cheasty Boulevard, which borders the eastern portion of the site.

There were some native shrubs in this area, but when we started it was hard to see them since they were mixed with weeds and invasive plants. The next two photos are before and after photos of a section like that.

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

Laurels, hawthorne, and holly are invasive shrubs. The first photo below shows one of the patches of hawthorne and holly prior to the work party. The second photo shows what the area looked like after the weeds were cleared and the lower limbs of the shrubs were removed so that the Parks Department staff can easily find them when they come to treat invasive shrubs/trees.

This team also disassembled a pile of dried debris that had been created from invasive plant cuttings during earlier work parties. After they took the pile apart, they spread the dried debris along the ground. Next they made a new drying rack to hold the blackberry and ivy vines, as well as other weeds, they removed on that day.

Team 3: Haley’s team removed invasive bindweed that had invaded two planting areas. In many cases, the bindweed traveled through and over horsetails. (Horsetails are native plants that were around before the dinosaurs so we leave them alone.) This team also removed the blackberry vines that were entering planting areas from the other side of the border. The border of that planting area is on a very steep slope so removing the blackberry root balls is not an option; the best we can do is to continue to cut them back when they enter the planting area.

The first photo below shows the bindweed in this area before the July 24 work party. I’m using this photo even though there wasn’t this much bindweed on September 6th because it shows the bindweed clearer than photos I took before this work party. I say no visible bindweed in the second photo because the roots can go 32 feet down!

The next photos are of the area where the blackberry vines were cut back. Seattle Parks Department cut up a tree that had fallen into our planting areas earlier in the year and used the pieces to create a border for us.

Team 4: John and I led a team that weeded a part of the site where many blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines were emerging from the ground. We had planted the area in March of this year and had pulled out weeds and invasive vines many times since then. This time we focused on digging out the blackberry root balls as well as removing grass and other weeds.

This work party lasted 4 1/2 hours rather than the normal 3 hours. After a lunch break, we created a bucket brigade to bring wood chips from our wood chip pile on 25th Avenue S into the Greenbelt site. The first thing we did with the wood chip was to spread them along a 125 foot path.

Once the path was completed, we focused on creating piles of wood chips on the site. These wood chip piles will make it easier for volunteers to construct 4-inch-high wood chip rings around each new tree, shrub and ground-cover we plant in mid-November.

By the end of this segment of the work party, we had moved nearly 8 cubic yards of wood chips into the site! Afterwards, we picked up and put away the tools and supplies and then met for a closing to celebrate all that we had accomplished that day.

I feel so grateful for all of the Expedia volunteers who participated in this work party as well as for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 10

During our August 10 work party, two team leaders, seven students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, a mother and daughter from our neighborhood and a volunteer who found us on Green Seattle Partnership Event Page participated. Three of the students had also attended our August 3 event. The August 10 work party was unusual in that most of the volunteers had previous restoration experience.

In the days preceding the event, the weather forecast changed several times a day, so we had no idea what to expect. When I started setting up that morning it was raining, but the rain had stopped by the time the work party began. And by the end of the work party, it was sunny. It has been quite hot lately but on this day the temperature was in the 60’s. Mother Nature had blessed us with a perfect work day.

I had ordered eight cubic yards of wood chips to be delivered sometime after August 12, so wanted to use up as many of the wood chips in the wood chip pile that is located on 25th Ave S as possible. During the August 10 work party, we would begin to make smaller piles of wood chips inside the Greenbelt. The wood chips in those small piles will be used when we do the fall planting. (When we plant trees, shrubs and ground covers, we place a four inch thick ring of wood chips around each new plant to help with weed reduction and water retention.) During the August 10 work party, we would also reinforce the upper path on our site by placing a new layer of wood chips over the existing path.

Since we didn’t have a big group of volunteers, we didn’t create the type of bucket brigade we had used on August 3. Instead, each volunteer carried many buckets of wood chips, two at a time, and dumped them in the appropriate places. I didn’t take any photos of this segment of the work party; I was too busy filling buckets. I did take some photos of the results of the work at the end of the event.

The first photo below shows what the pile looked like on July 7, the last time we had used wood chips from that pile. The second photo shows what the “pile” looked like after this segment of the August 10 work party. There are still wood chips in the pile, but even though the picture doesn’t show it clearly, the pile is nearly flat. The space is ready for the new delivery of wood chips!

We had made three smaller wood chip piles inside the Greenbelt and covered about 250 feet of path with new wood chips.

After a break, the group split into two teams. One team focused on removing the bindweed, and suckers that were shooting up from stumps of maple trees, in areas that border the Hanford Stairs. The maple trees had been cut down at some time in the past because they were under power lines.

Click on any of the photo galleries to see an enlarged version of the photos.

It was difficult to get before and after photos of the areas where the bindweed was removed because there is a dense cover of braken ferns and horsetails. I decided the best way to show the results of the work these students did was through a photo of the three bags of bindweed that they removed during this 45 minute work session! (To give you a sense of the size of the bags, know that they each one once held 40 pounds of pellets for a pellet stove heater.)

I did take before and after photos of the two places where the maple leaf suckers were removed.

The second team removed blackberry shoots and weeds from an area on the southeastern section of the site. They were even able to remove blackberry vines from under the big elderberry plants. Some of the elderberry plants are now 12-16 feet tall.

They also dug out a tire, a gas can and a pot. Here are photos of the gas can and the tire!

I saw the first berries on our elderberry plants during this work party. They were from a red elderberry. We have planted red, blue and black elderberry shrubs. I wonder if any of the others will fruit this year.

During the work session big blackberry vines and little ones were removed. This is a photo of one area before we started the work.

And the next set of photos show what some of the areas that this team worked on looked like at the end of the work party.

You can even see the ground under this elderberry plant!

I find myself using the word “amazing” a lot when I describe our work parties. That is an accurate description of this work party as well. I think it is amazing that twelve volunteers were able to accomplish so much during a three-hour work party.

***

I feel so grateful for all of the volunteers who participated in this work party as well as for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 3, 2019

The August 3 work party was the biggest we’ve had in a long time. Volunteers included six team leaders, 19 students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, a friend of one of the students, two people who found us on the Green Seattle Partnership Event Page, and a neighbor who comes to almost all of our work parties.

The event started with an orientation that included a welcome, staff introduction, information about project history, safety tips, schedule of the day and more. We planned to have two work sessions, with a snack break in the middle.

After the orientation we divided into six teams and started to work.

Team 1

Shirley’s team focused on watering the plants in the southern planting areas. Any plant that showed any sign of distress received two gallons of water. The team watered 90 plants! The photos below show this team at work. (In the background of the fourth and fifth photos below, you can also see neighbor John removing blackberry vines and blackberry root balls.)

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

Team 2

Claire’s team worked in the Rack Zone, an area that used to be filled with drying racks. We put all of the invasive blackberry vines, ivy and other weeds on drying racks so that they don’t re-root. Earlier this year, we took down most of those racks and spread the dried debris around the Rack Zone. After the debris has had more time to break down and become soil, the Rack Zone will become another planting area.

During the August 3 work party, the volunteers removed weeds that were growing in the Rack Zone; spread dried debris that had been brought there from other racks on the site; and took apart the rest of the original Rack Zone racks.

On January 22, 2019, I had been surprised to see a shovel lying against the Rack Zone wall. On January 23, I was even more surprised to see an unpotted plant in the same place. The plant was tagged with blue and white checkered flagging tape which meant that it had been planted during the November 2017-March 2018 planting season… but I never found an empty hole on our site. Where had it come from?

I had no idea if the plant was dead or alive, but since I couldn’t think of a rational reason for these occurrences, I decided it was “supposed” to be the first shrub we planted in the Rack Zone even though I had planned to wait another year before planting that area. So I planted the mystery plant.

It took months before it became obvious the shrub was alive, and longer still before we determined it was an oceanspray shrub. That plant not only survived, it thrived. This is what the once possibly dead plant looks like now!

Team 3

My team completed jobs in three different parts of the site. They learned how to build a drying rack and then built one, cut dead branches from an old vine maple shrub, and removed two patches of invasive ivy. (The first photo is of the new rack; the photo under it is the group removing the dead branches of the shrub, the vertical photo and the fourth one are of the team removing ivy and the last photo shows one of areas after they cleared ivy from it.)

Team 4

Dave’s team worked in the southeast part of the site. That area had never been completely cleared and had been covered by tall weeds for some time. Recently, long blackberry vines had also invaded the area.

This is what that section of the site looked like at the beginning of the work party.

It was really hot in that section of the site, so at one point during the morning, we decided to move the group to a cooler area. Three of the five members of the group preferred to work in the sun so they stayed put.

The photo below is of Subgroup A working.

And this is what that area looked like at the end of the first work session.

Clearly there is much more clearing to do here but the group made tremendous progress.

Subgroup B removed blackberry root balls in an area where volunteers had cut down blackberry vines during the July 29 work party. Prior to that work party the blackberry vines had been so dense that you couldn’t walk through them. The next set of photos are of Subgroup B working.

Team 5 Antje

During the July 28 work party Antje led a group who removed weeds from both sides of the Hanford Stairs. Her August 3 team continued that work. In many places along the stairs, native fringe cup plants were covered by a layer of an invasive buttercup plants. The team’s challenge was to remove the buttercup plants without removing the fringe cup.

This is what one of those areas looked like on July 27.

And this is what some of the areas looked like when we took our break on August 3.

Team 6

Christine’s team worked in an area that is on the far side of the Hanford Stairs. At the beginning of the work party, there were many blackberry shoots, grass and other weeds in this section. By break time most of the invasive plants were gone and the native plants were much more visible.

The work party had begun at 10 am. At 11:30 we took a 20 minute snack break. We decided to use the second work session to spread wood chips on one of the paths in the site. We did that by creating a wood chip bucket brigade that went from a wood chip pile on Cheasty Boulevard, up the Hanford Stairs, into the Greenbelt and to the end of the lower path. Buckets were filled at the wood pile and then passed up the line until they reached the people who were pouring the wood chips onto the path. Once the buckets were empty, they were passed down the line until they again reached the wood chip pile. There, they were refilled and the whole process started once again.

Remember, you can click on the photo gallery to enlarge the photos.

In 45 minutes, we had created the bucket brigade and spread wood chips over a path that is about 250 feet long! When we finished that job, we put away the tools and supplies and gathered for a closing.

The August 3 event was another very successful work party. I’m always astounded by how much volunteers can accomplish in three hours time. The old adage, “many hands make light work” is true!

***

I feel so grateful for all of the volunteers who participated in this work party as well as for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.