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.

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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”.

“Oh No”s

I’ve had a lot of “Oh No” experiences lately; ones that relate to the new Greenbelt site we’ve agreed to help with. Our main site is south of the stairs that begin at the intersection of 25th Avenue S and S Hanford Street in Seattle. About three years ago, the Department of Transportation built a second set of Hanford Stairs across Cheasty Boulevard. They are lower on the side of Beacon Hill than our main site. There is Greenbelt property on both sides of the lower stairs.

When those stairs were built, the Department of Transportation planted native shrubs on both sides of the stairs and then covered the area with wood chips. It was beautiful. However, no one maintained the property and over time the land, including the new plants, became covered with bindweed vines. There were some blackberry vines too, but in that area the bindweed ruled. In fact, the bindweed completely covered most of the shrubs. Sometimes, there was no way to know there was even a shrub there; they just looked like mounds of bindweed.

Below are some photos of bindweed vines I took on our site two years ago. They show how bindweed strangles shrubs and ground covers.

One day in April, a Green Seattle Partnership staff member asked us to remove the bindweed from that area, if possible, meaning if we had time. We worked on it for the first time, on April 29. The photos below show what it looked like at that time. Seeing it when preparing for the work party was probably my first “Oh No” experience in this series. We removed bucket after bucket of bindweed that afternoon.

Our main site has a lot of bindweed, but it looks small in comparison to what is in this area. I’ve read that bindweed can go 32 feet into the earth. It is very fragile so breaks off easily so I had had no illusion that we could completely get rid of it. But we had at least started the process of reducing it.

When I checked the site three weeks later, I could barely tell we had worked there before. “Oh No.” We cleared bindweed from that area again on May 20. Afterwards, we covered the area where we had “removed” the bindweed with wood chips. Even though we weren’t able to clear the whole area, the part we had “finished” looked beautiful.

On June 27, I went back to the site to take a look. The first thing I noticed was how much bindweed had returned. “Oh No.” The second thing I noticed was that two thirds of the way down the stairs someone had dumped a couch, chairs and other garbage. “Oh No.” How had the dumpers even gotten this stuff down there?

Seattle has a Find It, Fix It app that residents can use to report problems that they want the city workers to fix. I reported the dump. As I was filling out the report on my phone, I noticed that there was new graffiti on the area where I was standing. “Oh No.” Once I completed the illegal dump report, I filed a graffiti report.

On July 1, I walked down the stairs to take some photos of the bindweed. I felt discouraged to see that the shrub near the phone pole was completely covered again. In fact, bindweed was coming up everywhere. “Oh No.” I was, however, pleased to see that the furniture and other items that had been dumped were already gone. That was fast!

On July 3, I walked down the stairs on my way to pick up my car from an auto repair shop. I noticed that the bindweed had continued to grow in the last few days. I also took a closer look at areas we hadn’t cleared yet. “Oh No.” When I saw my photo I was sorry to see that my finger had gotten in the way and showed up in the photo. “Oh No.” Luckily the picture still showed what I wanted it to show.

Then, I saw that more items had been dumped not far from the bottom of the stairs . “Oh No”. I couldn’t even tell what the stuff was. I could only see that they were big. This time the dump was in an area we hadn’t worked on before; one that is filled with blackberry vines as well as bindweed. Once again, I reported the dump through the Find It, Fix It app.

In writing this post, I can see from the photos that even though there is still lots of bindweed coming up in the areas we have cleared before, there is far less of it than when we started on April 29. And we kept it from flowering. The flowers would have caused it to spread even more. We are making a difference, one step at a time.

Bindweed flower from Pixabay.com

Our plans are for the 30 people who have registered for the July 7 work party to work in that area for the last part of the event. In the past, we have only worked there with five or six people. I look forward to discovering how much we accomplish at that time.

Cee’s Black and White Photography Challenge: Vanishing Point

I created this image in 2014. My idea was to create a photo that showed that a seemingly endless number of toxic cigarette butts are tossed onto the ground as litter. To do that, I placed 1375 cigarette butts in a straight line on a sidewalk near my home. It worked!

GreenFriends PNW Litter Project: Kick Butts Day 2019

February was the coldest month in Seattle since 1940. The weather was unstable with the forecast changing day to day and sometimes hour to hour. March started off cold too. I was delighted when the prediction for full sun on March 4 stayed steady.

This was the 8th year that the GreenFriends PNW Litter Project held a cigarette butt pick-up work party in support of Kick Butts Day, a day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Their vision:

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. We work to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

The actual Kick Butts Day is on Wednesday March 20 but we had picked Sunday March 4 as our day to support their vision. Fifteen eager volunteers gathered in the International District at 10 a.m.

After signing in, the participants picked up gloves, bags to put their cigarette butts in, and litter grabbers if they wanted one. Once the volunteers were ready, they spread throughout the area.

Sign in

Cigarette filters are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow, which is a form of plastic, and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a past San Diego State University study discovered that if you put fathead minnows and a single cigarette butt in a liter of water, half of the fish will die.

We take the attitude that every cigarette we pick up is one less that could end up being swallowed by a fish, bird or other form of wildlife. By sending them to TerraCycle to be recycled into plastic pallets, we also keep them out of the landfill.

Some years there are more butts on the ground than others. This year, in some areas, there were more butts than I have ever seen. The photos below were taken in front of a building that was a block from where we we had gathered.

Every member of the group worked diligently.

Just before noon, everyone came back to the park. Once there, we each added the cigarette butts we had collected to the main bag.

We waited for everyone to return…..

… and then took the group photo that is at the top of this post.

It had been another fun and productive cigarette butt pick-up work party. We won’t know how many butts we removed until they get to TerraCycle but we knew each one that was in our bag was one that didn’t end up in the landfill, waterways, or stomach of birds, fish or other creatures.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: A New Beginning- December 10, 2018

In August of 2016, if you had stood on the property that borders the western section of our GreenFriends Greenbelt Restoration Project, you would have seen land covered by blackberry, bindweed and ivy vines.

If you viewed the Greenbelt from that same place today, you would see an expanse of cleared land. The invasive plants have been replaced by more than 800 native trees, shrubs and ground covers.

While there will always be more work to do on this site… lots more… it also seemed like it was time for us to begin to focus on the adjacent Greenbelt site, the one to the north of the Hanford Stairs. I have been eager to begin that work in earnest for some time.

On December 10, we held a tiny work party. Four of the five people who registered for the event were individuals who have served as team leaders at previous work parties.  Most of them have been involved with this project from the beginning. (The fifth person was a neighbor we had not met before. She and her daughter came for the last hour of the work party and dove right in; helping wherever they were needed. I look forward to working with the two of them in the future.)

This small group was an ideal way to begin our new focus. The photos below show what the area looked like when we began to work that morning.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

Before the work party:

Three of the participants worked in areas along the Hanford Stairs; one worked towards the top of the stairs, one in the middle and one towards the bottom. I cleaned up an old trash dump that was about 20 feet into the site. When I needed a break from trash, I pulled out ivy in the surrounding area.

This work party was interesting for a variety of reasons. It was the first time in years that we were working as individuals instead of leading teams of volunteers. Also, since we were each working in a different area, there was almost no interaction between us. From time to time, it was so quiet that I wondered if everyone had gone home. Soon after having that unlikely thought, I would see or hear the rustling of a branch and know I wasn’t alone. Working in the silence felt very sacred to me.

We accomplished so much during that three-hour period. The transformation was remarkable.

After the work party:

This land seems very different than our original site. There are fewer blackberry vines and more ivy. There are a lot of sword ferns and Oregon Grape shrubs. It will be interesting to see what other native plants are present when as everything begins to bloom in the Spring.

We’ve barely begun to explore this site, but we only need to look beyond the Hanford Stairs to see what our next steps will be.