Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Martin Luther King Day of Service

On January 21, twenty-two eager volunteers met to do forest restoration work in our North Beacon Hill Greenbelt site. Four of the volunteers were veterans of this project and served as team leaders. Most of the other volunteers found out about the work party from Green Seattle Partnership listings; two found out about it from one of the local or regional Amma newsletters. Three children between 6 and 8, a pre-teen (12 years) and a teenager (13 years) participated.

This work party was held on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. When that holiday was being created his wife, Coretta Scott King, said it should be substantive as well as symbolic. Since his was a life of service, the holiday became a National Day of Service.

While I knew of Martin Luther King’s role in civil rights, I didn’t know that he inspired the environmental justice movement, a movement that believes everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in safe and healthy communities.

After receiving an initial orientation, the volunteers divided into four groups.

Group 1

One of the team leaders and three of the other volunteers started the process of taking down the racks in The Rack Zone. When we clear land of blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines, all of the cuttings and root balls are put onto racks so that they don’t touch the ground before they dry out. If the vines touch the ground, they may re-root. I refer to the invasive plants we have cut down or dug out as “debris”.

The racks are made from logs and branches. This is a photo of one of the racks we built early on.

In most parks, racks are scattered throughout a site, but since we had a house foundation on the property, we decided to put most of the racks there. The concrete slab that was under the foundation would also prevent re-rooting. We named that area The Rack Zone.

Our plan was to let all of invasive plant cuttings dry out and decompose. In that way good dirt would build up and we could plant beautiful flowering shrubs in that area.

This was what The Rack Zone looked like in July of 2017, several months after we started using it. You can see that under the new cuttings there is a lot of debris that is becoming dry. There are at least two racks in the photo that have been used yet.

In January of 2018, we took most of the racks apart but didn’t spread the debris; we just built new racks on top it. During 2018, the new racks became filled and overflowing. We would start the process of taking them down completely at this work party.

I thought that would be a long process since what taking them apart the previous year had taken a long time. I thought that these volunteers would disassemble one to three racks during the first portion of the work party. That process would include separating the dried debris from the debris that was still living, taking out any logs or branches that were too big to readily decompose, and spread the debris that was dry.

When I checked on the group later, I was astounded by what they had already accomplished.

By the end of that segment of the work party, they had finished taking apart all but three of the racks!

We still have to figure out what to do with all the branches and logs that were too big to spread in this future planting area. Right now they are stacked on the north and south sides of The Rack Zone. In addition, there was a lot of broken concrete under the racks. Those are stacked on the ledge of the foundation and will also need to be moved to some yet unknown location.

Groups 2 and 3

Two groups worked in the planting areas, clearing out leaves and wood chips from around each plant. We refer that area as a donut hole. In addition, some members of those groups cleared branches that had fallen onto the paths during the winter winds and/or carried buckets of leaves to the newly cleared areas of The Rack Zone. Once there, they will decompose and become part of the composted soil.

The groups cleared the donut holes in most of the site. Each area looked so nice when they finished.

Group 4

Another team leader and a volunteer began to clear an area that was full of blackberry vines and ivy.

This is part of what that area looked like by the time the work party ended.

The work party had begun at 10 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. we took a short snack break. Before we went back to work, we gathered for a group photo. While we took some serious photos, the one that I loved most was a funny one.

The parents with young children planned to go home early, and did. Most of the remaining volunteers moved to the Greenbelt site that is on the north side of the Hanford Stairs; our main site is south of the stairs. I have been eager to start restoration work in that area.

This is what that that land looked like in December 2018.

January 21, 2019 work party photos:

This photo was taken after we finished that day.

The volunteers had removed a lot of trash and ivy.

It always amazes me how much can be accomplished during a three-hour work party. The land always looks substantially different when the volunteers leave, after having given freely of their time and their energy. Together we are helping this part of Seattle’s Greenbelt to once again become a healthy forest.

If you live in the Seattle area and would like to help with a future work party, write hanfordstairsgreenbelt@gmail.com.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

On June 29 and 30, Amma conducted programs in Atlanta for the first time.  At one point, my daughter Chaitanya asked if I wanted to visit Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church and the other buildings at the MLK National Historical Site.  I jumped at the opportunity. We went during the short break between Amma’s morning and evening programs.  Our plan was to see as much as we could this year, and view the rest the next time we go to Atlanta. The first place we visited was Ebenezer Baptist church.  Starting in 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. co-pastored that church, along with his father.  As we sat in the pews, a recording of one of Dr. King’s speeches filled the air.  I closed my eyes and imagined myself being present at the time the speech was first given.  I would have been content to stay sitting there for hours. When I looked around, I noticed many people were taking photographs.  I resisted doing the same, but in time changed my mind; I wanted to be able to share this memorable experience with others.

At King Hall there were many exhibits about the lives of Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King.  In addition, the hall contined rooms that were tributes to Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

In Rosa Parks’ room, there were many pictures and mementos.  I was particularly drawn to a quilt that was hanging on the wall.

Among the items in Mahatma Gandhi’s room were one of his walking sticks, a pair of sandals, a portable spinning wheel, and framed quotes.  I was not aware that Dr. King had so much respect for Mahatma Gandhi.  I also didn’t know he had traveled to India.  Dr.  King once said: “To other countries I may go as a tourist, to India I come as a pilgrim.”

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Next we went to the place where Dr. and Coretta King’s bodies are interred.  It was beautiful and felt like very sacred space to me.

We had planned to visit the home where Dr. King was born, but once there we discovered they only let visitors in twice a day and you have to get tickets ahead of time.  We did appreciate having the opportunity to see his house and stand on his porch, but will have to wait for a future visit to go inside. 20150629_162706 We spent the last half hour of our visit at the National Park Visitor Center.  Below you will see parts of the huge mural that is across from the entrance to that building.  I wish I had had time to look carefully at all that was contained in that artwork. Inside the Center there were enough exhibits to keep us busy for most of a day.  Several of the displays were interactive.  An example is in the picture below, where visitors were able to walk alongside statues of the civil rights marchers.  We will definitely spend more time at this Center in the future.

The night before our visit, I read about the National Historical Site in the tourist book in my hotel.  I found a story that really surprised me.  In preparation for writing this post, I learned more about it. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, not everyone supported the decision.  The first ever integrated dinner in Atlanta was planned to celebrate it.  Black business owners signed up to attend but the white business establishment wanted nothing to do with it.  J. Paul Austin, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, and Mayor Ivan Allen brought some of the prominent white business leaders together.  The message Paul Austin gave them was:

“It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner.  We are an international business.  The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta.  You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co.”

The event sold out within two hours! 20150629_165301 During our time at the Site, I experienced deep emotions and many memories.  That era had affected me and my life decisions profoundly.  There is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. contributed significantly to making me the person I am today. I feel blessed to have visited Dr. King’s memorial site and look forward to returning to it in the future.