With increasing density and growing development, parks and green spaces are critical to our neighborhood’s quality of life. Eastlake is fortunate to have many such spaces.
The spaces are managed by either the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (Rogers Playground, Fairview Park, South Passage Point Park, I-5 Colonnade Open Space, and the Roanoke, Lynn and Newton street-end parks) or the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) (North Gateway triangle, Franklin Green Street, the Fairview Ave. E. shoreline pathway and plantings south of Newton Street, and the Martin (Good Turn), Allison, Hamlin and Louisa street-end parks).
Both public agencies have experienced cuts in their maintenance budgets and are open to sponsoring formal work parties of volunteers. Subject to agreement and scheduling, they’ll lend garden tools, gloves, etc., deliver mulch to be spread for weed control, and haul away garbage and compost.
The Parks Department and SDOT also informally allow volunteers to help maintain these open spaces on their own, so long as the work is limited to picking up trash and weeding out invasive plants like clematis, ivy, blackberry and Japanese knotweed – sort of guerrilla gardening if you will. Even some planting is permitted, but the agencies reserve the right to remove plantings if they’re not compatible with design and maintenance needs.
Here are a few stories of how volunteers, past and present, have contributed to our parks and green spaces. Hopefully giving them some Eastlake News light and space will inspire others and the caretaking will spread:
For many years, members of the Hamlin Shores Homeowners Association and their neighbors have been maintaining Hamlin Street-end park. As mentioned in the last issue of Eastlake News, the late Ruth Kunath particularly contributed to planting and tending the flowering plants that many enjoy there.
Cheryl Thomas was the first volunteer to maintain the landscaped corner on Boylston Avenue East across from TOPS-Seward School. Others have come forward since her passing in 2016. According to a 2017 Eastlake News memorial article, Cheryl “had unique vision for the potential of bleak public paved areas. Her great diplomatic skills and irrepressible enthusiasm energized skeptical bureaucrats and otherwise busy neighbors to help turn these areas into green gardens…. At all hours she could be found trundling her maintenance wagon between the many green spaces she had created.”
Ben Wildman, ECC Board Treasurer, organizes clean up parties at Rogers Playground or the I-5 Colonnade Open Space, or sometimes goes it alone. He appreciates the roles trees play in cleaning our air and reducing traffic noise and the nice landscaping around Rogers, but finds it disheartening when ivy or blackberry vines threaten to take over. “If I have a few moments and the time is ‘right’ – perhaps a sunny day?” he says, “I’ll go spend a few hours working to improve the health of the trees and bushes.”
Carol Anderson, an official forest steward at Fairview Park, who also you might say “freelances,” estimates that over the last 20 years she, Dave Moore, and others have planted hundreds of trees around Lake Union that they started in the tiny yard of their rental. They picked species that would go with the sites and be hardy enough to survive, such as Red Cedar, Shore Pine, Ponderosa, Grand Fir, Douglas Fir and White Poplar. Carol has found that Grand Fir, a NW native, is very hardy, shade tolerant and will grow under a blackberry thicket – and eventually shade it out. She’s also overseen work parties to remove infestations of clematis from killing trees at Fairview Park.
Not all of their trees have made it, however; some have died off, some have been chopped down for development. Unfortunately, Carol, like some of her trees, is “being displaced by development.” She’s leaving the area but not unhappily. “We’re leaving a legacy of over 200 trees.”
Marilee Fuller organizes residents and businesses into work parties to weed and prune in Good Turn Park, a park she finds unique. She prizes the park’s feeling of being deep in the forest despite its urban location. Good Turn Park also depends on irrigation donated by Eric Jarvis, who owns the adjoining office building where he operates a business.
Over the years Harmon Rogers has helped organize and supervise Earth Day clean ups with the ECC and SDOT of the southeast shoreline – as he says one of the last remaining natural shorelines on Lake Union. The work parties remove invasive plants (e.g. clematis, ivy and blackberries) and promote the growth of native plant species. SDOT provides urban forestry equipment, tools, vegetation bins, and mulch, and sometimes also a staff member. ECC recruits residents, employees of nearby businesses, and property owners to help.
“Except for this work, the area would become completely overgrown and the walking path along the shore would be hemmed by the street and gravel on one side and blackberries on the other,” says Harmon. “I am drawn to this project because I think the area is a true diamond in the rough. Where else might one find a natural northwest shoreline adjacent to a dense urban environment?”
(Editor’s note: A postponed Earth Day work party is still planned for the site this year. We’ll get out the word once we know when.)
Even though the coronavirus emergency forced ECC to cancel Earth Day work parties in April, Lexi Szymaszek went out on her own (social distancing) to pick-up trash around Terry Pettus, Lynn Street and Louisa street-end parks.
Large work parties or just one individual, officially or unofficially. A great many volunteers (more than can be covered here) are taking care of Eastlake’s public spaces — and we thank them!
Want to suggest a gardener for a future article, or are you looking for an Eastlake green space that needs your help? Contact the Eastlake Community Council at email@example.com. You can also join or organize a work party in a City park. To do so contact Junior Kitiona, Seattle Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, consider enrolling in the free training that the City and its contractors offer to become a tree ambassador or a forest steward so you can do more to protect and improve Eastlake’s green spaces.
Chris Leman and Judy Smith contributed to this report.