Saving Place: Restoring the Demonstration Gardens at Carkeek Park

Written by Deborah Phare, Seattle Parks and Recreation Volunteer

Graceful stems of old-fashioned Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) in the Prairie Garden.

Graceful stems of old-fashioned Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) in the Prairie Garden. Photo by Lorene Edwards Forkner

Public demonstration gardens begin with idealism, hope, and the best of intentions. In the mid-1990s, a small but ambitious project was undertaken in Carkeek Park, a 216-acre public park in north Seattle. With the help of many volunteers, a few Parks and Recreation department employees, and funding from two generous grants, gardens beds were installed adjacent to a meadow in a large open area behind the park’s administration buildings. The goal was to show the diversity of plants that could easily and successfully be grown in the Pacific Northwest without the use of fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides, and with little-to-no supplemental water. Each bed focused on different soil and growing conditions that challenge gardeners in our region. Eights beds demonstrated a variety of plantings including a kitchen garden, woodland shade, a rain garden, a blue garden, and various plantings for pollinators and of Western natives.

But maintaining a garden requires attention and resources. And, as often happens with projects fueled primarily by volunteer effort, over time the demonstration gardens suffered from want of care and, eventually, neglect. Occasionally, staff would prune large shrubs and small trees to clear pathways, but no weeding was done. The garden beds became overgrown and many plants died.  [Read more…]

Volunteers remove 5,000+ cigarette butts from Alki Beach

Seal Sitters and volunteers collected more than 5,000 cigarette butts from Alki Beach on June 13. Photo by Eilene Hutchinson

Seal Sitters and volunteers collected more than 5,000 cigarette butts from Alki Beach on June 13. Photo by Eilene Hutchinson

A cigarette butt is tossed on the beach. It’s not biodegradable. It can take up to 15 years to decompose. During that time it leaches cadmium, arsenic and other poisons into the earth. It may be ingested by a toddler, bird or fish. At Seattle Parks and Recreation, we’re trying to prevent that situation, and we’re thankful for our community partners joining in the effort.

On Saturday, June 13, Seal Sitters led an Alki Beach cleanup with more than 80 volunteers. Seal Sitters is an all-volunteer group dedicated to the protection of marine animals and their urban habitats in Puget Sound. After a brief educational program led by PAWS Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries, the volunteers scanned the beach picking up litter and debris. [Read more…]

Help restore heron habitat

heronsJoin Green Seattle Partnership from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, for a work party at Kiwanis Memorial Preserve Park and help restore forested habitats for the Great Blue Heron and other wildlife. Nesting season for herons is in full swing.

Volunteers will contribute to forest restoration to ensure suitable nesting habitat for generations to come and will help reduce concentrations of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere.

Tools and gloves will be provided. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes. The group will meet near the parking lot of Commodore Park (3330 W Commodore Way).

To register, go here.

Seattle Parks volunteers log nearly 13,000 hours during Earth Month

April was Earth Month, and Seattle Parks and Recreation volunteers donated more than 12,775 hours to improving our parks and other greenspaces. The hard work and commitment of volunteer trailblazers, forest builders, environmental educators and urban farmers expands the depth and breadth of our programs. These volunteers and the community members they inspire represent the current and future generation of environmental leaders, and we’re so thankful for all they do.

There were 108 work parties hosted in April by various community partners. For more information on getting involved with our volunteer programs, go here.


Help Seattle Parks create a future forest in Discovery Park


Naturalist and restoration volunteer David Hutchinson stands at the site of a future forest in Discovery Park.

Naturalist and restoration volunteer David Hutchinson stands at the site of a future forest in Discovery Park.

Joni Mitchell once lamented, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” At Seattle Parks and Recreation we’re trying to do just the opposite. But we need your cooperation.

In 2010, the City of Seattle purchased the Capehart Parcel in Discovery Park for $11.1 million when the Navy decided to move its military personnel closer to its Everett base. There were 66 houses on the site which totaled nearly 30 acres.  Untitled

Discovery Park restoration volunteers had been eyeing the site for a long time. “There were few remaining native conifers in the park and the bulk of the forest trees were deciduous, like Red Alder and Big-leaf Maple,” Naturalist and restoration volunteer David Hutchinson said. “Most of them were in the last stages of their life. We felt it would be good to start a new coniferous old-growth native forest, some place where a Marbled Murrelet would be happy to nest in about 500 years.”  [Read more…]

Join City Fruit and Save Seattle’s Apples

Join City Fruit in a series of work party events to Save Seattle’s Apples! This spring campaign is meant to engage the community and promote awareness of the urban fruit trees, prevent common pests from spreading to nearby trees, keeping nutritious food from going to waste and helping to preserve the biological diversity of fruit trees in Seattle.

From noon – 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, City Fruit needs volunteers and volunteer groups to help place protective bags over the young apples growing along the Burke-Gilman Trail. These bags will keep out pests that like to eat the growing fruit. The more apples that can be protected, the more fruit that can be harvested and shared with the community.

Meet on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Wallingford. For more information, go here.

Teen service project honors homeless man, helps homeless people

Youth collected more than 10 bags of litter during their Teen Service Project on April 18.

Youth collected more than 10 bags of litter during their Teen Service Project on April 18.

On Saturday, April 18, more than 50 youth from Seattle, Tukwila and Renton came together for a community cleanup of Rainier Beach High School in honor of Charles Chappelle. Chappelle was a homeless man who lived behind the high school and dedicated himself to keeping Rainier Beach clean for more than 15 years. Students enjoyed talking with him, and he taught them the importance of taking care of their surroundings. 206 Forward – Youth Advocates of Seattle (206 Forward), a Seattle Parks and Recreation Citywide Teen and Young Adult club, hosted the event. [Read more…]

Environmental learning center to be named after longtime volunteer

Nancy Malmgren flierJoin Seattle Parks and Recreation at noon on Saturday, May 2, as the department names the new Carkeek Park environmental learning center in honor of Nancy Malmgren, a dedicated park volunteer. The event will take place at the center at 950 NW Carkeek Park Rd.

Nancy Malmgren first visited Carkeek Park in northwest Seattle in 1945 at the age of 16, and she’s maintained a strong connection to the park ever since. Ms. Malmgren’s daughter attended Carkeek Park’s annual Girl Scout Day Camp for six years and Nancy led different scout groups on expeditions throughout the park. In 1965, she began making restoration improvements to the area.

Ms. Malmgren has spent the last 40-plus years restoring Carkeek Park and the Piper’s Creek watershed. After securing funding from the Clean Water Act in 1979, Nancy and her husband Les started the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project in partnership with Ted Mohldendorph. The watershed group organized educational, habitat restoration and outreach activities in the area and the Malmgrens often spent full work weeks reinforcing stream channels and creating sustainable paths for salmon. By the late 1980s, the couple’s efforts were repaid when hundreds of chum salmon returned to the stream. [Read more…]

There’s still time! Find an Earth Month event near you

At Seattle Parks and Recreation, we work toward improving the quality of life for Seattle residents every day. Because our parks and natural areas provide tremendous educational and recreational opportunities, it is vital to maintain them; but we can’t do it without your help.

Volunteers play a crucial role in the City and their contributions are invaluable to Seattle Parks and Recreation. In 2014, 36,633 volunteers donated nearly 260,000 of hours of service to the department.

This April, we’ve been hosting work parties and other volunteer events in honor of Earth Month, and there are still plenty of opportunities to pitch in.

For a complete list of volunteer opportunities, visit the online calendar. Always call ahead to ensure that the volunteer event is still taking place. [Read more…]

Join in Carkeek Park’s 35th Annual Earth Day celebration

11094751_405769276263304_8692252526607294862_oJoin Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Public Utilities, the Carkeek Park Advisory Council and the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project for Carkeek Park’s 35th Annual Earth Day event from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 18. This inspiring day of service will include both one-time, day-of volunteer projects, such as a beach cleanup and trail restoration, as well as an opportunity to learn more about and sign up with volunteer groups and organizations that work in the park year-round. [Read more…]