After two years working with Forterra, outgoing Stewardship Associate, Mariska Kecskes, is prone to nightmares about invasive plants – like knotweed being planted in her front yard or a tattoo of a Western hemlock being mistakenly inked on her arm as English ivy.
In the past year as our AmeriCorps Individual Placement, Mariska lead over 900 volunteers to complete over 63,000 square feet of restoration and maintenance and install over 1,000 native trees and shrubs. She spent her first year with Forterra as part of the restoration crew with Washington Conservation Corps, ripping out invasive species throughout the Puget Sound region.
Mariska is busy wrapping up loose ends during her last few days with Forterra but took some time to answer a few questions.
First things first. Do you like eating blackberries anymore?
Yes. I like to think that by eating blackberries, I’m preventing birds from eating them and spreading them everywhere.
Why did you decide to work a second year with Forterra?
I have always been impressed by Forterra’s holistic approach to environmental issues so I applied to their Stewardship Associate – AmeriCorps Individual Placement position. I believe that it’s important to not just focus on one isolated issue.
What was rewarding about your job?
It was great to see the progress that can be made during one work party. You start with a huge blackberry bush patch and by the end feel so accomplished. It helps you feel proactive about restoration and understand why maintaining a healthy habitat in and outside of the city is a long but necessary process.
What is challenging about your job?
Sometimes it’s hard to detach myself from my restoration work. Driving along I-5 is a struggle now because I look around and can’t help but get stressed out by the amount of weeds along the highway.
What’s something cool you’ve learned?
I’m happy that I’m able to identify so many plants. Not only does it impress colleagues, turns out it’s also a great way to impress dates on hikes! Nothing makes you an object of desire like pointing out all the edible wild berries or saving someone from a stinging nettle.
Before you leave us, do you have any tips to share?
First, if you ever take part in restoration – as a volunteer or otherwise – try to visit the site again in the future. It is really gratifying to watch your impact literally grow and it helps you understand the importance of the work you did. Second, when you spend a lot of time pulling blackberry bushes and have endless scratches, it’s easiest to just tell people that you have angry cats.
Mariska will be heading to graduate school for an MSc in Environmental Science & Policy at Central European University. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for her incredible two years of service! If you or someone you know is interested in joining Forterra’s Restoration Crew through the Washington Conservation Corps, check out WCC’s website for more information!
Forterra’s exciting new C3 program (Carbon Capturing Companies), spearheaded by Pearl Jam, is working to engage local businesses about their carbon footprint. In addition, this is creating an amazing opportunity for community-lead tree planting for carbon sequestration.
A bunch of great local companies from the Seattle Sounders and Seahawks to Cherry St. Coffee and Molly Moon’s Ice Cream have committed to reducing their carbon usage and sequestering carbon through tree planting. These efforts will be completed on urban parks in the communities where the businesses work and their customers live and play.
Submission period has been extended through September 10th!
Forterra is looking for homes for these companies’ carbon. This means free trees! Native conifers will be available in the late fall to all who apply and agree to maintain and monitor the trees through their establishment. Application and more information available on the Forterra webpage.
Green City Partnerships encourage Stewards to compost their invasive plant waste on-site when applicable. Check out this great video to show how to make a top-notch compost pile. Special thanks to the 2008-2009 Washington Conservation Corps Crew for making this great video. For more information about building compost piles on-site, and other Best Management Practices for Urban Forest Restoration check out the Forest Steward Field Guide: http://greenseattle.org/forest-steward-resources-1/forest-steward-field-guide
Our region exists across a dramatic gradient: from the peaks of the Cascades and Olympics to the Sound; from the wildlands of the National Parks and Forests to the urban cores of our cities. This sphere encompasses all of our cities; our jobs and homes. It also provides the spaces in which we interact with the natural world. But a lot of questions about this interaction exist:
What value is nature to me, or to my community?
Is my environment in danger?
What impact do I have on nature in my city?
How can we improve the natural resources in our communities?
Since late 2009, the Green City Partnerships have been participating in a collaboration with a US Forest Service Research effort called the Green Cities Research Alliance. This work is similar to exciting research that is being completed across the country like Chicago, NYC, and Baltimore looking at the interaction of people with ‘everyday nature’, in the places where they live, work, and play across the gradient.
It is important to understand the value of ‘green’ to all our landscapes, not only our forests and farms, but also the green in our cities. Within our gradient we have a variety of types of landscapes, but also cities too! We live in small towns and exurban communities. And work in industrial centers and mixed use spaces. We shop at malls, on mainstreets, and mom and pop’s. Each of our communities can and does benefit from nature in their own unique way.
The Green Cities Research Alliance is conducting efforts to better understand this relationship of our cities with the natural world. Research includes investigation of:
The people stewarding our parks and open spaces
The quality of natural habitats
Economic and other values of nature
Public health, and the benefits of outdoor restoration and recreation
Amazing work like this in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere is springing up like crazy: check out this, and this, and this, and this here. Green Cities Research Projects hope to uncover information about our interaction with everyday nature like these projects have, that can help our region thrive through health and stability, as well as provide data that is useful in cities across the country. We will make an effort to keep you informed. Please check back regularly for posts on the Science of Green Cities to see what we are discovering!