Invasion of the Blackberry-Snatchers

Chris leads tool safety demonstration

Recently, I wrote about my experience as an AmeriCorps volunteer, learning how to lead students in restoration events.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Thursday, March 24.  8:30AM.  D-Day.  As I paced under the canopy at Farrel-McWhirter Park in Redmond, waiting for the yellow school bus to pull up, I took a swig from my water bottle and recited in my head what I would say.  I was nervous, definitely.  It was a fear of the unknown, of the understanding that whatever poured out of that bus –”Tweens,” it was rumored– they could tear me apart in a heartbeat, if they wanted to.  Would they want to?”

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Making Waves

Last month I attended the Partners in Community Forestry conference, hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation, in Portland, Oregon. A common theme echoing throughout the conference was how programs and ideas are making waves and subsequent ripples that extend beyond their own individual realms. At the end of the conference, the attendees were given a small rock with a “make waves” stamp. Right now, my rock is resting on my computer’s monitor, reminding me each day to go out and make a few splashes and ripples.

So, what kind of waves am I making? Since August, I was married amidst a five-day blur of family and friends gathered under large Ponderosa pines, went on a fabulous honeymoon to Corsica, helped my aunt and niece prepare for a move to Norway, surprised my best friend in her favorite Oakland cemetery for her birthday, and baked my first quiche with the fresh eggs from our three chickens, Gizzy, Squeaky, and Bhindi. Those are just a few of the lovely waves in my personal life.

At work, the waves are crashing on our shores daily. As the director of the Green Cities program, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to see the wide range of our work first-hand. Last week, representatives from all five of the Green Cities came together for the first time over a lunchtime brownbag, I was lucky enough to be a guest lecturer for an ESRM (Environmental Science and Resource Management) course at the University of Washington, and we finalized a Joint Venture Agreement with a stellar research team at the US Forest Service and King County. The brownbag was proof that the initial splash of the Green Seattle Partnership created waves and ripples that are now extending to more cities than ever imagined five years ago. The lecture was an excellent opportunity to show students how the basics of ecology and knowledge of forest systems are being applied to real-world projects in our Green Cities efforts; the splash of learning is creating waves and ripples in urban forest restoration. And, finally, the new research that will come from our partnership with the US Forest will surely produce a few waves and ripples for stewardship programs near and far. And, that was all in just three days!

Sometimes I feel like we are pushing a giant boulder, uphill both ways, while other times we are merely lobbing small pebbles. At moments, the work ahead of us seems insurmountable: “You are doing what?” “Trying to remove invasive species from how many acres?” “How are you possibly engaging the community at that level?” These are not uncommon questions. However, each answer is usually followed by a reaction of “how cool” or “wow, that’s amazing”. Those statements help us feel that we are up for the challenge, making small and big splashes each day and sending ripples out into the world along the way.

Happy End of 2009!


Stepping Out from Behind the Scenes

Over the past 10 months of my AmeriCorps term working for the Cascade Land Conservancy, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all the amazingly dedicated and hard working folk behind the Green City Partnerships. All of the CLC, Parks Department, and various partner non-profit staff I have worked with are truly passionate about their work. The speed at which these programs are growing is fueled by this passion, a shared vision of healthy parks, and of course amazing community support.

It is the simple truth that we could never accomplish our restoration goals without the brute strength and dedication of our amazing forest stewards and individual volunteers. You are an inspiration for all of us working for Green Cities and for your entire community! Some of my most memorable times over my term have been getting out from behind the computer and putting my hands in the dirt with a group of volunteers. The sheer amount of work you get done when joining together and the attitude you keep while fighting blackberry thorns or stubborn soil never ceases to impress me.

I want to pose a little challenge for anyone reading this. Being from Seattle myself, I was very surprised to realize how few of the parks I had actually visited before starting this position. This entire region and every Green City (Kent, Kirkland, Redmond, Seattle, and Tacoma) has many beautiful pockets of nature that are often hiding, indeed often behind the scenes of our normal reality. I simply encourage everyone to go explore those parks and natural areas that you’ve been meaning to visit or to  go find a new place you never even knew existed. You won’t regret it.

I can’t wait to see the amazing accomplishments that are made over the next few years in our Green City Programs & am excited to come back to our events as a volunteer!

Thank you to everyone who is helping to make sure our urban natural areas are being taken care of!

Behind the behind the scenes

Teamwork towards a healthy forest and a liveable city.  Photo by Ben Scott-Killian.
Teamwork towards a healthy forest and a livable city. Photo by Ben Scott-Killian.

When Sydney and I took our AmeriCorps pledge back in January at the Northwest Service Academy’s Mt. Adams Center, we avoided setting too many expectations.  We had no idea what our jobs working with the Green Cities program would entail.  Well, 10 months later, I think we’ve figured it out.   We’ll both be leaving CLC on Nov. 20th and wanted to share some thoughts from our term.  I’ll take this “Behind the Scenes” section and Syd will take the next one.

The goal of the AmeriCorps program is to give people the opportunity to help their communities.  We receive a modest living stipend and in return, we work to make America a healthier, safer place.  For me, it does not take an enormous stretch of the imagination to connect my work with the Green Cities program to AmeriCorps’ goals.

My roles in working for the Green Seattle Partnership have, thankfully, been exceptionally diverse.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead volunteer work parties and field surveys, and to go out and get dirty with our exceptionally hardcore Washington Conservation Corps field crew.  I’ve also accomplished a lot from behind the desk: the graphic design and layout for the Green Redmond 20-Year Strategic Plan, copy edit and layout for this year’s Green Seattle Day poster, and plenty of the tedious (but important) day-to-day activities (e.g. making sure our Forest Stewards’ events get posted to the Green Seattle website).  Oh, and maybe you’re our follower on Twitter or a fan on Facebook… I’m to blame for all those tweets and status updates.

This is me (lower right) sharing tree planting tips with a Redmond teen group. Photo by Bill Bankson.

Personally, I’ve probably only planted a dozen trees, removed only a few square yards of ivy, and an armful of blackberry rootballs.  Not a whole lot, especially compared to what some of our volunteer Forest Stewards do every year.  But I’m glad to be a part of the larger effort.  Together, we are making Seattle a healthy and desirable place to live, augmenting the ecological services that urban forests provide, and increasing access to vegetated habitat for many that have never experienced it.   I’m also glad to have been helping get the word out through social media– the next best thing to going out to volunteer is telling a friend about GSP, whether it is in person or on Facebook.

When I was coming to Seattle from the Northeast, my goal was to become an active member in an urban community, something that I have never had the chance to do.  Working for Green Cities has been critical for me in meeting this goal — I have been exposed to a community of people who are doing really amazing things for their communities.  Seattle is a better place to live because of our public greenspaces.


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