1,500 volunteers make Green City Days great in 2015

The Puget Sound regional event series known as Green City Days grew this year, finishing strong with a total of 1,512 volunteers participating in seven events over the course of two months. These volunteers worked together to restore and explore local green spaces, planting just over 9,000 native trees and shrubs that will grow up into the future of our healthy urban forest.

The Green City Days series added two more cities this year, to include in total: Seattle, Tacoma, Kirkland, Kent, Redmond, Everett, and Puyallup. While the various Green City Partnerships that created these days regularly host more than 1,500 other restoration events throughout the year, Green City Days are special, celebrating our forested parks and natural areas and the many volunteers and partners that help community-based stewardship programs thrive throughout the year. Businesses, schools, community groups, non-profit organizations, and individuals joined together during these annual service days in October and November to kickoff the Pacific Northwest’s planting season.

In 2015, Green City Days volunteers contributed 4,663 hours of time to restore 35 different urban parks and green spaces across the Puget Sound.

It was the first year that Kirkland and Puyallup hosted a signature event of this kind, and both had a rainy experience on November 14th. But stormy weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Sharon Rodman, Green Kirkland Partnership Supervisor with Kirkland Parks & Community Services said, “Kirkland’s first Green Kirkland Day was a great success and it inspired us to make it an annual tradition.”

The Green Puyallup Partnership, launched earlier this year, is already getting great community support. A volunteer in Puyallup, excited by the effort, stated, “Green Puyallup Day and other events like it are a step in the right direction. Although there are many miles to go, I’m glad I could help make this happen.”

Green Kirkland Day:
Green Puyallup Day:

Green City Days are great opportunities for youth and families to get outside together and have fun while giving back to their local parks. The Green Kent Partnership hosted a fall “Student Challenge” among local high schools leading up to Green Kent Day, which was a huge success. Kent-Meridian High School pulled off a real upset this year with the most number of students attending fall volunteer events, winning bragging rights and prestigious green bandanas!

Green Kent Day:

GCD4

Tacoma’s First Creek Middle School teacher Donna Chang continued her school’s annual tradition of hosting Green Tacoma Day to get students and neighbors involved in caring for the natural area adjacent to the school. After a morning of hard work, all of the participants were appreciated with donated prizes and pizza to celebrate.

Green Tacoma Day:

Highlights from Green Redmond Day included a visit from Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who dug in and planted trees alongside everyone else, and a record-setting number of volunteers despite harsh weather that day.

Green Redmond Day:

Green Everett Day was the only event that lucked out with beautiful, sunny weather. A record turnout of 105 volunteers participated, a 40% increase from last year.

Green Everett Day:
Green Seattle Day:

Green Seattle Day, the largest event, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Now an annual tradition for many residents, the event continued to draw a big crowd with 792 volunteers across the city at 16 different parks.

About Green Cities

Access to healthy parks is vital to our cities and our quality of life. Eight Puget Sound cities, including Kent, Everett, Kirkland, Redmond, Seattle, Tacoma, Tukwila, and Puyallup, currently make up the Green Cities Network. Collectively, they are working to restore, maintain, and care for over 7,800 acres of publicly-owned urban natural areas and forested parks. Each Green City partners with Forterra to establish a community-based restoration program that brings together local non-profits, community groups, city agencies, neighborhood leaders, and local businesses to support healthy urban green spaces for the future of our region. You can learn more about the Green City Partnerships and Forterra at forterra.org/greencities.

Tell us how you really feel, Seattle

surveyJoin the conversation! What do you value about Seattle’s Natural Areas and Greenbelts? Nobody knows what’s important to you quite like you do.

Seattle Parks is conducting a public input process this spring to find out what people value most in our public greenspaces. They want to hear from you! From now through mid-April, different questions will be posed here for your to make your voice heard. So check back frequently and contribute a thought about your favorite park or natural area. Public input matters!

This isn’t any old survey…. The intent of this effort is to develop values-based guidelines for the appropriate use of these areas. Check out some background information on this project, here.

And save the date for a mini-summit where the results of the public input process will be presented along with next steps:

Date: April 4, 2015; Time: 9:30-12:30
Location: Seattle Center Armory Loft

Thank you for giving your input to this process so that we can all help make Seattle’s park system the best it can be!

Seattle Parks Rewrites the Story of Memory Loss

Dementia-2-1024x768Yet another reason our urban forests are such an important part of the City: they help improve the lives of people living with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 68 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s hard to change the statistics regarding memory loss, but Seattle Parks and Recreation is trying to change the memory loss story. By offering programming specifically designed to comfort, engage, and inspire people suffering from memory loss, recreation specialist Mari Becker says, “We are part of the movement to transform what it means to be living with dementia.”

Programming includes going for walks in the parks, watercolor classes, and other activities to be added this spring. Participants really appreciate the social aspect: “Living with memory loss doesn’t have to mean staying at home, feeling isolated,” Becker said. Being outside and experiencing nature is also known to help Alzheimer’s patients, including improving sleep patterns and decreasing aggression.

By volunteering in a forested park, you can help make sure we have healthy, safe, natural public spaces for these kinds of programs, and for everyone in the City. Click here to volunteer with the Green Seattle Partnership.

Tomorrow is Neighborday! How are you celebrating?

neighbordayApril 27th is officially Neighborday, so we’d like to salute all of the awesome things that Green Cities volunteers are doing in their neighborhoods all year. Bringing people together, building community, creating meaningful and welcoming public spaces, improving our urban environmental health . . . the list goes on.

The website GOOD has included a lot of coverage lately leading up to Neighborday, inviting folks across the country to “a global celebration of the people with whom we share space.” They’ve posted some  theoretical pieces on what makes good “neighboring”, and a hands-on toolkit with things you can download to get started with your own ideas. Neighborday is being celebrated across the country with fun events like pot-lucks, skill-shares, scavenger hunts, and art projects.

Want to celebrate Neighborday by volunteering in your local neighborhood natural area? Check out Green Seattle, Tacoma, Kirkland, Redmond, Kent, and Everett‘s websites for the next chance to jump in on a work party.

Get out and meet your neighbors! Happy Neighborday from the Green Cities Network.

The Mulching Season

I work as a Forest Steward and Washington Native Plant Steward at a forest restoration site in the East Duwamish Greenbelt in South Seattle.  The project is part of the Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) and encompasses an area of a bit more than one acre.

I took this project on with three teammates who were in the same Washington Native Plant Society class in 2011 and we’ve been working on it ever since.  This coming August will be two years at the site and we’ve made some great progress.  But it has taken a ton of work, and a lot of support from many different people and organizations involved in GSP, especially Seattle Parks and Recreation, Forterra, Student Conservation Association, and EarthCorps.

Photo of mulched bareroots, Green Seattle Partnership
Recently mulched bareroot plants on our Green Seattle Partnership restoration site

Earlier this month we held our regular work party, and I was very pleased with how our bareroot plants were looking.  OK, admittedly, for some reason the Oregon grape doesn’t seem to be doing so well on our site, but really everything else is growing well.  And in early April in Seattle, most of the new native plants were already showing a lot of new leaves!  Of course the best plants were the bareroots that we planted about a year ago, but even those that we planted earlier this year seem to be taking to their new home.  So for this particular work party, a group of about 7 of us spent 3 hours filling buckets with mulch and making sure that these new plants are “tucked in” for the coming dry months.

I felt compelled to share our success with the world, because it seems that many people invest all of the time and energy to remove invasive plants from a site and get them replaced with what promises to be a batch of beautiful native plants.  And they stop there.  But it isn’t planting that is the most valuable part of the process; rather, it is the three years after the plant is in the ground that is critical.  And though moving mulch for three hours on a Saturday morning may seem more mundane than tearing out ivy or demonstrating our dominion over armored blackberry canes, there is a quiet satisfaction in knowing that this simple task is what will make the site great.  The simple act of spreading mulch around new plants will help enrich the soil and hold valuable moisture around the plant’s roots while it establishes its root system.

So here’s to the power of mulching!  I encourage anybody who reads this to find a work party in any Green City and help spread some mulch before things dry out for the year.

Seattle Ranks in the Top 10 U.S. Cities for Urban Forests!

Re-posted from Forterra’s blog

10bestcitiesforurbanforestsAmerican Forests announced recently that Seattle’s urban forests are among the top 10 in the nation! The ranking is based on six criteria: civic engagement, strategic planning, accessibility to the public, overall health of the urban forest, documented knowledge and management activities.

This ranking is a big pat on the back for our partner agencies, volunteer stewards, and researchers who have contributed extensively to the planning, implementation and monitoring of Seattle’s urban forest. The American Forests report cites research produced by Forterra and the Green Cities Research Alliance. Published in 2012, the Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values report summarizes forest structure and ecosystem service values based on data collected throughout the City of Seattle.

The other cities recognized include Sacramento, Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, and Washington, DC. For more information visit: http://www.americanforests.org/our-programs/urbanforests/10-best-cities-for-urban-forests/.