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:


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.


Continued Learning

This past Saturday we had a great plant ID and forest association walk at the Northwest Native Plant Garden at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma with twenty community members participating!

Located in a well-maintained native plant garden, this identification walk focused primarily on native plants, their natural associations with other plants, and the kinds of habitat they prefer.  The Northwest Native Plant Garden was an ideal location for this type of walk because it features designed habitats such as the forest garden (semi-shade), the pond garden (wet areas and margin), the waterfall garden (moist shade), the woodland garden (dry shade), and the meadow (dry sun).

Native Plant ID Walk, Northwest Native Plant Garden
Community members break out of the forest to learn about meadow plants and habitat

Participants received information about plant propagation and then learned how to identify many plants that propagate well.  From those recommended in the Green Tacoma Partnership Habitat Steward Field Guide, we learned how to identify black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), various roses (Rosa spp.), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), willow (Salix spp.), spirea (Spiraea douglasii), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), Indian-plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii), red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), and western redcedar (Thuja plicata).

The next plant identification walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 15th at Oak Tree Park (sign up).  As an active restoration site, participants will not only be able to hone their native plant ID skills, but there will also be ample opportunity to learn more about invasive plants commonly found in urban forests and greenspaces and the best way to manage those.  As we progress through the year and plants begin to flower, fruit and develop seeds, we will offer educational walks and workshops on seed collection and dispersal.  All of these educational opportunities, as well as regular volunteer work parties where you can join friends, family and neighbors in improving the community can be found through CEDAR.  Sign up online and invite your friends!

This educational opportunity was made possible through funding from the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program.

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.

Native Plant Propagator Workshop – Live Staking and Hardwood Cutting

Back in December, Forterra hosted a live staking and hardwood cutting workshop at Titlow Park in Tacoma.  After sporadic bouts of rain, we were lucky to have a beautiful December morning to learn more about propagating our own native plants for our restoration sites.

Why use live stakes and hardwood cuttings for native plant restoration?

Removing invasive plants
Removing invasive plants to make room for live stakes

Native plants have evolved for thousands of years and adapted to the soil, climate, and ecological conditions of the region.  This means that they are well-suited to take on not only long bouts of wet weather with low light, but also the dry Pacific Northwest summers that challenge the survival of non-native plants.  Because natives are so well adapted to these conditions, it means that they require less care and maintenance than non-native plants – this saves us time and money in our restoration projects.

Native plants can be sourced in a variety of ways such as in pots, plugs, as bare roots, from seeds, or from cuttings.  Each of these has advantages and disadvantages.  One of the main advantages of using live stakes and hardwood cuttings for your restoration projects is that these materials are cheap, often just costing an investment of your time, easy to store and transport, and easy to plant.

When is the best time to take cuttings and plant live stakes?

The best time to collect plant material to live stake is from late fall through early spring.  This is when plants in the Pacific Northwest are dormant.  This is also the best time to plant live stakes because they need fairly wet soil when planted.  This helps the stake establish new roots, and it makes planting much easier than in hard, dry soil.

What things should I consider when collecting live stakes or hardwood cuttings?

The first thing to know is that not all native plants are will propagate well as stakes or from cuttings.  While it’s OK to experiment some, and we encourage you to talk to other stewards, volunteers, neighbors and restoration professionals to share what works, it’s good to have a few “go-to” plants that we know do well.  These are listed below:

Native plants that propagate well from live stakes*

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)

Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Willows (Salix spp.)

Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)

Spirea/Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii)

Native plants that propagate well from hardwood cuttings*

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Willows (Salix spp.)

Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)

Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)

Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)

Indian-plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)

Mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)

Wild blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Spirea/Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii)

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Western yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Western redcedar (Thuja plicata)

What’s the difference between a live stake and a cutting?

Willow stake bundle
Willow stake bundle

At this workshop, we learned that live stakes can be planted right away – on the same day in fact.  Because of this, live stakes tend to be thicker and longer than cuttings.  While typical thickness varies from ½ in – 1 ½ in, for live stakes, the thicker the better because we “plant” them using a rubber mallet.  Stakes should be about 3 feet long (see photo).  We worked with willow and red-osier dogwood for this workshop, but we noted that spirea stakes planted nearly a year ago are doing very well.

Cuttings, on the other hand, aren’t planted immediately.  These are from species that behave differently and need to be held with their root-side in moist sawdust or soil in a cool, dark place for a few months.  After a while, these form a callous and will begin to send out roots.  Once they begin to root, pot them up in their own one-gallon containers, move to a place where they can get light and keep them watered.  By doing this, you can have hundreds of plants for your site next year.  This is also good motivation to get some more area cleared from invasive plants during those dry summer months.  Because they receive this extra care, cuttings are much smaller than stakes.  At a minimum, they should be the thickness of a pencil, and about 8 inches long (see photo).  We worked mainly with salmonberry for the workshop.

Salmonberry cuttings
Processing salmonberry cuttings

In total, more than 26 people attended this workshop.  It was a great mix of Green Tacoma Partnership Habitat Stewards, community members, and even Washington Conservation Crews!  Everybody learned a lot and participants went home with cuttings to care for and prepare for later planting in GTP restoration areas.

Forterra is planning to offer similar workshops throughout 2013.  Of course, it is difficult to take cuttings if you don’t know what a plant is, so we’ll be including a winter twig ID walk, native and invasive plant ID walks and practices, as well as seed collection activities.  You can find out more about these opportunities, as well as connect to regular GTP work parties through CEDAR.

*Adapted from “Grow Your Own Native Landscape: A Guide to Identifying, Propagating, & Landscaping with Western Washington Native Plants.” Michael Leigh. WSU Extension. 1999.

This workshop was made possible through funding from the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program.  This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Join the forest monitoring team

Calling all citizen scientists! Join the Green Cities Network’s growing community of volunteers collecting scientific data about our urban green spaces. The Forest Monitoring Team is a new group of volunteers who will help us to better understand and manage the progress of our restoration efforts. No experience is necessary. Volunteers will attend one introductory training and commit to establishing at least 2 monitoring plots in local parks and natural areas (but more is encouraged!), between July and October.

To learn more, visit the EarthCorps website, watch this video of super forest monitor Tom Kelly, or get in touch with Malia Caracoglia, malia@earthcorps.org, 206.992.6853.

The last training date is coming up, so sign up now by contacting Malia directly at the email or phone number above. We are putting together a Forest Monitoring Team in Seattle, Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, and Kent, but volunteers from any city are welcome to join the last training at Camp Long in West Seattle.

What does it take to become a forest monitor?

  • Attend one introductory training and one small group practicum training
  • Ability to identify plant species (or enthusiastic about learning!)
  • Ability to take precise measurements
  • Ability to record and transmit data using written forms and online data entry
  • Ability to walk on uneven ground, sometimes through vegetation
  • Commitment is flexible, but ask that you are available to assist with at least two plots during the monitoring season (1 plot = 3-4 hours)
  • A good sense of humor and appreciation for the outdoors

Restoration continues in the face of vandalism

This sad news comes to us from King5.com, reporting yesterday on vandalism to the forest restoration effort at Garfield Park in Tacoma. Green Tacoma Partnership Habitat Steward Rob Girvin has been working for the past seven years to re-establish conifers and maintain a healthy forest in the ravine next to the park, logging over 500 hours to date of his own time and leading other volunteers who contributed 255 hours last year alone, says Metro Parks Tacoma. Last week he arrived at the park to find many new plantings destroyed. From King5.com:

The young ones were pulled from the ground and tossed into the woods, others were cut off at the bottom and left where they lay. Girvin rescued the ones he could find, took them home and replanted them. He’ll nurse them back to health and replant them.

The severed trees cannot be saved.

Police are investigating and neighbors are on alert, but so far there are few leads and nobody can come up with a possible motive.

Girvin wants the culprits caught but won’t be intimidated. He spent part of Monday like he has hundreds of days in the last seven years, planting a young evergreen in the ravine.

We were very upset to hear this news, but are inspired by Rob’s unwavering dedication to the park. We encourage anyone who can to join in the next Garfield Park work party and help this great project continue. Visit the Green Tacoma Partnership website to see upcoming volunteer opportunities, or sign up for the listserve to have them emailed to you each week.

Metro Parks Tacoma also reported on the event here, including a small correction to the King5 video: conifers to be planted this week were purchased through a grant from Sustainable Tacoma, not by the DaVita Corporation. Employees from DaVita will volunteer at Garfield Park this Thursday to help Rob replant some of the destroyed site in response to the recent vandalism.

What are you doing for MLK Day?

Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service has become an annual call to action to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King by volunteering in our communities. Healthy urban natural areas are vital to the environmental, social, and economic health of a city. Join the Green Cities Network in Seattle, Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, and Kent to ensure that urban natural areas stay healthy for generations to come.

In the words of Dr. King, “Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve.”

Answer the call! Register for a work party near you.