Bridging Communities in South Seattle: A profile of Andrea Ostrovsky and Mary DeJong, Forest Stewards at Cheasty Greenspace

IMG_0529Before 2008, the Cheasty Greenspace was a much different place than it is today.  The park’s trees were being smothered by English Ivy, its open spaces were being filled in by dumping, and its dark trails regularly hosted an assortment of illicit activities.  The early work of the Greenspace’s forest stewards, Mary DeJong and Andrea Ostrovsky, involved working with the Seattle Police Department to locate encampments and with volunteers to create survivor rings for hundreds of the park’s trees.

Today, the park feels safer.  Sunlight, previously blocked by the dense overstory of ivy, now streams through the trees to welcome visitors who come to enjoy the Greenspace’s trails and natural beauty.  This change is the result of the hard work of Cheasty’s neighbors, including Andrea and Mary – the restoration efforts devoted leaders.

The two met over their “passion for the need for safe forested parks in our urban neighborhoods within which ALL could safely enjoy and recreate.”  They now host community work parties in the Greenspace on the first Saturday of every month.  Volunteers, including a dedicated group from Seattle Pacific University, have cleared invasive species from over half of the site’s acreage.  But they aren’t stopping at ivy removal.

Aside from the ongoing restoration at Cheasty, Mary and Andrea have a greater vision for their work. They see the Greenspace as a potential link between Beacon Hill’s Lockmore neighborhood and Columbia City.  “How amazing would it be to walk in the woods to the Columbia City Light Rail Station en route to work downtown?” asks Mary.  The value of adding natural areas to the morning commute is very clear.  They also see Cheasty as a venue for the diverse and traditionally underserved Rainier Valley community to get outside and enjoy experiences in an urban wilderness.

The two are thankful for the support of the Green Seattle Partnership in helping them achieve their goals.  Mary explained, “I am amazed that an organization exists to assist average citizens and impact change to this level.”  They both encourage citizens of Seattle to “Get Involved!”

To get involved with Cheasty Greenspace, attend one of their volunteer events posted on the Green Seattle website and the Friends of Cheasty Greenspace Facebook.