2020 looked different for the Green Seattle Partnership in many ways. The pandemic disrupted our volunteer events, reduced funding committed to restoration work, limited training activities, and hugely impacted partnerships with youth and school programs, not to mention its impacts on the day-to-day lives of the individuals that make up the partnership. Despite the pandemic and the turmoil within the United States, GSP has continued to get work done with help from the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) staff, partner organizations, and dedicated Forest Stewards.
The Partnership at Work
Green Seattle Partnership would not be successful without our partners. Our biggest partner has always been the Seattle community who come out and volunteer to get the work done in Seattle’s parks. For 9 months of 2020, much of our volunteer work came to a grinding halt.
This year, we are particularly appreciative of SPR’s Natural Area Crew. This group is always a valuable component of the GSP team, providing professional restoration services as well as supporting volunteer efforts and other department response needs. In 2020, however, they not only performed mission essential functions of weed control and restoration establishment work, but they also supported numerous additional department needs resulting from lack of staffing in other programs. They completed and maintained multiple planting projects, and also assisted the Seattle Trails program and Park District Staff with trail improvement projects and park maintenance. In addition, they helped keep young trees and plants alive by watering around the city on a weekly basis throughout the summer. Want to see the fruits of some of their labor? Check out along the stairs Maple School Ravine in Beacon Hill!
Doubling Down on Anti-Racist Urban Forestry
Along the way, we have also been reflecting and focusing our work to be anti-racist, acknowledging stewardship done by indigenous peoples before colonialization, and doing our part to make more welcoming green spaces for all in Seattle. There is lots more work to do, and we are committed to maintaining anti-racism as a crucial component of our program. Despite the work still to be done, let’s still celebrate our accomplishments and flexibility in a whirlwind of a year!
Ecological Restoration Wins
In 2020, Green Seattle Partnership continued to enroll park lands into restoration and further the work at other parks. Active asset management and green infrastructure maintenance were determined to be part of SPR’s mission essential functions during the pandemic. GSP successfully made the argument that those functions included weed control for public safety and compliance, and establishment work to protect millions of dollars’ worth of restoration investment. As a result, GSP work was able to proceed through the SPR Natural Area Crew, professional contract crews, trained Forest Stewards, and volunteer coordination consultants who pivoted event coordination activities to staff restoration efforts. This year 64 acres were enrolled in restoration for a total 1,845 acres being restored with the Green Seattle Partnership!
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) begins Taylor Creek Restoration
The culvert under Rainier Avenue that conveys Taylor Creek under the roadway into Lake Washington is to be removed in the next few years. This project led by SPU will have a positive impact on this Southeast Seattle stream that runs through Lakeridge Park. To prepare for that work, SPU is supporting restoration activities on the “East Ravine Wall” of the park. This steep part of the park potentially contributes sediment into the creek, so crews are removing weeds, stabilizing soils and replanting before the work to come. We look forward to seeing the impacts of this project in the future!
New Acres Restored on the East Duwamish!
GSP continues to dedicate work in the greenbelts along the Duwamish waterway where there is significant forest to restore. In the last few years, we have focused work in the greenspaces that cover the western portion of Beacon Hill. Contracted crews, Parks Natural Area Crew, and thousands of volunteers have removed upwards of 100 acres of weeds and replanted 60,000 native plants (including 13K+ trees) from Dr. Jose Rizal Park to MLK Boulevard. Visible from I-5, this forest is familiar, but remote to most of us due to steep terrain and limited public access.
The Value of Our Work
GSP’s work to steward Seattle’s forest for the benefit of the community and our wildlife is important, and depends on involvement from us all. Our work depends on our partners’ investments and in 2020, GSP received $658,722 from Partner Organizations and community members. Likewise, the labor of our volunteers is necessary to get the work done for Seattle’s forests. In 2020, volunteers contributed 25,644 hours, which is valued at $852,963! Thank you to all our partners who funded our work and the volunteers who fueled it!
Community Engagement Pivots
During a year that included a lot of sacrifices to keep our community safe, GSP pivoted programming and accomplished things we had never dreamed of before.
- Forest Stewards dedicated a higher percentage of hours than ever before, with 52% of the volunteer hours completed by Forest Stewards.
- We expanded engagement with youth by offering 40 youth job training positions and 4 youth-led workshops, to engage the next generation in land stewardship and the green job pipeline.
- Our first ever virtual Green Seattle Days celebration was a huge success, with 1000+ participants in virtual GSP workshops and 8 youth-led small events in south Seattle parks.
- Despite the disruption of the pandemic, we were able to onboard 28 new Forest Stewards for a total of 193 active Forest Stewards who provide community and forest restoration leadership in their neighborhoods across the city.
- The Green Seattle Partnership’s biggest step towards engaging with volunteers again was figuring out how to host COVID safe volunteer events. By November, Forest Stewards and staff began hosting 5-person volunteer events. Even though working outside in a mask isn’t the most comfortable at times, it is wonderful to be back outside and in time for the planting season! To keep the momentum going, check out our volunteer page and look over our COVID protocols and volunteer opportunities!
- As GSP is committing our work to be anti-racist, we recognize the original stewardship of Seattle’s forests by the Coast Salish people since time immemorial. We acknowledge Native land was taken by force, settled and colonized. We seek to understand our place within that history while disrupting further claims to Indigenous land in our practice of ecological restoration. Accordingly, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s GSP Team has been exploring partnerships to safeguard Indigenous access to the forested parklands to center Traditional Ecological Knowledge in greenspace land management efforts. In 2020, GSP began partnerships with Daybreak Star, UIAT (United Indians of All Tribes Foundation), and Na’ah Illahee Fund. These partners are working on exciting new projects with GSP, look out for our new partner highlight to learn more. We are looking forward to partnering with Seattle’s multi-cultural indigenous community to care for our forest and communities!
Thanks to all of you who contributed to these statistics and stories, and gave us something to celebrate in 2020! We appreciate all of you, and look forward to continuing this work in 2021.