At the Green Seattle Partnership we are thankful everyday for our Forest Stewards. Without this dedicated group of environmental ambassadors, the restoration work necessary to achieve our goals would simply not happen. As 2018 comes to a close we would like to recognize a Forest Steward who goes above and beyond. Since 2016, she and her team have quite literally transformed 9 foot high Himalayan blackberry thickets to a budding forest complete with over 800 native plants.
“I love the work. I love watching the land transform in front of my eyes. I love working with the Green Seattle Partnership staff. I love working with the volunteers. I love serving Mother Nature.”
What park do you work at?
Cheasty Greenspace on North Beacon Hill.
How long have you been involved with Green Seattle and why did you chose the park where you work?
This stretch of Seattle’s Greenbelt is behind my house. The land had been overrun by blackberry vines and ivy for about 30-50 years. By 2016, the densely packed blackberry vines were five to nine feet tall on most of the property. One day in August of that year, I decided I wasn’t willing to stand by and watch trees die anymore. I found my shears and started cutting the vines away from the trees. Then I had an idea. I belong to a group known as GreenFriends. Some of the GreenFriends members in our area agreed to take on this endeavor as one of their projects. Soon thereafter, we started working with the Green Seattle Partnership.
What keeps you volunteering with the Green Seattle Partnership?
I love the work. I love watching the land transform in front of my eyes. I love working with the Green Seattle Partnership staff. I love working with the volunteers. I love serving Mother Nature. I am so grateful for all the help I receive from Green Seattle Partnership. The Partnership provides classes and supervision that is invaluable. They also provide us with the supplies we use and the trees, shrubs and ground covers we plant.
Do you have a favorite memory from your involvement?
I remember a time when I was cutting through a mass of blackberry vines and saw what looked like a small section of a concrete block. Over the next few weeks, I saw more glimpses of concrete. I remember thinking the block was at least eight feet long. What could it be? How did it get here? In March 2017, Seattle Parks Department staff cut down blackberry canes throughout the site. It was at that time, we discovered that the concrete was part of the slab foundation of a house. We think it might have burned down in the 1950’s. We turned that foundation into a place we call “The Rack Zone.” The rack zone contains the racks where we dry most of the invasive debris we have removed from the site.
What is something funny or unusual that has happened at an event/while volunteering?
It may seem strange, but I am fascinated by the trash we have found during work parties. We have removed around a hundred golf balls, four golf clubs, stuffed animals, and much, much more. My favorite items have been toy dinosaurs, a plumber’s tool kit from the 50’s, metal handcuffs and a gold bracelet studded with 27 “diamonds.” I found the bracelet, about six inches underground, when I was digging out a blackberry root ball. I assumed it was costume jewelry but as days went by, I kept thinking, “What if it isn’t?” I took it to a jeweler who, after looking at it under a microscope, determined that it was “fun jewelry”.
What part of the work makes you feel that you are making a difference in your community through forest restoration?
During the last 27 months we’ve replaced invasive plants with 88 trees and 750 shrubs and ground covers. There is no question that we are making a difference in our community as we restore this part of the Greenbelt to a place that provides shelter and food for wildlife, enhances air quality, and provides beauty and tranquility for humans and other living beings.
Is there a specific time when you looked at your restoration and felt like you were finally making progress? If so, tell us about it. If you haven’t had that moment yet, what do you think will make you feel like you are finally making progress on the ground?
Soon after I started the project, I realized that it would become much bigger than the area behind my house. Still, I was stunned and overwhelmed when the Seattle Parks Department staff cut down the invasive vines on most of the site. How in the world would we manage this huge amount of work with such a small number of volunteers? After a sleepless night, it occurred to me that it was a good opportunity to practice staying in the moment by focusing on one task at a time. That day, I decided to clear blackberries and weeds from one small area. Three hours later, I was amazed by how much I had accomplished. Suddenly, the project seemed doable. We would do it one step at a time.
If you were plant species found at your restoration site (native or non-native) which would it be and why?
I don’t have a clue how I am like Roemer’s fescue but I do know that the plant fascinates me!
If you aren’t working in the park where would we most likely find you and what would you be doing?
You would probably find me inside, in front of my laptop. I coordinate the process of putting together a monthly GreenFriends online newsletter that is usually 30-35 pages long. I also write for my blog, “Living, Learning and Letting Go.”
Anything else you want us to know?
We’ve offered around 40 work parties since we started this project. Some events have had three volunteers, our biggest had 47. I appreciate Shirley Rutherford, Claire Oravec, Haley Rutherford, and the other volunteers who have served as team leaders during our events. I appreciate Susan Zeaman, a Forest Steward from another Cheasty Greenspace park, who has been a mentor to me. I appreciate my neighbor John O’Brien who has attended almost every work party and has worked many hours on his own, or with me, in addition to the work parties. I appreciate the environmental science students, corporate groups and other volunteers who have supported this project through their enthusiasm and their labor.
To learn more about Karuna and her team’s work visit her blog by clicking here!
Want to have your own chance to meet Karuna and to hear more about her time as a Forest Steward with Green Seattle? Then starting in the new year, you should attend one of the upcoming volunteer work parties at Cheasty Blvd. and help Karuna to continue her Forest Steward legacy!
I think it’s lovely that you’ve recognized Karuna in your blog. I’ve visited her greenbelt project and was astonished at all she and her team of volunteers, with help from Green Seattle, have accomplished. It is definitely a labor of love and I’m very happy that green spaces are being supported by all of you.