Most Madrona residents haven’t YET enjoyed a work party in Madrona Woods. Here’s a sketch of what goes into making a work party happen and what to expect WHEN you join in the fun.
When you arrive at the tool box near the Spring Street entrance at 10:00 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month, you’ll find clean gloves (washed by elves?) and tools appropriate for the day’s work laid out. Some of these have been taken out of that toolbox, and others have been brought from other tool boxes or people’s homes. Deirdre McCrary and Peter Mason have recently been responsible for gathering everything as well as for selecting and setting up work sites. The latter usually involves building platforms out of scavenged branches on which to stack removed invasives, which otherwise might root if placed on the earth. It is current Parks Department policy to mulch what is removed on site.
Sometimes there will be hot coffee for participants, especially if an outside group will be adding its muscle. It has to be brought that morning from Starbucks. There may also be hand-baked goodies brought by Deirdre or our other refreshments provider Tom Kushner. If mulching is involved in the day’s projects, Deirdre or Peter will have arranged with the Parks Department to deliver wood chip mulch at a designated spot and will have lined up lots of buckets and wheelbarrows.
Most often this winter and spring, the work sites will be in the southeast corner of the Woods, the last area slated for restoration. Likely tasks will include pulling out ivy and small holly and laurel trees by the roots, digging up larger holly and laurel and entrenched blackberry plants, and mulching with cardboard (collected ahead of time from a cooperative BMW dealer) and wood chips. There will likely be some planting in March. At our last work party we removed and piled invasives on platforms under lovely old cedars and were delighted to uncover a few native survivors like Oregon grape, salal, and sword ferns. We talked and laughed and used muscles we knew would complain the next day, though virtuous pain is somehow easier to take than other kinds. Less vigorous tasks are always available. The scenery and the company really can’t be beat.
The Seattle Parks Foundation is FOMW’s fiscal sponsor for our SE Woods restoration project. To make a tax-deductible gift to this project online, click here, and select Madrona Woods from the donation designation drop down list halfway down the page. If you want to give by check, designate Madrona Woods in the memo line and mail the check to:
Seattle Parks Foundation
105 South Main St #235
Seattle, WA 98104
We are putting together grant proposals for a project to restore the final unrestored 1.5 acre SE corner of Madrona Woods. We also plan to add a kiosk and some interpretive signs. As part of applying for a Department of Neighborhoods grant, we need pledges of volunteer hours from community members. Anyone who is willing to pledge time to do any of the following:
- Restoration work: clearing and planting
- Social media (Facebook??)
- Work party food
- Sign design
- Plant selection
- Ideas for what to do with the car when we uncover it.
Please contact Peter Mason at 388-6490, peterma5 at msn dot com.
There will be more details here about this project as it proceeds.
Those of us who have invested so much in the Madrona Woods restoration are getting a grand payoff now as we watch nature take over where we’ve provided openings in the woods, the ravine, and the natural area. The plants we put in are growing and creating lush landscapes and habitat. Madrona Park Creek is flowing through the scenic ponds and into the lake, giving us its lovely sound and providing nutrients for migrating salmon fingerlings. And we thrill to the wonderful self-regeneration of native plants happening in some parts of the woods that have been cleared of invasives: thimbleberry in the meadow, bunches of trilliums popping up in unexpected places in early spring, and swaths of Oregon grape and salal filling in all over.
We hope many of you are enjoying the beauty and growing diversity with us. Put a walk through the woods or cove on your summer agenda. Let me know if you’d like a guide to help you identify plants and to discover where to look for particular favorites. Or go to the native plant Gallery, to find pictures of native plants in the different seasons.
Our planters par excellence over the past few months have been Ann, Deirdre, and Peter. Deirdre and Peter have tackled the steep slopes which are hard for many to access. Deirdre has planted around 1,500 natives, and Peter has planted around 500, many of which he propagated himself. Many thanks to them for their dedication and hard work. Since these plants will need to be watered over the dry summer months, we’ll be suspending our regular monthly work parties so our more goat-footed volunteers can put their effort there whenever it’s timely.
A spring-fed stream now flows from the steep ravine above Madrona Woods, under 38th Avenue in a pipe, through the Woods in the ravine along Spring Street, under Lake Washington Boulevard, through Madrona Park’s restored natural area and into Lake Washington at a newly created wetland cove. Salmon are likely to find Madrona Park Creek too small for spawning, but their young can rest under sheltering shrubs in the quiet cove or several small pools and feed on the nutrients brought down by the stream before continuing on their way up Lake Washington and out to the Sound in May and June.
Over the past sixteen years, Friends of Madrona Woods has teamed up with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation to turn this nine-acre urban forest into a welcoming place for people and wildlife and to encourage its return to a more natural and sustainable state. This has involved clearing invasive ivy, holly, laurel, clematis and blackberry and revegetating with native trees, shrubs, and ground covers; improving existing and creating new trails; and daylighting two streams. In the process of stream daylighting, FOMW added the Madrona Ravine west of 38th and a new natural area and cove in Madrona Park to its stewardship.
We bid a fond farewell to students who have been working with us throughout the school year. Lauren Honican from Garfield and Letha Penhale from Nathan Hale came faithfully on the second Sunday of each month to remove invasives, mulch, and plant native plants along the sidewalk between Spring Street and Lake Washington Boulevard. They made a tremendous difference. We enjoyed working with them and are most grateful.
Our UW Capstone team of Kim Jones, Frosty Hance, and Jason Saura tackled the steep hillside west of Lake Washington Boulevard, working with groups of volunteers to remove invasives, apply jute netting to the steepest portions, and plant and mulch on the slope and ridge above. They also made a huge difference, and we will miss working and learning with them.
We are extremely grateful to Mimi Kraus for her generous bequest to enhance Madrona’s parks and recreational facilities and to the Madrona Community Council for its allotment of $25,300 to Madrona Woods. We’re glad to be able to pay off debst incurred during the stream daylighting project and to be able to hire professiona help to take up where the Capstone team left off clearing and planting along the Boulevard.
We’ve heard from a couple of people who were disturbed by recent activities in Madrona Woods involving maintenance of trails—raking leaves off the trails in the autumn and adding thick, compacted gravel on one trail in February. But we believe both incidents point to a larger issue—the overall look and feel of the woods.
Many of us who have been working to restore this park to a more natural and sustainable place also cherished the woods for the somewhat mysterious getaway it provided for kids and adults before 1996. We started out with the simple goal of getting rid of the ivy climbing trees and choking out growth in the understory.
Part of the early process involved education of those who chose to contribute to the effort and others in the community. Through a series of walks led by experts in several environmental fields, we learned that if we didn’t undertake more serious restoration, we would probably end up with a virtual ivy/holly/laurel desert in 50 years. So we got grants and developed plans. Before we could proceed with the more ambitious of the plans, we had to involve the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, the manager of the park. They approved our plans in 2000, and we agreed to follow their procedures and guidelines.
We’ve made great progress on all of our objectives, but there’s no question that the nature of the woods has changed. Where the ivy, laurel, holly, and blackberries once provided a lush, green, and private look, now there are open cleared areas covered by brown mulch with relatively small trees and shrubs slowly growing in. The trails have been widened and stabilized according to Parks Department standards. The new trail leading down to Lake Washington Boulevard, with all its steps, is far from primitive, and plants are slowly growing in along it. Daylighting the stream has meant rearrangement of the ravine along the north edge of the woods and the lawn area of Madrona Park.
We have gotten mostly positive feedback for these projects, but we know there are people who liked the old way better. We’re sorry not everyone can be pleased, but those with the commitment and energy to put into it have obviously done things the ways that seemed best to them.
Remember, the small plants will grow in over time, bringing more green and lushness back to the spaces that now seem open and too tended. This will also bring more diversity for wildlife. We’re committed to keeping the trails safe and comfortable for most people to use. This means raking leaves off of them in the fall so they don’t decompose and speed the break-down of the surface. And it means in especially mud-and-slide-prone areas, using the Parks Department’s thick, packed gravel for stability and longevity. It too will weather and look less stark over time.
Though much of the restoration is far enough along that we can’t change it, there are many details decided day by day. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have ideas that would make Madrona Woods more like what you want it to be. In the meantime, try to imagine what it will become.
We’re so proud of two of our Friends of Madrona Woods team for their recent awards. Congratulations to Joan Scott for her Lifetime Resident Award from the Madrona Community Council on Neighborhood Appreciation Day. Her tireless efforts on behalf of Madrona Woods for 14 years, especially at the thankless job of treasurer for the last ten, were rightfully recognized.
And our landscape architect, Peg Gaynor of Gaynor, Inc., won two of the top three honor awards in the design category given by the Washington Chapter of the American Association of Landscape Architects. The jury said the Madrona Woods restoration was “impressive for its consistent long-term effort; it has been an 11-year collaborative engagement between the landscape architect and a community of hundreds of volunteers. Equally impressive is the quality of the result. The accomplishments are formidable, including habitat restoration, landscape stabilization, trail construction, bridges and water features.” Gaynor Inc.’s other award was for Conceptual Design and being part of SVR Design Team for the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel at Northgate.
Students from the University of Washington and Garfield High School will be helping us clear new areas now that the creek daylighting project is finished except for more planting and continuing maintenance.
A team from the University of Washington’s Restoration Ecology Network Capstone Program has chosen to work with Friends of Madrona Woods to clear invasives and revegetate the east edge of Madrona Woods along Lake Washington Boulevard during the 2009-2010 academic year. They have been working on design and preparation during the fall and will begin supervising work parties to clear and plant during the next two quarters. They are looking into the possibility of redirecting the spring water that often collects on the Boulevard and connecting it to the daylighted stream.
Students from the Garfield High School after school Earth Service Corps will be coming the second Sunday afternoon each month during the school year to clear and plant along the sidewalk connecting Spring/Grand to the Boulevard. Students from other area high schools may be joining them. Community residents are also welcome. They gather at 1:00 at the tool box at Spring and Grand.