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Together We Can Make Seattle a Truly Emerald City

As part of my outreach surrounding Friends of the Cedar River Watershed’s (FCRW) new partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, I recently got the opportunity to talk with one of  the Green Seattle Partnership‘s volunteer Forest Stewards, David Sohlstrom.   I learned about the great work that David, and Forest Stewards like him, are doing to restore Seattle’s urban green spaces. ~Rebecca Sayre, Outreach Manager, FCRW

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“We need density and green spaces especially where there are opportunities to provide access for both the public and residents. This effort is gaining momentum.”

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David and some helpers

David Sohlstrom loves the outdoors. He is happiest on a bike, mountain, trail, or in as kayak.  In 2010, this appreciation for the natural world took a turn towards his own backyard; specifically a 1.6 acre swath of previously overgrown land located between the backside of his condominium complex, Othello Station North, and Seattle’s John C. Little Park, in south Seattle’s New Holly neighborhood.  The condo complex was constructed in 2006 with plans to put in ornamental landscaping for the residents.  Instead, due to reasons not quite clear to David, this planting was never started and the disturbed area was soon overcome with blackberry and ivy, providing neither a place for people or any sense of habitat. In short, the site became a tangled and prickly jungle of invasive plants.  It was mess.

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It takes a team to make this vision a reality

David, however, saw opportunity. Here was potential for native plants, pathways, butterfly and hummingbird gardens; a place where neighborhood children could explore.  But, how was he going to get this work done? At first he started to tackle the challenge on his own; dedicating many full weekends to pulling enormous clumps of ivy off trees and attempting to unearth mammoth blackberry roots.  He soon realized that, although there was an appeal to being a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, working to revegetate an area in need of help, that this task required  a broader community investment.  Also, he needed to be able to commit to the project and still have a life–his wife, although supportive of his dedication, was beginning to miss him.

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Michael arrives with more plants

Help came in 2011 when David connected with Vinh Nguyen, a Forest Steward with the Green Seattle Partnership at nearby Lewis Park.  With the guidance of Vinh and support of Forterra’s  Joanna Nelson, David began to shape the project. He was able to acquire a small Neighborhood Community Building Grant through collaborating with the New Holly community.  Additionally, the Green Seattle Partnership was able to provide tools–complete with a secure tool box, plants, and guidance from City of Seattle Ecologist, Michael Yadrick.

As we wrapped up our interview, I asked David what had been accomplished to-date and what his vision is for the overall project. It’s an impressive achievement and goal.  David estimates that people have given over 1100 volunteer hours and over 850 native plants have been planted.  As for the big picture, it is all about continuity.  “I want this site to be part of a contiguous green space that stretches from NE to SW Seattle. I am primarily interested in restoring what little undeveloped land is left in our city in order for these urban forests to become self-sustaining, and provide habitat for birds, insects, and other critters native to the Pacific Northwest.” I thought that sounded pretty good, but David had more to say. ” There is an adjacent section of green belt that I hope will also be restored and one day become a continuation of the urban forest at John C. Little Park.”

Volunteers working on a small part of a larger city

Volunteers working on a small part of a larger city

David sees this restoration as “staking claim,” on a critical piece of green space in an area that is dealing with increasing density.“We need density and green spaces especially where there are opportunities to provide access for both the public and residents. This effort is gaining momentum.”  This project was recently chosen to be a part of Green Seattle Days and interest in the effort continues to grow.

Restorations take place every other Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1 pm from March to November Contact David at djsohl@comcast.net to learn how you can get involved.

It seems that David’s love of the greater outdoors has translated well to a viable vision of nature in the core of our city. We are inspired by the work accomplished at John C. Little Park.  and look forward to collaborating  with Seattle’s Forest Stewards.

**Through January 31st, donate to Friends of the Cedar River Watershed and 100% of your gift will go towards planting trees!**

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