Help restore city parks as a steward

City program seeks volunteers to work in the woods
By Nicholas Johnson | May 03, 2017
Courtesy of: Easton Richmond Photography Volunteer Meleesa Wyatt works to plant native trees to restore habitat in Japanese Gulch.

The Mukilteo Park Steward Program is looking to expand its ranks by registering more people who want to help the health of the area’s natural, wooded areas.

The program, which is run by EarthCorps, began last year after the city first contracted with the environmental nonprofit in 2015 to replant and restore the Japanese Gulch landscape.

In 2014, the city purchased a large area of the gulch and applied a conservation easement limiting the allowed use of land to passive activities, such as hiking. The city adopted a master plan for the gulch in 2016 after the community told city officials in a series of open houses, focus groups and surveys that the site should be preserved to its natural state.

The program offers free training from May to July for anyone age 18 or older, whether looking to simply volunteer or lead projects as stewards. This year, an information session is set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Rosehill Community Center.

Volunteers attend four lectures and hands-on field workshops. Topics include general program orientation and expectations, plant identification, best management practices related to invasive plant control and planting, trail maintenance and volunteer management.

Once trained, stewards commit to at least 25 hours to the program within a year in which they implement an agreed upon work plan with their volunteer cohort. In addition, stewards coordinate and lead community volunteer events.

Last year, six people went through the orientation and training, and two stepped up to serve as stewards to lead habitat restoration efforts at the 76th Street trailhead on the first Saturdays of every month.

Sara Noland of south Everett is one of those stewards.

“I got involved because it's a lovely place and an amazing opportunity to pitch in and help restore the forest by replacing weeds with beneficial native plants,” said Noland, a biologist who worked for more than 20 years as an environmental consultant in the Seattle area.

“I'm no longer in the consulting field, but I've been doing volunteer work with environmental non-profits for as long as I can remember and hope to continue for many years.”

Stewards are currently focusing their efforts removing invasive weeds around the 76th Street trailhead, but there is opportunity to improve and sustain areas throughout Japanese Gulch.

“Our work area has a lot of invasive species, such as Himalayan blackberry and Scotch broom, which tend to take over areas that have been logged, graded, or otherwise disturbed in the past,” Noland said.

“Our goal is to get rid of the invasives as best we can and replace them with plants that are native to this region to encourage reestablishment of a diverse, self-sustaining natural system that's good for wildlife and beautiful for park users to enjoy.”

Park stewards work as a team to help EarthCorps and the city keep the park healthy, run restoration events, adapt management plans, maintain trails, and educate the community.

Noland said although the work is rather physical, it’s fun to get out into the woods with a group.

“This winter, we were listening to bird calls on my iPad, so volunteers could learn the songs of common winter species, when a flock of chickadees flew in to see what we were up to,” she said.

“We've also seen frog and salamander eggs, raptors flying over, and lots of snags with woodpecker holes.”

To register, visit www.earthcorps.org/volunteer.php. Questions? Contact Project Manager Mariska Kecskes at mariska@earthcorps.org or 206-322-9296 ext. 204.

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