Volunteers spend Earth Day helping in Japanese Gulch

By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 25, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee liaison Karl Almgren removing a Himalayan blackberry bush from the Japanese Gulch. The volunteers removed these bushes as they are non-native invasive species.

On the 39th annual Earth Day weekend, community volunteers from Kamiak High School helped restore the trailhead to Japanese Gulch.

The Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee had their fourth annual Japanese Gulch Cleanup, and spent a few hours on Saturday, April 21, helping clear out Himalayan blackberries with the help of EarthCorps volunteer Sara Noland.

“They’re a non-native invasive species,” Noland told the group of student volunteers. “We’re going to dig out the blackberries and expand the planting area and spread wood mulch.”

Noland assists with volunteer parties in Japanese Gulch on the first Saturday of each month, and sees the property as a jewel.

“The Japanese Gulch is a 145-acre jewel, and people in this city have recognized that this is a place for wildlife and nature,” Noland said.

Karl Almgren, a staff liaison for MYAC, supervised and assisted in the cleanup, which also included members of Kamiak’s Key Club.

“In 2015, the city collaborated with EarthCorps to help with the Japanese Gulch restoration,” Almgren said. “They also do a park stewardship program that they’re trying to help launch at the Gulch.”

Angela Lee, a Kamiak senior who regularly participates in MYAC activities, said this was her second year participating in the cleanup, and she saw more people than last year.

“Last year, I think we had 17 people, and we had more than 20 this year,” Lee said. “Most of them were first-time volunteers for this as well.”

“They were all from the Kamiak community,” Almgren said. “They all go to Kamiak currently except for one, who’s at UW but came to help again.”

Almgren also said the volunteers got a kick out of a father and his son, who is 4, stopping to see what the volunteers were doing, and ended up helping the group out.

Lee said having someone from EarthCorps there to lead the cleanup made the event bigger in her eyes than in years past.

“The main reason we have this is because it’s Earth Day, and the second reason is it’s sort of an MYAC tradition as this was the fourth annual Gulch cleanup,” Lee said. “Especially because this year, EarthCorps started doing monthly cleanup events, so it was really great to incorporate them and sort of expand the event a little bit.”

Almgren said the goal is to continue working on the Gulch trailhead and to eventually continue to work further down the trail.

“That’s sort of been the goal,” Almgren said. “A lot of it when you have invasive species is you have to sweep, take them out, plant, and then continually sweep. As you grow an area, your responsibility still stays with the very first area you touched. A lot of it is just slowly working down the hill.”

Almgren said EarthCorps has been doing a lot of work in that area over the last year, and Lee believes that made it easier to get more work done during this year’s cleanup.

“In previous years we just worked on that area, but because EarthCorps started working really heavily in that area, it was a lot easier to start from there and work on what they’ve done,” Lee said. “In previous years, you’d see mountains of blackberries, and we’d have to clear those out in four hours.”

Although that area may just look like dirt and mulch, Almgren said that shows how much work the volunteers got done.

“The big thing is when you’re taking out the little ones, they take quite a bit of time to take out,” Almgren said. “But then they don’t continue to grow and spread and all those big issues.

“They don’t become this huge mound, so it’s labor-intensive, but it’s still productive. You’re not getting these big mounds of vegetation removed, but you’re preventing the big mounds from ever growing.”




EarthCorps volunteer Sara Noland teaches volunteers how to properly use a shovel. Volunteers were mostly from Kamiak’s Key Club and the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
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