Photo by Jerry Gay
The team that makes it possible, from left to right: Morry Browne (Forest Steward), Rory Donovan (Parks Department), Michael Yadrick (Parks Department and Green Seattle Partnership), Selena Carsiotis (Forest Steward), Andrea Mojzak (Forterra and Green Seattle Partnership), Jesse Bonn (Parks Department), Luke McGuff (Forest Steward), Drexie Malone (Forest Steward)

Restoring North Beach Park

North Beach Park has made leaps and bounds in progress over the last few years.

When the Ballard News-Tribune last published an article about the park, in June of 2008, it was in a depressing state. Seattle Parks and Recreation crew chief Patrick Merriam had inspected the park and found beer bottles, graffiti on trees and other debris. In addition, nearby residents had discovered piles of litter, a water heater, an old tent and other junk on a morning stroll. (If you want to visit memory lane, you can still read May 20, 2008’s article “Neighbors upset over illegal trails” and June 30, 2008’s “North Beach gets help to stay green”)

About two years ago, in 2011, Luke McGuff and Tad Anderson both took a forest stewardship class at Carkeek Park. When they visited North Beach Park, their professor said “there is a depressing amount of work to do in this park.” The park was overrun with invasive plants such as ivy, laurel, blackberry and holly. To this day, thick veins of ivy can be seen crawling all the way up trees to the top of the canopy, essentially choking and weakening the trees.

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Much of the ivy has been cut at the bottom by volunteers, which will cause the rest of it to die. Photo by Zachariah Bryan

But things have begun to change. That class at Carkeek Park inspired McGuff, Anderson and other community members to form a volunteer group, restore the park and reclaim it from invasive species.

“Since then we’ve done a lot … this is a really good time to see how progress is going,” said McGuff, who is now going to the University of Washington for a Master’s in environmental horticulture. “Just watching the changes … even from just the year-and-a-half, it’s been big.”

A walk through the park quickly clarifies this. Muddy trails bring visitors through an unkempt wilderness that one would expect to see in the Cascades, not just north of downtown Ballard in the middle of a well-developed residential neighborhood. It seems untouched by mankind.

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Photo by Jerry Gay

But in truth, volunteers have been hard at work. Altogether, as they start their third year of restoration, volunteers have planted 700 plants, carried out much of the trash and wiped out huge monocultures of invasives -- all while being careful to maintain what makes North Beach Park so special.

“What I want to do is get the worst of the invasives out and have it still feel wild,” McGuff said. “I want this to feel wild … rambunctious.”

For Anderson, who has been involved in forest stewardship for a number of years now, North Beach Park offers a chance for him to continue his passion of caring for the environment while staying close to home.

“I’ve always had my eye out for a home park in my neighborhood,” he said. “… I love it. I love the friends I’ve made from it and having something that I can ride my bicycle to.”

The Ballard News-Tribune went out to a recent EarthCorps work party at North Beach Park to see some of the work that was being done in the park. McGuff said it was easily the biggest volunteer event they ever had, by at least double. Around 40 people showed up to plant trees, remove invasive plants, stabilize a hill side with mulch (which resulted in a very impressive 30-person bucket brigade) and other maintenance work.

Usually, though, work parties consist of a core group of volunteers with fewer than 10 people, so this was quite an impressive volunteer army.

Park

Park

Photos by Zachariah Bryan

Despite all the progress that has been made in such a short time, there is still plenty of work to be done in North Beach Park. If you want to help out, volunteer work parties take place the fourth Saturday of every month (this month it will be April 27), except May because of Memorial Weekend. For more information, contact Luke McGuff at lukemcguff@yahoo.com.

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