Like many park departments, Kent Parks, Recreation, and Community Services in Washington recognized its 1,344 fragmented acres of forested parks and wetlands were under threat from invasive species, litter, pollution, and changes in surrounding land use. Lacking sufficient staff resources for natural area-management and restoration, Kent Parks took a bold step in 2009 and joined the Green Cities Network, becoming one of six Puget Sound cities to create a 20-year plan that challenges residents to be part of the solution.
More than 20 trained volunteer Green Kent stewards have now been holding work parties over the past few years, largely in parks but also in areas managed by Public Works wetland crews. In 2012, park stewards and their volunteers began implementing a four-step “tree-iage” process and were able to plant almost 2,200 native plants at sites that had been choked with Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, scotch broom, and other invasive plants.
The year culminated in an inaugural Green Kent Day in October, with 11 stewards working alongside staff in two locations, helping 200 volunteers plant and mulch during a constant Northwest downpour. A chef and his staff from a local retirement community provided a barbecue lunch for everyone at the end of the morning, which also included a VIP tour for city council members, funders, and other stakeholders.
Did the Green Kent stewards feel it was worth their time? “Absolutely! I had an amazing time,” steward Debbie Larson says without hesitation. “And I was so highly impressed by the turnout, considering the nasty weather we had. It warmed my heart to see such a dedicated group of people. I can’t wait for next year’s event!”
And did the volunteers assigned to the stewards listen and follow directions well? Steward Terry Hooks answers resoundingly, “My group was great. My team and I were exhausted by 11:15—granted, we worked our butts off. I kept encouraging breaks for rest and water, but no one really took them, myself included.”
“My team ROCKED!” Larson echoes. “I didn’t see anyone just standing around. They followed directions, worked extremely hard, and even offered up input on the process. I couldn’t have asked for a better team!”
For more information about the Green Kent Partnership, visit www.KentWA.gov/GreenKent.
Victoria Andrews is the Special Programs Manager of Planning and Development for Parks, Recreation, and Community Services in Kent, Washington (email@example.com).