Wayne Walker (left) and Kieth Martinez work to clear invasive plants Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Wayne Walker (left) and Kieth Martinez work to clear invasive plants Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Volunteers are helping to clean up Everett’s forested parklands

The Green Everett Partnership aims to restore 354 acres of natural space in the city limits.

Hannabrook Park on Brookridge Boulevard was an eyesore before a Green Everett initiative was established.

Noxious weeds such as Himalayan blackberries, Scotch broom and English ivy grew unchecked for years, encroaching on a creek and trails. Not only were these weeds a nuisance, they were choking out native trees and shrubs.

Charlie Vogelheim, of the Seattle-based conservation group Forterra, said native plants are vital in reducing stormwater runoff and absorbing greenhouse gases. If they’re neglected, he said, the consequences would be loss of habitat, weakened ecosystems and unhealthy forests.

Volunteers like Lou Rector are helping make sure that doesn’t happen.

Rector, 77, of Everett, leads work parties for the Green Everett Partnership, a collaboration between the city of Everett’s parks department and Forterra, formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy.

Since launching the initiative in 2012, thousands have volunteered with Green Everett year-round to clean up seven local parks: Hannabrook Park, Thornton A. Sullivan Park, Forest Park, Rotary Park, South Everett Forest Preserve and Johnston-Kelly Park.

The goal is to restore 354 acres of forested parks — making them sustainable, healthy and maintainable — with help from the community. Work parties are scheduled every weekend; the next is Aug. 31 at Johnston-Kelly Park, at 49th Street SW and Forest Drive.

“If there’s nothing but invasives here, you’re going to lose habitats, and that means no more wildlife,” Rector said. “We’re keeping it as natural for them, as well as for people to be able to come down here.”

Volunteers of all ages plant trees, shrubs and ground covers, remove noxious weeds and cover soil with mulch to retain moisture.

The progress made at Hannabrook Park is easy to see: The creek and trails are cleared and, in place of weeds, there are now shrubs and trees.

Last October, on Green Everett Day, the largest Green Everett event of the year, more than 100 volunteers helped to plant 55 trees (Douglas fir, shore pine and Western red cedar), 469 shrubs, (Evergreen huckleberry, Indian plum and vine maple) and 250 ground covers (sword fern, bleeding heart and kinnikinnick).

Perhaps no one is more pleased with Hannabrook Park’s makeover than Rector, who lives nearby in the View Ridge-Madison neighborhood. He remembers having to dodge low-hanging blackberries while jogging on the park’s trails.

Lou Rector pulls invasive plants Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lou Rector pulls invasive plants Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“I take pride in the work that we’ve done because I can see what we’ve accomplished,” Rector said. “It’s gone from nothing but invasives all over to enjoyable forested area that is not overrun.”

More than 790 volunteers, including 255 children, logged more than 2,600 hours cleaning up parks at 44 work parties in 2018.

Vogelheim, project manager for Forterra’s Green City Partnerships, said the work they’re doing is worthwhile. Studies show urban trees, forested parks and natural spaces improve quality of life, provide wildlife habitat and make communities more vibrant.

“It’s important these spaces are there for people,” he said. “One of the really cool things about our region is that you don’t have to drive 200 miles to a national park to experience the forest. You can just go down the street and experience nature in your back yard.”

Everett is one of 14 cities in a Green City Partnership with Forterra, which includes Seattle, Tacoma and Kirkland. Green Everett is the first in Snohomish County. Today the county is collaborating with Forterra on other restoration projects, including a goal to plant 1 million native trees by 2040 across 2,500 acres.

A blackberry plant is worked free Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A blackberry plant is worked free Saturday morning at Hannabrook Park in Everett on August 17, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Bob Leonard, assistant director of the Everett Parks and Community Services Department, said the partnership is vital for protecting and managing the city’s forested parks. He credited the volunteers for helping put the city — and its parklands — in a sustainable position.

“The forests are one of those areas that are underappreciated sometimes,” he said. “We take for granted living in the Pacific Northwest. The forests are really an asset, and they need to be managed.”

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com., @ByEvanThompson.

If you go

The next Green Everett work party is 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 31 at Johnston-Kelly Park, 49th Street SW and Forest Drive, Everett. Bring water and wear sturdy shoes. Tools and work gloves provided. To RSVP, call 425-238-0065 or email greeneverett@forterra.org. Go to www.greeneverett.org for more information.

Mark your calendar

The next Green Everett Day is 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 26 at Thornton A. Sullivan Park, 11405 W. Silver Lake Road, Everett. Help plant hundreds of trees, shrubs and ground covers. RSVP at www.surveymonkey.com/r/GreenEverettDay2019.

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