EVERETT — More than 100 volunteers dug holes, placed plants and spread mulch Saturday morning at Forest Park for Green Everett Day.
The annual event is the largest work party organized by the Green Everett Partnership, a program started about three years ago by Everett Parks and Recreation, Seattle-based nonprofit Forterra and local volunteers.
“The goal of the partnership is to restore all 354 acres of Everett’s forested parks,” said Joanna Nelson de Flores, director of Forterra’s Green Cities Program.
To accomplish that goal, Everett Parks and Forterra staff work with volunteer forest stewards to lead work parties. They clear invasive plants from parks and replant with native species. It requires a lot of buckets, wheelbarrows, shovels, gloves and helping hands.
The best part of the event is showing new people, especially children, how to care for the forest, Nelson de Flores said. The work party drew people of all ages. There were volunteers who have been caring for local parks for decades and children in oversized T-shirts and muddy shoes.
“One of my favorite things is seeing some of the families and kids that came out last year come back,” Nelson de Flores said.
Throughout the year, smaller work parties clear invasive plants from Everett parks. During Green Everett Day, those areas are planted with sword fern, salal, Oregon grape and a few evergreen saplings. In Forest Park, the plants replaced English ivy, which covers the ground and grows up the trunks of trees, choking out other species.
Jack Lockhart, of Everett, is a volunteer forest steward. While most volunteers come out a few times a year, forest stewards act as year-round leaders. They learn about forestry and help guide the work parties.
September through November is their busiest season because it tends to be the best window for planting trees and shrubs. They focus on ground cover and low-growing plants.
“Mother Nature has three levels, and we want to put in the low and medium,” Lockhart said.
That’s where the English ivy and other damaging species take over if left unchecked, he said. Native plants can adjust to each other and form a well-rounded ecosystem. Invasive species “don’t fit well in the circle,” he said.
He’s been involved for years in volunteer forestry, he said. He works with EarthCorps as well as Green Everett.
“It’s exercise with a purpose,” Lockhart said. “With a group like this, it’s amazing how much of an area we can transform. But if we have five volunteers we’ll transform a small area. Everything helps.”
More volunteers are needed to meet the goal of restoring Everett’s parks within the next 20 years, Nelson de Flores said. She’s looking for new forest stewards. An orientation is planned next month.
“They don’t need any forestry background or special skills,” Nelson de Flores said. “We provide all the training and support.”
Heather Scanlan, of Everett, brought her two daughters, 7-year-old Anna and 4-year-old Eva, to Forest Park for Green Everett Day. They spend a lot of time at the park and now they’ll be able to watch the new plants grow, she said.
“It wasn’t until I had kids that it became more important to me to be a better person,” she said. “Now I do stuff like this and it makes me feel better about how I live my life. It teaches my kids to give, not just to take.”
Scanlan helped her daughters recognize the difference between tendrils of English ivy they were allowed to yank from the ground and native plants they were supposed to leave alone. She smiled while she watched them dig a hole to plant a sword fern. They shared a child-sized shovel and at one point sat on the handle in an attempt to dig deeper, not realizing that the spade hadn’t bitten into the ground and they were levering a shovel full of nothing out of their slow-growing hole.
Scanlan didn’t mind the slow progress. They were there to learn a lesson more important than how to work a shovel.
“My kids need to know they can make a difference,” she said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
Become a forest steward
To learn more about being a Green Everett forest steward, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425-238-0065 to register for an orientation from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 14. The location of the event has not been finalized but it likely will be at a park in Everett.