One Tree at a Time | 2019 Green Snoqualmie Day
As the nights were getting longer and the autumn leaves beginning to lose a grip on their treez, the anticipation for Green Snoqualmie Day was growing. Back in April the ET Crew became Forest Stewards of Jeanne Hansen Park as a part of the Green Snoqualmie Partnership. We were thrilled to get involved at a park with sprawling views of the valley, Mount Rainier and a canopy of large evergreentreez. This spring and summer we worked with the City of Snoqualmie and a lot of helpful volunteers to begin the restoration project. We quickly learned that the aging canopy of treez is starting to fail, and the younger native plants are having a hard time competing with invasive weeds and Himalayan blackberries. Our long-term goal for the park is to restore the forest to a healthy mix of plants and evergreentreez that face minimal competition from invasive species. After all the hard work we put in digging out over 6,000 SQFT of blackberries, we were hyped to begin the second phase of the project: planting treez.
The day started off cool and grey, with fog dappled among the treez. The calm feeling a morning in the forest evokes is what we live for. When we arrived at the park we met with Phil Bennett from the PNW Chapter of Arborists and Charlie Vogelheim from Forterra to debrief. We discussed our plan for the day with fellow forest stewards as we waited for volunteers to arrive.
As 9:30 approached, our anticipation reached a full head. We could only drink so much coffee and slam so many donut holes. Joey and I decided to take a lap on the forest trail and get some fresh air. Our faces lit up as we saw the baby treez spread throughout the forest like Easter eggs. There were Western Red Cedars, Evergreen Huckleberries, Lodgepole Pines, Sword Ferns and the State Tree of WA; Western Hemlock. Joey found a pink bike that someone was throwing out and decided to take a lap. It was safe to say the shenanigans had begun; it was going to be a great day.
As we walked back towards the snack tent, the sky broke open and bright sunshine flooded the valley. Sometimes the stars just simply align. We knew the volunteer turnout was going to be solid based on the interest that was garnered in the weeks leading up to the event. What we didn't know is that nearly 100 people would show up! We were pleasantly surprised to see so many eager volunteers come out to support us. We felt blessed to host Green Snoqualmie Day at our home park and were beaming as Phil began discussing our plan for the day in front of the group.
A crucial part of hosting volunteer events is making sure the group feels informed and prepared. We want them to feel comfortable with the task at hand. Team building is an important part of building trust, so we decided to do a group stretch before we got to work. Feeling the ground beneath us and the energy of the people around us as we stretched out the creaks and cracks was a great start to the day. The aura of an interconnected group is a powerful, tangible force.
After the group stretch we split off into five smaller groups and grabbed our tools as we set off into the forest. The groups were comprised of young and old, Washington natives and transplants from around the world. Some came with families and others as a part of work groups. I gave a planting demonstration for our group and asked if anyone had planted treez before. A few hands went up but for the most part this was a new experience for people, which is exciting to be a part of.
After the planting demo, everyone grabbed their shovels and Green Snoqualmie Day was underway. The morning had gotten off to such a peaceful start that we were shocked when the silence briefly turned into screaming. A couple of the youngest members of our group accidentally dug their shovels into an underground hornets nest. The relentless swarm of bees took it's toll on our group. The two boys were stung multiple times and so were a couple of us who tried to help clear them from the area. The nest zone had to be taped off and a couple families with young children left because they were too scared to be around the forest. It was just a stroke of bad luck, but sometimes nature is unpredictable. We felt horrible for the sting victims but were determined to Keep Fighting and make it a good day. Once the swarm calmed down we were able to continue digging in that area and the mood was still high.
There's something oddly calming about digging into the Earth and smelling fresh dirt. Unwrapping the rootz of a baby tree and giving it life in the forest has therapeutic effects. You feel deeply connected to the spirit and the energy of the planet. As we walked around the forest trails we could hear people laughing, see them smiling and feel their energy.
Joey was playing the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack so the vibes were obviously good. We took breaks to dance and sing as we met new peeps. The mountains and forests have inspired so much freedom and creativity in our lives; planting treez is our way of giving back. Seeing the youth plant treez brings a smile to my face every time. If we can positively influence a young life to care for the planet then we have made an impact.
We spent a solid couple hours planting until we were nearly out of treez. Brian, Joey, AJ and I trekked a little deeper into the forest to plant one last hemlock together. As we busted a couple moves around it, Janice captured the moment and dubbed this our friendship tree. This is what it's all about. This is Life in the Treez.
Once the planting was complete, the next phase of the project was to mulch the young plants. It inspires me every single time we host an event to see how positive and willing to work the volunteers are. Everyone grabbed homer buckets filled with mulch and dipped off into the forest to spread them around the base of the baby treez.
People were like mulch fairy's as they found ways to laugh and entertain themselves while grabbing bucket after bucket. We were shocked to see how fast the mulch pile got used and we still had almost an hour left. At that point Phil asked if we would be down to grab what he called "fertilizer sticks" to place around the treez. He explained to us how fallen logs act as fertilizer as they decay over time. We had a ton of fallen logs from our previous restoration events that worked out nicely.
With the help of 96(!) close friends, family and community members we were able to plant 213 native treez and shrubs, remove an additional 1,700 SQFT of weeds, and spread 1,600 SQFT of mulch in the forest. After all the hard work we grilled up some hot dogs and had the chance to veg out. It felt great seeing everyone with dirty clothes and tired faces. We were stoked to see how excited people were to grab some of our ET gear in the community raffle as well. It was a damn good morning giving back to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
We are humbled and honored for the support we continue to receive in the community. This is the second Green Snoqualmie Day we have been a part of and we truly feel like we are just getting started. Jeanne Hansen Park is a beautiful urban forest that plays an important role in providing habitat for wildlife in the heart of the Snoqualmie Valley. We're in it for the long haul; we'll be working to restore this park and Ron Regis Park in Renton as we continue to spread our rootz. It's a special feeling working with so many positive and caring people in a world that sometimes feels pretty cynical. We're looking forward to continuing our quest to reforest Washington and inspire people to get out and enjoy the forest. One tree at a time.