Meet The Green Lake Stewards
If you walk Green Lake regularly chances are you’ve seen them. Often wearing vests, and up to their elbows in weeds, the Green Lake Stewards are a volunteer group that has been helping to keep Green Lake Park free of invasive weeds since 2015.
We chatted with Robin Hutcheson, a coordinator for the group, to find out more about the Green Lake Stewards.
Seattle Greenlaker: How often do you meet?
Hutcheson: We tend to organize at least 8 to 10 work parties a year. We try to aim for the second Saturday of the month, 9AM to 12pm, though occasionally we deviate if there is crew regatta or other large event at the lake on the 2nd Saturday.
Seattle Greenlaker:Who started the group?
Hutcheson Andrea Watts and Garet Munger.
Andrea Watts lives in McCleary Washington, 2 hours from Green Lake. When she is not volunteering at Green Lake she is an associate editor of The Forestry Source, a freelance science writer, cider enthusiast, small businessperson and manages the family tree farm. Garet Munger is a retired Wetland-Wildlife Consultant, who until recently could be seen daily walking around Green Lake wearing one of his extensive collection of distinctive hats, with his black spaniel by his side and a Nikon cradled in his arm.
Seattle Greenlaker: Do you raise money or is it all elbow grease and volunteer time?
Hutcheson: We do rely on the Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) for tools, training and native plants, other than that relationship we do not raise money. Local businesses such as PCC and Mighty-O Donuts supply snacks.
Seattle Greenlaker: How does the Green Seattle Partnership come in?
Hutcheson: The Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) was created in 2004 and is now the largest urban forest restoration project in the country. It is public-private venture between the City of Seattle, Forterra and community organizations. The goal of GSP is a citywide restoration of 2,500 acres of forested parkland. GSP fosters the formation of local community volunteer organizations and supplies training, tools and native plants. The Green Lake Stewards is one of a dozen volunteer groups formed to support the plan by adopting a park.
Seattle Greenlaker: Are the projects always the same? Get rid of weeds and plant native plants?
Hutcheson: Yes. We organize work parties to remove invasive species, which at Green Lake Park are primarily English ivy and Himalayan blackberry, and replant cleared areas with native trees, shrubs and plants. Once that is done we maintain planted area through weeding and watering until the new plants are well established.
Seattle Greenlaker: How many volunteers do you have? And how many do you need?
Hutcheson: We average around 10 volunteers for each work party.
There is a regular set of local volunteers of 7 who work at many of the work parties we conduct. We are looking to conduct one or two larger events a year of 20 to 30 volunteers so that we can continue to open up new areas around the lake.
We have a mailing list of around 50 people who volunteered in the past and like to drop in to work when they can.
We also get volunteers from schools, organizations and citizens looking for volunteer opportunities that find their way to the Green Seattle Partnership.
We conduct around 8 to 10 events a year.
Seattle Greenlaker: Why doesn’t the Parks Department do the weeding and replanting work?
Hutcheson: Over 15 years ago the City and citizens recognized the growing threat to native trees and plants within Seattle parks that were being overwhelmed by invasive plants. The Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) was formed as a response, it focuses on restoration work of the naturally forested areas of parks versus the regular park maintenance of groomed park areas and recreational facilities. The Parks department is involved by training volunteer stewards and supplying tools, materials and plants. And Parks also directly works on restoration in areas too dangerous for volunteers, such as steep slopes. Using volunteers is a strategy that focuses on naturally forested areas of parks, builds and strengthens community commitments to the parks, leverages budge dollars by using volunteers and supports that effort through training, organization, tools, plants.
Seattle Greenlaker: Anything else you’d like Greenlakers to know?
Hutcheson: Many of our regular volunteers joined us after walking by a work party, stopping to talk and asking how they can volunteer. This is such an easy way to be civically engaged, to meet neighbors and community members, to get sore muscles and blackberry thorn scratches, to leave the world in a little better condition. And you can help open up views of the lake blocked by super walls of dense Himalayan blackberry canes.
You can see results taking shape. We have two areas of native plantings, one on the west side of lake north of the Small Craft Center and the other on the southeast side just east of the Small Craft Center. Easy to spot because new plants tagged with ribbons.
To connect with the Green Lake Stewards for volunteer opportunities email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign up for November’s work party go here.
Or for future events, here.