As a restoration associate at Mountains to Sound Greenway, part of my position involves taking care of tasks in our native plant nursery.
Because of an unusually large plant order and an unusually cold February, we ended up with a few thousand extra plants that we couldn’t pot up in our nursery. However, it turns out that the adage “if there’s a will, there’s a way” really works when it comes to finding good homes for stray plants. When it became clear that we would not be able to give them enough attention ourselves, I decided it was time to reach out to the greater Greenway community. I contacted all my friends as well as local community gardens to see if anyone wanted a few hundred plants. As it turns out, there are many people who love getting native plant donations. With the help of the Seattle Turkish community, some enthusiastic UW graduate students, and an amazingly dedicated Americorps member from a local elementary school, all the plants were given wonderful new homes.
Though my car was stolen from my house in the middle of this experience, I was able to bike to work to finish giving most of the plants to people and got the rest of the plants donated with the help of people within my personal network. It is gratifying to know that if you are able to dedicate the extra time to make a project happen, you can sometimes get it to work out even when everything seems like it’s falling apart.
My name is Kate Fancher, and I am serving as a restoration associate with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. The Greenway works with over 5,000 volunteers and 3,000 students annually, so I have been able to interact with many members of the public.
I don’t get to work on many education events, but I had a really great experience at the most recent event I served at. I was able to help lead a group of twenty fifth grade students to remove Himalayan blackberry in Lake Sammamish State Park. It was an extremely hot day, so I was a bit worried about the kids working in the heat, but I was shockingly surprised by how much work they were able to accomplish in such a short period of time.
Two groups of students stood out to me during the event. The first group consisted of three girls who were focused on clearing new pathways throughout the area. They were very excited by getting as many root balls out of the ground as they could and by freeing newly establishing native trees that were being covered by blackberry. When two of the girls were unable to get out a root ball, they would call over their friend to help. The girls who needed help continuously gave their friend a lot of praise and complimented her on how strong she was. Their enthusiasm was great to see, especially because it was so hot.
The other group of students that really impressed me were two boys who were determined to finish getting out a root ball after we had officially ended the event. They felt like they couldn’t leave the site until they had finished what they were working on. Once they finished, they were so proud of what they had accomplished and kept enthusiastically saying, “we worked so hard today!”
Working with these students was extremely rewarding and a great way to spend the day. I was extremely impressed by the amount of work they accomplished (over 1,000 square feet of blackberry removed) and I’m glad I got to know them.
As we enter our final few months of our service term, it is easy to get wrapped up thinking about what’s next, but every now and then you are reminded of how great people can be. My fellow AmeriCorps member and I were running the event and had noticed an unusually large number of high school students and began to feel a little worried that it would be tough to engage these folks.
Alas, we were proven very wrong with these worries when we saw how excited these students were to dig into this mulching event and really get some work done. They were inquisitive and eager to complete this restoration project, giving us as event leaders opportunity to share our stories and how we found ourselves in this AmeriCorps service position. We even had one student stay a little late because he was loving the work we were doing and did not want to stop the project. Together with our group of eager and engaged volunteers, we were able to spread mulch over 7,000 square feet in our restoration site, making many native species much more prepared for the hot summer to come. This was an example of how being present in the moment is very rewarding and can be rewarding for those whom you are with.
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for 5 years, and this Washington Service Corps term with Mountains To Sound Greenway has been the most fun I’ve had. I love being outside all throughout the winter (even when the feet of snow shrouded Seattle), hosting volunteer events for anywhere between 5 and 100 people every week, and making a difference in the community.
There has been a lot going on these past couple months, without much break. Between service and fun, I have no days off! Serving for the Greenway has opened my eyes to the amount of work that can be put into a landscape and how much it can benefit wildlife and humans at the same time. Recently we have been serving closely with private land owners along Issaquah Creek to both improve salmon habitat and protect their properties from erosion.
It was really nice to see one family that helped us plant their property. In the 8 or so parcels we were assigned, they were the only landowners who interacted with the whole crew directly. It was raining and cold while we were there, but the kids (middle and high school aged) insisted to be out with us and learn how to properly plant. Although they were shivering and their mom kept telling them to go back inside, they would not leave. Their dog also joined in the rainy fun for a couple hours, which was a nice distraction in between planting. Their daughter made us an adorable (and accurate!) pop up card thanking us for all that we do for the environment.
Since then, they have promised to come out to volunteer events, and even asked if they could have a private event during the week with one of their school so their classmates can meet us too! Its this interest in stewardship at a young age that allows me to have hope for the future.