Our partners at Bellingham Parks put together a series of work parties for Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday, January 18. Altogether, more than 182 volunteers participated including 26 Park Steward work party hosts. 225 native trees and shrubs were planted, more than 50 cubic yards of invasive species were removed, and 75+ cubic yards of mulch was spread, all to restore wildlife habitat and the ecological health of our parks, trails, and community while following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Broken into two smaller but equal groups, led by myself and Jim Fonte, we tackled the tasks at hand. With a dozen of us total, we took out invasive blackberries and put some fresh native plants in the ground! Shown below is our new garden gate if you haven’t seen it!
Here’s a photo of the group after we were all done! There were two families that joined us, so you can see them clustered together. The rest of us spread out appropriately to follow current guidelines. Our volunteers all complied with the new standards and their smiles could been seen shining below their face coverings. Some of the volunteers live so close they merely walked over to the park and others came from out of town, hailing from Ferndale and Edison!!
Our most enthusiast volunteer was 6 year old Jayden who came with her family from Edison for a day of service. Her parents both know about service, they both served in America’s Armed Forces. They were here today to continue their service to community and show the next generation of what community looks like. It was a bit of a chilly morning, so Jayden was taking a break from finding blackberry shoots for her mom to pull up one by one. Here she is getting the blood flowing back into her fingers and toes with a short series of jumping jacks! We were delighted to have her spirit and help.
Local park goers, Katherine and Daniel get the tools they need to get the job done. Starting with blackberry removal, we cleared the space to plant some more Snowberries in the open space of our Native Plant Garden. Our new bench made for a convenient space to have our tools and snacks!
Volunteer Crew Leader, Jim Fonte, does a little dance as he plants a new Douglas Fir in the space where an earlier one didn’t quite make it. Jim has lived in Bellingham long enough to remember where the old trail into Fairhaven Park used to go before we built the trail and boardwalk. The old footprint of the trail lies on the other side of this fence and leads across the muddy wetland.
The job of blackberry removal was like finding a needle in a haystack. The small prickly shoots have green leaves that blend in with the groundcover of Buttercup that blankets the space. Here Jayson fills his bucket with his catch for the day. Blackberry removal is an ongoing process until the plants and shrubs we have installed grow up enough to block out their space!
After the plants were in the ground, they received a delivery of mulch. Below, Jayden’s dad, Ty spent the day shuttling loads from the trail head to our worksite. As supervisor, Jim, helped direct the incoming buckets to cover the needed spaces.
You could see it in their eyes, that these folks had been to planting work parties before. They were tasked with tackling a space outside the fenced area that was getting overgrown with blackberries. By days end, the blackberries were gone and new plants in the vacated space.
Here’s a closeup of the Starcher / Watkins crew. Carol assured me that these plants are a segment of the hundreds of plants they have put in the ground as volunteers over the years. They came down from Ferndale to help out here in this special South Bellingham park.
Joining Ty with the wheelbarrow work was park neighbor Eric. Between the two of these gentlemen, they made a huge dent in our mulch pile and gave great coverage to the plants in our special space. The mulch helps to let the plants have less competition for resources as they grow and mature.
As Eric heads out of the garden, through our new gate, you can see the crew all spaces out and focused on the tasks at hand. We are grateful for community volunteers like those that came out to help us with our mitigation site in Fairhaven Park.
Eric exclaimed that he was smiling under the mask. This shot was in the at the beginning of the day. As the sun rose and the number of trips increased, he was down to shirt sleeves by the days end at noon. I asked him how many trips he made, his estimate was “about 20!”. Between Eric and Ty we had upwards of 40 wheelbarrow trips in a 2 2/1 hour span! Way to go guys.
Bellingham Parks has their own nursery to be able to maintain and improve our local parks and greenspaces. We are grateful for our partnership with City of Bellingham Parks & Recreation Department and working closely with staff, Amy and Ryan, with the Parks Volunteer Program. You too can be a Park Steward! Here’s our plant list for the day:
If you’re interested in joining a future work party, you can find a list of upcoming events here: Work Party Schedule – City of Bellingham (cob.org). You can also volunteer independently as a Park Steward or restore habitat in your own backyard or neighborhood following guidance on our Backyard Habitat webpage.
Todd Elsworth is one of the many “Mossy-haired lunatics roaming the dripping peninsulas”, described in “I’m Here for the Weather” by Tom Robbins. As executive director, he works to fulfill our mission to teach the health benefits of nature, promote outdoor recreation, and steward the places where we play.