Over twenty years ago (1990) when I applied for a permit to plant trees at Twin Ponds Park, then a King County Park, Twin Ponds was predominantly composed of a dying Alder forest over run by Himalayan blackberry and other invasive species.  Conifers composed about 10 percent of this forested wetland.  Most of these conifers consisted of an even-aged Norway spruce over story with no under-story.  The park contained 2 species of native conifers: 3 Douglas-firs and 6 Western Red Cedars.  Plant succession was completely shut down.  There was no coniferous under-story to replace the dying Alder forest.  English holly and laurel had a strong foothold in many parts of the park.  Himalayan blackberry and English ivy had buried and suffocated the native under-story.  Only 2 small patches of Salal could be found.  Sword ferns were noted for their scarcity.

The Stewards of Twin Ponds Park have changed the composition of plants at Twin Ponds.  By removing exotic invasives and replacing them with native herbs, shrubs and trees we have shifted the balance in the park from a theme of exotic monoculture to native biodiversity.  The Stewards of Twin Ponds Park have planted over 100 species of native plants, established the ‘Trail of Cedars’, created an ‘Arboretum’ and added habitat and aesthetic appeal to a valuable forested wetland.

By adding up the 10,000+ hours of volunteer labor and replacement value of 170 trees averaging over 20’ in height we have planted beginning in 1990 and the hundreds of other trees, shrubs and herbs, I calculated the Stewards of Twin Ponds have added approximately $700,000.00 of value to the park.  This calculation does not include carbon sequestration, storm water absorption, water filtration, air purification and habitat value.  Such calculations, if done, would no doubt put the value of our efforts to over 1 million dollars!

To quote a report released by Seattle Urban Nature in 2009:

“Conifer forests are a vanishing resource in the Puget Sound region.  These giant trees can live for more than a thousand years and are iconic symbols of the Pacific Northwest.  Conifer forests provide people and wildlife with important ecosystem services year-round.  Regeneration levels of conifers are often very low in urban areas due to number of factors including lack of seed sources, lack of coarse woody debris (downed wood) and competition with human-introduced invasive species.”

The Green Seattle Partnership with its nearly 200 forest stewards is slowly overcoming a century of clear cutting and neglect of our public urban forests by partnering with the Seattle Parks Department.  The Stewards of Twin Ponds Park have a 20+ year history with the same values and goals as the Seattle Green Partnership.

John Dixon

Native Plant Steward

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