March 5, 2001
Citizens who plant together, serve the City together
by Bronwyn Wilson
If it weren't for volunteers planting trees and shrubs, the area beside the Burke-Gilman Trail along the Sammamish River would have a bleak future.
The view of leafy trees stretching out their branches into a thick, green canopy would be missed by those strolling along the trail. Naturally, bicyclists, runners and skaters would also miss out. But the salmon would suffer the most.
Without trees, there wouldn't be shade to provide a means to cool the water which salmon need to survive. Plus, trees act as a natural form of weed control. In their absence, invasive weeds could continue to run amok along the banks of the Sammamish.
But fortunately, a volunteer program supported by the City Council allows Woodinville's citizens to make a positive impact on the community's future by planting trees and shrubs.
The plant squad program is an ongoing environmental stewardship project of the City of Woodinville. The project promotes the enhancement of the community as well as the protection of wild salmon. Recently, the squad planted western red cedar, hemlock, noble fir, Pacific willow and shrubs, such as mahonia and salal. Together, the volunteers work to restore the salmon's native habitat as well as add natural beauty to the area.
According to Laura Baerwolf, plant squad leader, "The many people who participate in this project come to it for a variety of reasons ‹some have a passion for the environment, others are trying to instill the value of community service in their children, some come as a part of a school assignment, and others see it as an element of putting their faith into action." She went on to say, "I would like to commend our City Council for their encouragement and support of volunteer programs for the City, and especially for maintaining a volunteer coordinator position."
Baerwolf has been a plant squad leader for a year and a half. The squad meets the fourth Sunday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon at Wilmot Park. Currently, there are about 35 people who participate.
"Anyone interested in joining us can contact me by phone for details," Baerwolf said.
Plant squad activities include weeding, planting shrubs and trees and spreading beauty bark around the trees ‹ all in the area by the Sammamish River near Wilmot Park.
"And we pull up dead trees," Baerwolf added. She mentioned that some join the plant squad because they love doing it. One lady, she said, brought her whole family out to plant trees in celebration of her birthday.
Janine Brown, a pastor at New Life Christian in Woodinville, has organized churches in the Woodinville area to join in the project as well.
Since church services preclude the Sunday meeting time when Baerwolf's plant squad meets, Brown has set up Saturday planting times for area churches.
"It's an effort to bring churches together and break down the walls," said Brown, who prefers to be called Pastor Janine.
Seven churches gathered on Jan. 13 to plant red twig dogwood, yellow twig dogwood and tiny evergreens about three inches tall. More than seven churches joined together again on March 3.
"It was so cool to see the churches come together and work together," said Pastor Janine. "The burden of the churches is to serve the City," she pointed out.
Both Laura Baerwolf and Pastor Janine said there's a need for more volunteers who will pledge an on-going commitment. Any groups, whether they be neighborhood organizations or the PTA, who want to serve the community by planting trees are welcome to join them. The rewards are many, they said, including a camaraderie among the volunteers and a feeling of taking responsibility for the community.
Volunteer Coordinator John Markuson spoke of the City's long-term goals.
"Through the years we're hoping the entire Sammamish River can be re-treed," said Markuson who works behind the scenes, coordinating volunteers and seeing that trees are potted and available for planting.
Markuson oversees 2,000 potted trees which are about a foot high and currently sit in one-gallon pots waiting to be planted along the river sometime in the future.
When the planted trees are full grown, their shade will not only provide the cool water temperatures that salmon need, but also deprive invasive plants of sunlight.
For example, the reed canary-grass has relished a healthy life in the sunny areas along the river's banks. The invasive plant displaces native vegetation and disrupts natural ecosystems. "It's awful," said Markuson of the perennial grass. "Its root system is dense and is about 10 inches in depth. It crowds everything out and competes for water."
But Markuson pointed to the shady areas under trees where there's no sign of the wicked grass. "It can't grow because it doesn't have sun," Markuson explained.
In the upcoming months, the plant squads will be adding layers of newspaper and wood chips around trees and shrubs to retain moisture. "That's especially important now with the coming drought," said Markuson.
The City receives the trees in bags of four-inch plugs which are donated by the Dept.of Natural Resources. In addition, Mountains to Sound Greenway and some Native American groups working for salmon protection donate native trees salvaged from areas marked for development.
If interested in joining a plant squad, call Laura Baerwolf at (425) 806-9171 or Pastor Janine Brown at (425) 402-4010, ext. 802. If interested in starting a new plant squad, call Markuson at (425) 489-2700, ext. 298.