By Chris Hoffer, Environmental Programs Manager
Why Restore the Wetlands?
First-time visitors to Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands often ask why there is so much land set aside for the wetlands. Couldn’t we use that land to produce even more food for the community?
Here at Seattle Tilth, we believe that a healthy environment is the foundation for growing healthy food. The reason we protect and restore wetlands is simple: they protect and restore us. When it rains, for example, healthy wetlands help filter polluted runoff that could otherwise carry harmful chemicals and bacteria into local waterways and groundwater.
In addition to providing cleaner groundwater for the food we grow and eat, wetlands also support the trees that give us clean air and provide habitat for wildlife. Wetland restoration also creates an opportunity for communities to tackle environmental issues, like pollution and climate change, which may otherwise seem daunting. Restoration gives everyone the chance to create a healthier environment and food system, one work party at a time.
What We’re Doing
So what does restoration look like at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands? In the fall and winter, we’re planting native wetland trees and shrubs, with a goal this year of getting 1,500 new plants into the ground. We also sheet mulch the surrounding soil to suppress weeds and protect soils during winter rains and summer droughts. We shift focus in the spring and summer, relying on hundreds of volunteers to ensure these new plants are not overtaken by invasive weeds.
Plants in the wetlands and farm areas at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands compete heavily with invasive species like field bindweed. Intensive weeding, pulling and grubbing of invasive plants is necessary until the new plants can hold their own.
No matter the time of year, work parties are fun, family-friendly events. We work with youth, elders, corporate groups, veterans and people of all abilities and backgrounds. Some of our favorites work parties are when community members choose to celebrate important life events — from birthdays to bachelorette parties — by volunteering with us. And restoration doesn’t end at the farm. Everyday actions support healthy environments, too. We can all fix leaking cars and wash them at commercial car washes, pick up after pets, practice natural yard care, build healthy soil with compost and mulch, and replace lawn and hardscapes with trees and vegetation.
Learn more about becoming a Wetlands Steward at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands.
We also have a wetlands restoration and pollinator project at Seattle Tilth Farm Works in Auburn and forest restoration activities at McAuliffe Park in Kirkland. Contact Chris Hoffer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 633-0451 ext. 108. We rely on volunteers like you to build healthy ecosystems for a healthy food system!