If you think Green Tacoma Day is all about community, conservation and beauty, you’re selling it short. Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Green Tacoma Partnership’s marquee event offers a chance to unleash naked aggression then go home tired but happy. Or you could write nature poems – organizers have the good grace to roll their eyes when they admit to calling them “poetree” – at Point Defiance Park. Families can opt for kid-friendly activities there and at Wapato Hills, Swan Creek and Julia’s Gulch. There will be games and demonstrations, even some tree climbing, and not so many sticky brambles, sharp tools and dangerous drops.
Still Jennifer Chang prefers the ground war. Forterra’s South Sound Green Cities Project Coordinator, it turns out, has vegetative murder in her heart. “My favorite is grubbing out the giant blackberry root wad,” she said. “It’s like a little battle and I won. I feel so triumphant afterward.” Pulling ivy, uprooting Scotch broom, decimating invasive clematis, and, above all, assassinating blackberries, soothe Chang’s sense of green justice. She’s got company. Last year, 3,150 volunteers put in close to 29,000 hours of good work at Tacoma Green partnership events. They yanked and hauled 21 acres of open green space into conservation, which brought the total up to 50 acres.
Since 2009 they have done what the city of Tacoma and Metro Parks Tacoma cannot afford to do: Reclaim public land from invasive plants – and people. “This is how you win for nature,” said Ramie Pierce, the city’s urban forester. “You don’t talk for the trees. You pull out blackberries. You get all that ivy and clematis off of them.” Pierce’s friends call her the town Lorax, but they underestimate her hard edge. She’s intent on using data to figure out what works, and where, and acting on that knowledge.
This year, that means switching Arbor Day celebrations from April to Green Tacoma Day.
Put a tree in the ground in the spring and it’ll be thirsty all summer, Pierce said. Put a tree in the ground during planting season – early November to early March – and the Great
That’s also why the big green spaces are safer now than they were before volunteers started clearing them. When they were choked in vines and brambles, they made good places for encampments, drug deals and prostitution. Pierce, Chang and Metro Parks’ Outreach Coordinator Richard Madison work with Tacoma police and with Colin DeForrest, the city’s Homeless Housing First coordinator. Together, they have cleared encampments and gotten their residents into more appropriate resources. That’s made volunteering safer for young people, from scouts to Mount Tahoma High School’s JROTC. Chang, who helps her mother, Donna Chang, with First Creek Middle School’s science club activities, saw how working at Swan Creek affected the kids.
They had cleared an area and, a few weeks ago, discovered someone had pulled them up. “They were so upset,” she said. “I was scared they would be turned off, but I think it made them more determined in their work.” The kids found the trees, and replanted as many as they could save. That’s how kids are when they get the chance to do worthy, tangible work, said Madison. “If you send a teen out to pick up litter, they’ll say, ‘I’m never littering again,’” he said. “If they plant a tree, it’s ‘This is my tree.’” And if they show up Saturday, Chang will log their hours and notify their school – on Forterra letterhead, no less – to get them on the path to meeting school volunteerism requirements, and, possibly, lettering in public service with United Way.
That’s Tacoma for you, reclaiming land, opening opportunities, getting exercise, and the occasional T-shirt. And letting Jennifer Chang at those blackberries. Green Tacoma Day sponsors include the City of Tacoma, Metro Parks, Pierce Conservation District, Forterra, Urban & Community Forestry and the United States Forest Service.
Dress for a mess on Green Tacoma Day on Oct. 20. For work parties, bring gloves and tools to fit the project. Wear sturdy clothes and footwear and bring water. Plan to work from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All events are for all ages.
For more information, and to sign up for a work party, go to http://cedar.greencitypartnerships.org/gtp/event/map.
• Garfield Gulch – Uprooting invasive species, planting natives and spreading mulch. Meet at the entrance to Garfield Park on Borough Road and ‘D’ Street. Contact Rob Girvin at email@example.com.