Green Tacoma Day

// Making the city beautiful one uprooted blackberry bush at a time

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 Northwet will meet its water needs. That’ll be the case for the flowering cherry trees Japan’s Honorable Consul General will give to Metro Parks Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Point Defiance Pagoda in honor of the centennial of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C. That’s why, after a summer of yanking and digging, volunteers will be planting at Wapato Hills, Garfield Gulch, Franklin, Titlow and McKinley parks and Gog le hi te Wetland.

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.

• Point Defiance Park – Family-oriented educational activities including tree climbing, tree-themed art projects with Tacoma Art Museum and Ask an Arborist. A 10:30 a.m. ceremony will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of cherry trees to Washington, D.C. The Japanese Consulate will mark it with a gift of cherry trees for the Japanese Gardens. Contact Jennifer Chang at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Wapato Hills – Hub site for family-oriented education and restoration activities with REI. Planting 400 native trees and shrubs. REI will have "Get Dirty" T-shirts for the first 100 people who sign up to volunteer. Meet near South Wapato and 62nd streets. Contact Jennifer Chang at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Julia’s Gulch – Hub site for family-oriented activities with the City of Tacoma EnviroChallengers. Habitat restoration. Park at View Point Park. Contact Heather Halabisky at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Swan Creek – Hub site for family-oriented education and restoration activities from Tacoma Nature Center. Meet at the Gathering Place by East 42nd Street and East Roosevelt Avenue in Salishan. Contact Jennifer Chang at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• 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 
rgirvin@harbornet.com.

• First Creek – Removing invasive species, garbage and debris. Meet at East Fairbanks Street where it crosses First Creek, just east of Portland Avenue. Contact Jennifer Chang at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Oak Tree Park – Rooting out Scotch broom, English ivy and Himalayan blackberry. Take Tacoma Mall Boulevard to South 80th Street. Go to the end and turn right on South Pine Street, then continue to the end. Contact Brian Pitt at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Franklin Park – Planting native trees and shrubs. Meet near South Lawrence and 15th streets. Contact Alex Deome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Gog le hi te Wetland – Planting. Contact Jeanine Riis at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• McKinley Park – Planting native shrubs. Meet at the playground on McKinley Avenue. Contact Brian Pitt at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Pacific Lutheran University – Removing invasive species. Contact Erin Liden
 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Puget Creek – Removing invasive species. Contact Scott Hansen at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for location.

• Titlow Park – Planting native trees and shrubs in the recently cleared area along Sixth Avenue. Park in the Titlow Pool parking lot. Contact Brian Pitt at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

• Tacoma Nature Center – Removing invasive species. Gather at Nature Center parking lot at South 19th and Tyler streets. Contact Cyndy Dillon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call (253) 591-6439 for information.

• Tacoma Community College – Kia Kaha – Restoring habitat. Meet at South 19th Street a block west of Pearl Street. Volunteers may park on South Visscher Street. Contact Jennifer Chang at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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