At King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD), we spend our days operating and building wastewater infrastructure and finding ways to make our utility even more sustainable in the future. All that hard work doesn’t stop us from pitching in on our days off. Employees volunteer their time and skills in their communities to help youth, senior citizens, veterans, the homeless, pets and wildlife, and the environment.
On Saturday, October 22, WTD employees, their families and friends participated in a volunteer planting event at Duwamish Hill Preserve in Tukwila. The event was part of Duwamish Alive! , a community-led effort to improve and learn about the environment at 18 sites along the Duwamish River. Twenty-seven volunteers associated with WTD spent three hours digging in plants at the site.
The Duwamish Hill Preserve was saved from industrial development in 2004 by Forterra (then Cascade Land Conservancy) and the City of Tukwila. The land was purchased three years after a partnership with Friends of the Hill formed to preserve the site.
When the partners acquired the property, they knew that cultural and environmental value lay beneath mounds of trash and a jungle of invasive weeds. Duwamish Hill is an unusual rock outcropping older than Mt. Rainier. Like the “rocky bald habitat” of the San Juan Islands, it features rare native plant communities and marine fossils indicate it was once underwater. The hill once served as a viewpoint for Native Americans, who could look out on the Green – Duwamish watershed with a view from Mt. Rainier to Elliott Bay. The area is identified in Southern Puget Sound Salish oral traditions that describe the “Epic of the Winds”.
This sacred site has been transformed from decades of neglect and abuse by thousands of hours of volunteer work. Many partners have provided funding (link), and Friends of the Hill continues to coordinate work parties. Opened to the public in 2010, the site is now an outdoor classroom and an island of nature, art and history nestled in a busy industrial area.
At the October 22 planting event, volunteers helped plant grasses, shrubs and trees in the challenging thin soils of that rocky bald habitat.
“What a great site for us to work on. We were doing “uplands” restoration, but within sight of the Duwamish River. The connection between this habitat and the river below was clear,” WTD Environmental Planner Jacob Sheppard said.
That connection meant a lot to Sheppard.
“It was very complementary to the clean-water work we do every day – a reminder that the best water treatment system is sometimes a hillside covered in native plants, or a wetland,” he added
Gloria Briggs, an area resident and WTD employee recalled her connection to the preserve and why it’s important to support work going on at the hill.
“My family and I often take walks in the area and every chance I get to volunteer in my local neighborhood, I do! It gives me life to make a difference and see the positive change in our local landscape. Events like this make me have the “Skyway Proud” feeling – and grateful to work with an organization that supports volunteerism within our communities,” she explained.
Jacob Sheppard’s son, Micah, enjoyed the day for a simpler reason.
“I got to move a lot of rocks,” he declared.
Every little bit helps, and your efforts are appreciated by King County and the community, Micah!