People from around the world have found themselves calling King County home, with only an estimated three in ten Seattle area adults born in Washington. One of these Seattle transplants is Max Solis, who uprooted from Los Angeles in 2019.
“I felt like I was in the wrong place, like there was no future for me in California,” Max says… “I really feel like I’ve found my place in Seattle.”
It should be of no surprise then to learn that Max has found himself looking over his own group of transplants. As a groundskeeper at West Point Treatment Plant (where King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division cleans Seattle’s wastewater) one of his many tasks is looking after a future forest, a group of seedlings that will one day move, just like he did, to a new home.
Start Small, Think Big
The seedlings are barely 4-inches tall, yet they are powerful combatants against climate change. Tucked away in a partially shaded spot on the West Point grounds, the native pines will be fostered here for two years, nestled among the giant workings of the treatment plant, before heading to reforestation and remediation projects throughout the region.
King County has set an ambitious goal to plant and protect three million trees by the end of 2025 to help meet our climate goals. That requires everyone to do their part – even in the most unexpected or out of the way locations like West Point.
The seedlings come from local non-profit group GROW IT FORWARD, which supports micro-nurseries like these in backyards and small plots. Last year, the non-profit provided over 2,000 saplings to King County’s Water and Land Resources efforts, and more to non-profit groups. Max received 98 and will raise them until they are ready for their permanent homes in nature.
A Team Player
Max has been working with King County since early 2020 when he took up a seasonal position with the plant’s Facilities Maintenance team. He liked WTD so much that he jumped at the opportunity to move into a permanent position with the crew later in the year. Max takes pride in his work: “I feel that it impacts the experience that employees and visitors to the plant have, and I want to make sure that they’re able to enjoy all the beauty the space has to offer.”
In addition to the upkeep of facility grounds, Max and team are also charged with maintaining the North Beach Trail that runs along the outside perimeter of the facility. A steady stream of visitors to Discovery Park – probably in the many hundreds each year – use that trail along the beach. So do snakes.
“I hate snakes! They give me the chills, but all the beautiful birds I get to see make it worth having to deal with them.” He’s frozen still as a snake at that very moment makes its way across the trail.
Max says there’s never a dull day for the groundskeeping crew – they see everything. If they aren’t dealing with snakes and thorny blackberry bushes, they are putting out abandoned fires along the beach … or even helping to nurture a future forest.
The Power of Trees
The seedlings that Max is looking after may appear small and insignificant now, but soon enough they will be out in nature doing important work for the environment: storing carbon from the atmosphere, capturing stormwater runoff, enhancing wildlife habitat.
It’s proposed that a single large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people. It will be a few years before the West Point trees start doing all that, but the modest grove set up by Max is already an inspiring reminder of how small efforts lead to substantial, positive change.