Park Stewards: Rockstars of Restoration

Everest Park Steward with young volunteers

Everest Park Steward, Ben Saari, talking to young volunteers

This guest post is by Katie Cava, who leads the Green Kirkland Partnership’s Steward Program.

As the staff person leading the Green Kirkland Partnership’s Steward Program, I have the opportunity to support and train community members who dedicate their free time to improving the health of Kirkland’s natural areas. These volunteers are called Stewards, but I like to think of them as the Rockstars of Restoration.

Stewards are trained in restoration techniques (removing invasive plants and replacing them with native plants) and best management practices for leading volunteer events. Once trained, these volunteers use their skills to lead restoration efforts in a local park. Gathering together neighbors, friends, and perfect strangers, they lead volunteer events and educate their fellow community members on how they can lend a hand in improving forest health.

Cotton Hill Park Steward directing volunteers

Cotton Hill Park Steward, Karen Story, directing a volunteers during a wet volunteer event.

While it may seem simplistic or even a bit like a pyramid scheme, having rockstar Stewards lead volunteer events allows the Green Kirkland Partnership to amplify the on-the-ground restoration it achieves. I am continually amazed by the amount of work the Stewards make possible.

Some of our Stewards (Juanita Bay Park, Cotton Hill Park, and O.O. Denny Park Stewards) lead volunteer events every single week, while others opt for monthly or multiple events a year. Whether they host events once a month or once a week, their work halts invasive ivy from crawling up trees, digs outs the roots of Himalayan blackberries, and fills empty spaces with the next generation of young native plants to mature into a diverse and resilient forest.

Juanita Bay Park Steward talking with volunteers

Nona Ganz, Juanita Bay Park Steward, talking with restoration volunteers

This act of transformation is occurring in all 12 parks where 25 Stewards are working. But why stop there? We need more Stewards to help in the battle against invasive plants! The Green Kirkland Partnership hosts a New Steward Training every March to introduce interested volunteers to the Steward Program and provide some introductory training. Fifteen people attended the 2015 training – these new Stewards will be paired up with a natural area in need. It is energizing to see how much support and interest there is within the Kirkland community to take on a leadership role in restoration.

Contact Katie Cava at greenkirkland@kirklandwa.gov for more information about the Steward Program or watch this video to hear a Steward’s perspective of volunteering with the Green Kirkland Partnership: