Become a Steward for Our Watershed

Are you feeling inspired to take action to protect our environment? You can make a difference to our Kirkland watershed by becoming a Soil and Water Steward with Tilth Alliance or a Green Kirkland Steward with Green Kirkland Partnership. Both programs empower residents to lead their communities through concrete steps that improve and protect the health of Lake Washington and our streams, forests and wildlife.

I connected with Jessica Yeung, a Soil and Water Steward, and June Fletcher, a Green Kirkland Steward, to find out what they’ve learned, what they’ve accomplished, and what keeps them coming back:

Spreading Green Garden Techniques to Protect Our Watershed

Woman turning compost pile.

Volunteer learning to compost at a Tilth Alliance training. Photo courtesy of Tilth Alliance.

Jessica Yeung signed on to boost her gardening know-how by becoming a Soil and Water Steward after moving from Houston to Seattle. “I was so excited that I started my new life in a place with such a beautiful natural landscape here. People who grew up in the Pacific Northwest may take trees for granted,” says Jessica.

The Soil and Water Steward training pairs classroom lessons with hands-on learning over six classes. Discussions cover food systems, water conservation, and stormwater, then trainees cement their knowledge by practicing composting techniques and touring working rain gardens. Stewards also have access to ongoing classes, an aspect Jessica especially appreciates: “The program actually opens doors for you to explore for more knowledge, support and resources.”

New stewards commit to 35 hours of volunteering on outreach and demonstration projects in return for their free training. Since becoming a Soil and Water Steward, Jessica has volunteered to restore forests and teach her neighbors and community at events and classes. Stewards helped build the new Learning Garden at Kirkland’s McAuliffe Park, and continue to work in and expand the demonstration garden’s examples of permaculture techniques.

Inspiring Change, Yard by Yard

Many of the skills from the training can be put straight to use in home gardens: building healthy soil, composting yard waste, and mulching. Jessica used her permaculture lessons in her own yard, using logs and wood chips, inspiring her friends and neighbors to use free wood chips as mulch in their own gardens. “Seeing my friends and neighbors order wood chips from Chip Drop, which collaborates home owners and arborists to reuse wood for soil water retention, is one of the best examples of being impactful in the community,” says Jessica.

Jessica wants to get more people of all ages involved in environmental initiatives, and hopes to put her new drip irrigation knowledge to work at a local school. “I learned so much about ways of minimizing human’s negative impact on the environment,” Jessica says. “Every single effort counts!”

How You Can Help

The Soil and Water Steward program is accepting applications through March 12 for this spring’s training. Apply now to learn ways you (and your community) can help protect Lake Washington.

Want to start smaller? Try out one of Tilth Alliance’s regular work parties at McAuliffe Park, starting in April, to get some hands-on learning while improving the park.

Joining Together to Restore Kirkland’s Forests

Green Kirkland Steward with native plant pots

June with native plants ready for volunteers to plant at one of her restoration events. Photo courtesy of Green Kirkland Partnership.

Green Kirkland Steward June Fletcher has been volunteering to restore and beautify Kirkland’s parks for eight years. “In my wildest dreams I didn’t imagine that so large an area would be cleared of blackberries and replanted with native plants in such a short time,” says June, who organizes volunteer events to remove invasive plants and plant native species. When Stewards, community volunteers, and organizations like Green Kirkland Partnership join together, daunting tasks – like restoring a park overgrown with blackberries and ivy – become manageable.

June and other stewards host public events and volunteer groups from schools, churches, and even businesses. Stewards commit to hosting restoration events at least twice a year for two years, with many choosing to host monthly or even more frequent events. Each Steward adopts an area of a City park to concentrate their restoration efforts. June does all her work at Juanita Bay Park, and has a regular group of volunteers who attend her events.

To support the Stewards, Green Kirkland Partnership provides plants, tools, and “endless cubic yards of mulch” for restoration work parties. In turn, Green Kirkland Partnership relies on its Stewards and volunteers to help implement long-term plans for Kirkland’s natural areas.

Being a Steward is a commitment, yet one that pays dividends. “I’m sure I have gotten more out of being a Steward than I have put in!” says June. “The teamwork, friendships made, sense of achievement, creating beautiful areas, are all things I value.”

Positive Change You Can See

June can now identify native and invasive plants, and understands why removing invasive plants is important to the forest’s health. “Now when I’m in the park and a member of the public asks me why I want to get rid of the blackberry plants, I can explain the benefits to wildlife and the environment,” she says. “Native plants provide food and habitat for birds and fish, clean the air and water and provide protection from erosion along streams.”

The results of restoration speak for themselves. As June says, “There is nothing better than seeing a spotted towhee jumping up and down on a twinberry bush you planted 3 years before, stuffing itself with the berries. Or going into the thimbleberry bushes myself and stuffing myself with the fruit!”

How You Can Help

Green Kirkland Partnership volunteer restoration event

Volunteers shoveling mulch at Juanita Bay Park. Photo courtesy of Green Kirkland Partnership.

Apply now to become a Green Kirkland Steward – training will occur in Spring 2017!

Or just try out volunteering at one of Green Kirkland Partnership’s many events all over Kirkland, year-round. “I always let people know, 2 hours or 20 hours, we’re happy to see you whenever you can make it,” says June.

Take Action to Help Kirkland’s Natural Places This Spring

Training starts soon for both of these Steward programs! By investing in your skills and education and concentrating your efforts through these established programs, you’ll accomplish so much more positive change than one-off volunteering. Put your passion for helping the planet to work locally – become a Steward.