By Christie True, Director, Department of Natural Resources and Parks
Crossposted from KC Employee News
As someone who has lived her whole life in the Evergreen State, I have always had a strong affinity for the trees that define our landscape and so much of our lives. As a kid I remember being amazed that you could determine the age of a tree by counting its rings. As a college student learning about our Native American history and the first settlers, I was struck by photographs of enormous Douglas firs that grew right up to the edge of the water, like giants protecting the shoreline.
Trees just make life better: They offer shade, clean the air and water, contribute to healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, prevent flooding, and just by their presence can make an area feel nicer. What’s more, they efficiently store carbon and play an enormous role in our department’s efforts to cut carbon pollution and respond to a changing climate.
This is why I’m so happy that Executive Constantine launched the effort to plant a million trees in our county by 2020, coordinating with local governments, non-profit organizations and private companies. Planting 1 Million Trees is something we can all make happen and is a fundamental part of King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate impacts.
Whether you plant a tree by yourself or with colleagues, friends, or family, it feels really good. I hope all King County employees will have the opportunity to plant a tree. For the 2017 planting season our volunteer program planted more than 26,200 native trees and shrubs at 35 different King County Parks sites. This effort included planting nearly 17,000 trees for the 1 Million Tree campaign. This is an increase of 5,000 trees over 2016 effort for this program. More than 1,200 individuals put in nearly 4,300 hours of effort to make this happen.
One of my favorite planting events from this year involved 70 fifth graders who came to Big Finn Hill Park in Kirkland to plant trees and shrubs in an area that used to be overgrown with blackberry vines. These amazing students and chaperones managed to plant 34 trees and 193 shrubs in the park that day. I’m proud of these numbers and equally proud of all the people in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks who facilitate these events, often multiple times a week.
Part of the reason we are seeing strong volunteer participation is because of how easy it is to plant a tree in one of our parks. We provide everything you need, shovels, gloves and, of course, trees! We just need people who are unafraid to get their hands dirty and spend a few hours doing something great for our environment. It’s also a fun team-building opportunity for employee groups, community organizations and friends and family. A big benefit to planting trees in our parks is that our employees will work to make sure those trees are happy and healthy for their entire life, meaning that years from now there is a stronger chance that you can see the sapling you planted all grown up.
We need people to really root for our trees and support them. Trees require year-long care, not just during planting season. There are many opportunities to care for our trees and prepare for the next planting season. Mulching, trimming, clearing land and other stewardship projects are completed by volunteers and our coordinators every year.
If you’re like me and this is a project you’re passionate about, too, I encourage you to visit the 1 Million Trees website and explore the opportunities to help with this campaign. We’re always happy to work with groups and tailor events that work for their size, timing and needs.