Protecting greenspace in urban communities is a significant challenge. The land is expensive to buy and it is more difficult to restore ecological functions in industrial river corridors than in less impacted ecosystems.
But for the Land Conservation Initiative – a regional partnership to protect the last, best 65,000 acres of the highest conservation value open space before they are lost forever – providing more equitable access to the outdoors and improving habitat for some of the most productive salmon runs in the state are calls to action.
King County Executive Dow Constantine recently saw firsthand a few of the land conservation successes in the region known as the Green-Duwamish Watershed, which includes the industrial corridor where the river reaches Elliott Bay.
It was an opportunity for him to thank elected officials, experts, and community partners from surrounding cities – Des Moines, Seattle, and Tukwila – who helped protect some of the last remaining greenspace in the urban river corridor. They also provided a preview of potential land acquisitions that are included in the budget.
New parks, better habitat, more greenspace
The tour started at Duwamish Waterway Park where the City of Seattle and surrounding community are creating the South Park Riverwalk. Once complete, the riverwalk will connect a network of shoreline access points and waterfront parks in South Park.
The recent acquisition funded by the Conservation Futures Program will nearly double the size of the waterfront park.
The group headed upriver to Tukwila where Mayor Allan Ekberg and members of his staff and community partners provided a tour of a successful fish passage restoration project led by the City of Tukwila. The project removed barriers to salmon habitat along Riverton Creek, restored 1,200 feet of creek and a quarter acre of backwater wetland habitat.
The partners also revegetated about 400 linear feet of Duwamish River shoreline, installed artwork that incorporates the surrounding natural environment, and created a mural that celebrates one of the most racially diverse communities in the United States.
Just across the river is the Chinook Wind Mitigation Project. The 5.9-acre project – coordinated by King County and scheduled to be completed by the end of the year – will restore estuarine wetland and salmon habitat along the Duwamish River. The land was acquired with funding generated by the Conservation Futures Program, the King County Parks Levy, and Mitigation Reserves. Key partners include WSDOT and local businesses.
Artist Sarah Kavage showed a few of the new sculptures along the river, including woven willow that reflects the natural landscape.
Protecting greenspace for restoration and recreation
The one acre-Duwamish Habitat Corridor is in a residential area of Tukwila that lacks public access to greenspace. The landowner stewarded this important riparian parcel of land for restoration, conservation, and recreation, protecting mature trees from development until the city purchased the property with a grant from the Conservation Futures Program. The city recently completed public outreach to help determine the future design of this site.
The City of Tukwila partnered with a private property owner and their property manager to restore nearly 1,000 linear feet of shoreline in an industrialized region that the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe identified as having a high need for tree shade to keep water cool for migrating salmon. Today, the restored section of the riverfront is improving habitat and offering much-needed greenspace to those who work nearby.
Expanding and enhancing an important city park in Des Moines
The last stop of the tour was the revitalized Midway Park in Des Moines, the only public greenspace in the Pacific Ridge neighborhood where many residents face economic challenges and health disparities.
Like the Duwamish Waterway Park and the Duwamish Habitat Corridor, the Conservation Futures Program’s match waiver program helped the City of Des Moines expand and enhance Midway Park to better accommodate the residents who live in the 800 new units of affordable housing nearby. Over the past few years, the city has installed new playground equipment and a basketball court featuring art created in partnership with Highline Schools.
The project also protects tree canopy near parcels that were recently cleared for light rail construction.
The city is also working with volunteers and partner organizations, such as Reach Out Des Moines, to offer activities and programs at the park that contribute to safer, healthier communities.
Follow our progress with Tracks, an interactive map the shows the results of our work with partners to protect what we love about this place and restore what has been lost.