The Duwamish region is named after the indigenous Dkhw’Duw’Absh (Duwamish) tribe that historically inhabited the area that is now metropolitan Seattle. Up until the 1850s, the Duwamish River was a healthy and thriving estuary. The river served as a transit corridor, a haven for spiritual celebration, and grounds for harvesting and fishing. The Duwamish watershed had extensive tidelands, forests and an abundance of wildlife. Before European settlers arrived, this area, including the present day West Duwamish Greenbelt, was filled with tall conifers (evergreen needle trees) such as Western red cedar and Douglas fir.
Today, the West Duwamish Greenbelt is the largest contiguous forest in Seattle. Designated a greenbelt in the 1980s by Seattle City Council, this important ecological resource spans nearly 500 acres on the eastern slopes of West Seattle and includes 182 acres of public parkland. Once an old-growth evergreen forest, the Greenbelt was the site of timber logging, gravel mining, a military base, and a proposed highway. Later abandoned, the Greenbelt became a tangle of now-decaying deciduous trees, English ivy, Himalayan blackberry, and other non-native invasive plant species. The Duwamish River, running along the eastern side of the Greenbelt, was designated as an EPA Superfund site in 2001, and is among the most polluted waterways in the entire country.
The West Duwamish Greenbelt remains an important part of the Duwamish Watershed because it serves as a buffer between the polluted industrial corridor and nearby residences. The Greenbelt offers many benefits to our community including reducing stormwater runoff, improving air quality, dampening noise, and reducing erosion. The maintained trails that wind through this area also make it an important space in the community for people to escape their urban surroundings and be completely surrounded by nature.