DNDA, in partnership with United Way King County, celebrated Martin Luther King Day of Service this year by hosting a volunteer restoration event in the West Duwamish Greenbelt.

The event focused largely on social and environmental justice through forest restoration, with a lunchtime EcoArts activity that highlighted and honored the work of several local activists. DNDA’s Nature Consortium program collaborated closely with the EcoArts team to pull off a highly integrated arts and nature experience in Pigeon Point Park.

High school students from Camp Fire of Puget Sound removing invasive blackberry roots.

 

Fierce Forest Warriors

The day kicked off with our crew setting up tables, tents and tools in preparation for Seattle’s reliably unpredictable weather. Despite the rain beating down for the first half-hour, 142 people showed up to install native plants and remove invasive Himalayan blackberry.

Skies cleared up and the sun came out just before lunch, giving everyone a much-appreciated morale boost to finish off the first part of the day. The EcoArts team circulated through the work sites, leading quick stretches and breathing exercises to help everyone feel more grounded and connected to their work.

Volunteers take a quick break to stretch and warm their muscles up in preparation for intense weeding.

Honoring Local Heroes

Lunch brought an exciting opportunity to engage volunteers in the accomplishments of several of Seattle’s social and environmental justice activists. People of all ages gathered around art tables set with colorful paints, wire, and mosaic glass to decorate planter boxes. Each station was dedicated to a different community leader, with tables honoring the work of Bernie Whitebear, Eddie Rye, Jr. and Jamie Margolin.

Volunteers listened to the stories and achievements of their table’s equity warriors and used that inspiration to decorate the boxes. The boxes will be planted with native camas bulbs and installed on our tool storage container at Pigeon Point Park during a future restoration event.

Hope and peace were among the most popular themes displayed on the planter boxes.

Boxes from the Jamie Margolin station depicted Margolin making waves in Congress and taking the government by storm.

 

Returning to our Roots

After getting a second wind from lunch and painting, people marched back out into the woods, ready to tackle more blackberry. Saxophonist Amy Denio, clarinetist Benson Smith, and trumpet player Jim Knodle floated around the park, serenading volunteers and taking requests for hit songs such as “Careless Whisper” and “What is Love?”. Through the course of the four-hour event, 105 plants were planted and 19,248 square feet of invasive blackberry was removed.

The day wrapped up with a reflection and discussion on how to be more active in social and environmental justice work, and people were invited to make pledges to protect the natural environment. Pledges included eating organic food, reducing plastic waste, buying local products and of course, planting more trees!

Everyone was rewarded for their hard work with hot pizza and fresh fruits and veggies. It’s hard to say whether the pizza tasted so good because it was the best slice in West Seattle, or because restoration work makes all food taste incredible. You will have to wait until our next big event (Earth Day on Saturday, April 18) to decide for yourself.