Yesler Swamp Trek Stop

Executive Summary:

Our team is proposing a $65,000 construction project on the western shoreline of the Yesler Swamp lagoon to offer UW students and other visitors a unique wildlife observation platform.  The viewing platform will be called the “Yesler Swamp Trek Stop” (YSTS) and it will offer a permanent bird-watching post to rest, reflect, and interact with the different species that reside in wetland and swamp ecosystems around Lake Washington.  Our team has been hosting volunteer restoration events at the Yesler Swamp and documenting them on a website since October of 2013. (

The primary goals of this project are to:

  • Build a bird blind structure with an extremely low environmental footprint that adheres to green building specifications and communicates the importance of resource conservation.
  • Provide a unique and identifying landmark for the Yesler Swamp.
  • Provide an opportunity for the public to engage with the swamp and its biodiversity through interpretive signs (explaining the swamp ecosystem and services).
  • Provide an exceptional view of the swamp lagoon, Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier.
  • Provide an outdoor classroom for groups visiting the UW Center for Urban Horticulture.
  • Build a stronger connection between the Yesler Swamp and the well established Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA).
  • Raise awareness about the Yesler Swamp and the opportunities it presents for students and the greater Seattle community to actively engage with nature.

Background Story:

The Yesler Swamp is slowly transforming from a neglected and degraded wasteland into a restored green space and prospering ecosystem in the heart of Seattle.  This community around the Yesler Swamp, part of the Montlake Fill, is now an environmental treasure in Seattle; and it’s amazing considering that this place was home to Henry Yesler’s timber mill, a US military base, and garbage dump.  Now this place provides a sanctuary where people can trade in the cacophony of urban life for the tittering of hundreds of birds; an urban oasis where people both young and old can be fascinated by the natural world.

The Yesler Swamp Trek Stop will border the western edge of the swamp and the eastern end of the UW Center for Urban Horticulture, southeast of the botany greenhouses.  There will also be a wooden boardwalk twenty yards away, providing a permanent loop trail through the swamp.  The nonprofit organization The Friends of Yesler Swamp has raised enough funds to construct the first phase of the boardwalk adjacent to the proposed location for the trek stop.  Upon completion, this boardwalk will be donated to the UW.  Our team’s collaboration with the Friends of Yesler Swamp and their boardwalk endeavor will help establish the Yesler Swamp as an attractive destination for UW students and the surrounding neighborhood communities.  UW students have been restoring the swamp every year since 2000, which demonstrates that the site holds a place in students’ hearts. Our project team also has strong history of educational tours and events at the Yesler Swamp that we consistently document on our website:


Student Involvement:

Our project will incorporate student leadership and involvement during the design and construction phases through collaboration with the faculty and students in the College of Built Environments and the College of the Environment.  Ideally, our team would like to work with architecture and biology students to design a sustainable, ecological, and innovative shoreline viewing platform.  As the project progresses through the design phase, we will involve students from different realms of campus to ensure the bird blind incorporates interpretative signage that is easy to understand and engaging.  Students will also be invited to participate in the site’s restoration and clean up thus allowing them to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the swamp.  In addition, it will create future opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the natural landscapes surrounding the UW.

Education & Outreach:

One of the fundamental purposes for building the YSTS is to foster an environmentally conscious culture.  In the beginning, our main goal is to promote restoration efforts at the swamp and educate the student body about complex ecosystems existing on the UW Campus. This will take the form of posting fliers throughout the local community to advertise volunteer opportunities (ie. the UW Botanic Gardens/Center for Urban Horticulture, Laurelhurst Neighborhood, Main Campus, University Village, and Ravenna Neighborhoods) and hosting guided tours to showcase the newly constructed boardwalk trail.  These efforts will bring awareness to the weekly work parties currently hosted by the Community, Environment, and Planning Program and the Friends of Yesler Swamp partnership.  Our past work events have involved Seattle Preparatory seniors, Boy Scouts, Laurelhurst Elementary 5th graders, and Edmonds Community College students.  Connecting with local youth allows our project to foster environmental stewardship and inspire sustainable behavior changes for future generations.

Environmental Impact:
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Waste
  • Water

Environmental Problem:

Upon completion, the YSTS will mix educational and long-term sustainable design elements by adhering to green building specifications. In doing so, the YSTS will be easily maintained and blend in with the surrounding environment.  We plan to build the YSTS out of reclaimed materials from local vendors such as Second Use Building Materials and Salvage and the RE Store to lessen the project's environmental impact.

In addition, our team plans to offset the environmental footprint created by the construction project by restoring the native shoreline surrounding the trek stop and introducing native plant varieties that attract birds to the area. The site where the trek stop will be located is infested with invasive plant species that are crowding out native plants and obstructing the view to the lagoon.  Restoring the site to its natural state will benefit fish and mammal species and open new possibilities for students to encounter wildlife on campus, while simultaneously demonstrating the importance of preserving the Yesler Swamp.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The success of our project will be measured by:

  1. Number of volunteers (both students and others)
  2. Number of visitors to the YSTS

These measurements will be tracked through sign-in sheets at work events and permanent sheets at the viewing platform for guests. 

  1. Sustainability Score Rating

The sustainability score of the structure will be assessed during the projects design/build phase according to the US Green Building Councils Neighborhood Development LEED specifications,

Total amount requested from the CSF: $65,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Phase 1 - 4
DPD Permit$12,000
Site Prep$6,000
Erosion Control$3,000
Drainage $2,000
Foundation Support$7,000
Phase 5 - 7
Design/Build Course$30,000
Long Term Upkeep$5,000

Non-CSF Sources:

Friends of YeslerSwamp
Project Completion Total: $65,000


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Project timeline posted below as PDF file calledYesler Swamp Timeline