Tucked behind the Washington Arboretum, the Yesler Swamp might be overlooked by the casual passerby at first glance. However, the swamp is host to a multitude of environmental restoration and education projects that UW students are engaging in to bring more attention to this hidden gem. Carolyn Foster and Tyler Licata are two Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) students who are leading restoration efforts at the Yesler Swamp under the Yesler Swamp Project (YSP), which is a student-led restoration project. The main focus of YSP is environmental restoration and community building. They have been restoring areas of the swamp with the assistance of many groups from the community over the past year. The intent of the restoration efforts is to mitigate the construction from building a boardwalk in the swamp.
The boardwalk is currently in the process of being constructed around the swamp and the Washington Conservation Corps completed the first phase of the project this summer. The Friends of the Yesler Swamp hosted a ribbon-cutting event this past summer at the Yesler Swamp to commemorate the completion of the first phase of the boardwalk and the funders who helped achieve this. There were speakers from King County Conservation, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and the Parks Department. Over one hundred people turned up to this event Cajun-themed event, with Cajun food and music. They also raised money to finish the last two phases of the boardwalk. Carolyn and Tyler were present and gave tours of the swamp, which also provided them with an opportunity to inform and educate others about the Yesler Swamp Project. This event celebrated the community’s efforts to restore the swamp through collaboration across many different organizations.
The Yesler Swamp Project is currently preparing for the construction a bird blind, which is a project that the Campus Sustainability Fund is funding. A bird blind is a wooden shelter that will allow people to view birds and other wildlife, without the birds noticing the people. There are plans to put benches and binoculars in the bird blind to allow visitors to sit and view birds. This bird blind will be an outdoor classroom for viewing and learning about wildlife. Carolyn says that another motivation behind building the bird blind is to “provide a place of reflection for those who walk through the swamp.” There are currently no places in the Yesler Swamp for people to sit, relax, and enjoy their surroundings, so the bird blind will provide this haven. The YSP is currently in the planning process and is conducting a feasibility study on the bird blind. They are also creating plans for ecologically restoring the area once the bird blind construction begins. It is the hope that the bird blind will draw more attention to the swamp. The bird blind will be used as an educational tool by providing a place for classes to view the wildlife in the swamp, so they plan on increasing their number of educational events after the bird blind is built.
The Yesler Swamp Project engages in many forms of community outreach to increase awareness about their purpose, goals, and activities. They actively search for different groups to bring to the swamp for restoration work parties, drawing in a wide spectrum of people. For example, they bring many environmental groups and community service organizations to the swamp by advertising their work parties to the introductory environmental science class at the UW. They are also currently talking to the Carlson Center about opportunities to partner with them for service learning classes.
The Yesler Swamp Project also collaborates with departments on campus. Many students from the Environmental Science & Resource Management major help with restoration projects at the Swamp. Carolyn and Tyler also met with a professor from the College of Built Environments because his class will be designing and building the bird blind in spring of 2016, increasing their collaboration with the College of Built Environments.
The Yesler Swamp Project partners with the Friends of Yesler Swamp, which is an organization that also engages in community outreach and restoration at the Yesler Swamp. Many of the members of Friends serve as mentors to the YSP and have assisted them with navigating through various logistical processes, such as getting a permit for the bird blind. The YSP also actively engages with the Laurelhurst community. The Laurelhurst blog writes about their projects to keep the community updated with their events and news. The Swamp has hosted fifth grade classes from Laurelhurst Elementary School, high school students from Seattle Prep, Boy Scout troops, and Edmonds Community College for restoration events. Additionally, the Sightline Institute, which is an environmental thinktank, toured the swamp. Thanks to YSP’s dedication to community building, education, and outreach, they have gotten word about the Yesler Swamp out to a large audience.
The Yesler Swamp has become a place of ecological restoration, environmental education, community outreach, and reflection for community members and students. There are many projects in place to increase the Yesler Swamp’s impact as an environmental education tool and exciting plans for the future that will expand its reach. To stay updated with the Yesler Swamp Project’s activities or look for opportunities to get involved, visit their website at: http://yeslerswamp.weebly.com/.
Photos provided by Tyler Licata, Yesler Swamp Project