A WALK ON
THE WILD SIDE
and a chorus of Pacific treefrogs greeted me on a
typically gray March day at Magnuson Park
as I arrived to meet
up with Lynn Ferguson, MESA Education Chair, to get the grand tour of
Promontory Point and learn about stewardship opportunities. It had been
20 years since I last volunteered there and I was in for a big
(Magnuson Environmental Stewardship Alliance) has been working hard
1999 to enhance the 20 acre natural area at the south end of the park,
invasive plants while planting thousands of native trees, shrubs, and
wildflowers to benefit birds and other wildlife (including you and
A quick glance at the trail map from east to west shows the
diversity of habitat beginning with the ample shoreline of Lake
across the grassy meadows of the basin, up the wooded bluff of
Point, and over to the wet and dry meadows on the other side. It was
to notice where work had been done. Such lovely natives as Indian plum,
red elderberry, and redflowering currant were already in bloom drawing
hummingbirds and insects, while giant western sword ferns and drooping
of Douglas fir and salal swayed and glistened with raindrops.
As we toured these areas along the trail it was also easy to see
where work has yet to be done. Of the 35 plant signs only 4 indicate
introduced species; Himalayan blackberry, Scot’s broom, clematis, and
ivy, and yet these 4 were everywhere strangling the land, the few trees
ferns which had managed to take root somehow persisting under this
barrage of foreign leaf and vine. It wasn’t pretty, in fact it was
But then we would stop and Lynn would point out a site and tell me
about a Boy Scout troop who had come in and cleared an area, planting
natives which were now happily thriving, or where Earthcorps had dug
large, established blackberry patch, putting in it’s place native
evergreen trees, shrubs, and ferns. And so, here and there, MESA was taking
the land back for the flora
and fauna. It was exciting to see. It was even more exciting to
discover that I
could pick my own site to steward from any of the areas we had toured.
But which one? Should I hug the shoreline and rip out the Scot’s
broom that would soon flower and go to seed? Should I try my hand in Kingfisher Basin and keep the Himalayan
blackberries at bay? Should I wind my way up the bluff and take on a
section where the trees where oh so sweetly calling me? Of them all one
particular seemed to have my name on it. The Earthcorps site at the top
bluff sitting astride Promontory Point itself.
This triangular site had been cleared and planted a few years
before and already the invasives were once again stretching their ugly
tentacles over the land. The sword ferns now hidden under shadow of
vine, the trees girdled with skirts of a thousand thorny brambles, the
literally in the midst of being reconsumed by the invaders. It needed a
hand to bring the light of day back to threatened leaf, twig and root.
the flora and fauna somewhere to grow.
by Ellen Granfield. All rights reserved.
Do not reprint or copy without express written consent of the author.
Day at a Time
steward at Magnuson Park is for the birds.
Literally. As one walks across Kingfisher Basin brightly colored
American goldfinches and violet-green swallows soon appear before one’s
and the sound of downy woodpeckers and northern flickers hammering
trees reverborates past one’s ears. Such is the avian welcome on any
dare not stop and dawdle, I have business to attend. I have a site to
to renew. With determined feet the stairs up the steep bluff are soon
and I am walking down the verdant trail that curves ahead until at last
comes into view and I can’t help but smile. Here is a little bit of
Native shrubs in blossom are abuzz with bees, trees are unfurling the
translucent fresh green of new leaves under a bright sun and blue sky
frames a spectacular view of the lake and mountains. But every paradise
corresponding hell and I must turn my gaze from the dreamy view beyond
know I’ve arrived. I can feel the thorns already angling to snatch
and pant leg if no bare skin is on offer. I can see the brambles
denser, higher as every minute passes they are allowed to remain. I can
the vines twisting around tree trunks and ferns in a last ditch effort
on. So, I double-tie my boots, pull on my heavy-duty gloves, tug my cap
more time and set to work.
becomes important in this kind of battle, not just against the
against the tools and weather as well. For one thing, the sun doesn’t
shine and one soon learns shovels don’t like mud, trying to dig out
roots when it rains is a sticky proposition, a mess best avoided.
not be fond of pruners rain or shine, but pruners don’t care if they’re
they cut just as sharply. And so each day becomes a singular event
the elements which the job at hand must cater to.
March day it is sunny and I am at the bottom of the site where
currant, Indian plum and western sword fern are trying to reach for the
only the brambles will let them. The going is slow, alternately pruning
spiny, straggly stems (some 10’ or longer!) down to foot-long stubble,
digging the plant out with a shovel to unearth the gargantuan
that has produced such monster vines. Not an easy task rain or shine is
Blackberry roots are masters in the art of hunkering down for all
swelling and grasping the soil never to let go. These roots are just
loathe to give up an inch of earth as the brambles above are to be cut
striking back with every last barb. But it must be done, the stems must
the roots must be dug, for they will send up new shoots from any length
or stem left in the ground. Every last bit of it must be thrown on the
few days of pruning and shoveling like this I had gotten no farther
lowest, widest stretch of the triangle and the tedium was beginning to
there was no end! Or so it seemed. I was saved by the unlikely, by
The fair weather came to an end and two weeks of wet skies set in.
adapted in kind and, putting shovel aside, spirits undampened I set to
pruners against the tangled mess of brambles still holding most of the
hostage. This was a much quicker form of gratification. Starting at the
end of the triangle I tore through the prickly, tangled mess faster
could tear through me. At times it was akin to slapstick comedy as the
shoots would whip out slapping me in places I would have preferred not
been, but eventually I had the upper hand and the pile grew and the
to take shape. Red alders, bigleaf maples, Douglas
firs, Nootka roses, and many large, lovely western sword ferns that had
all but invisible under the tangle now began to appear, taking in air
day finally came, the sun returned and the last bramble was shorn from
root. Triumphantly the heap of cut blackberries was withering and the
once again free for the native flora to grow, the fauna to return and
I could smile down now at this hell being returned to paradise. Though
that now lay across it like five o’clock shadow was already mocking me,
challenging me to dig up the vast quantity of roots before they sent
skywards with the speed of fireworks on the Fourth of July.
ready for them. One day at a time.
Written by Ellen Granfield. All rights reserved. Do not reprint or copy
without express written consent of the author.