Photos by Jessica Keller
The Prospect Nature Preserve in Madison Park next to the tennis club has not thrived as it should since it was spearheaded by former resident and street end advocate Gene Brandzel, who passed away in 2021. Interim steward Octavia Chambliss is hoping to generate new interest in the shoreline and raise money to ensure it thrives.
Photos by Jessica Keller The Prospect Nature Preserve in Madison Park next to the tennis club has not thrived as it should since it was spearheaded by former resident and street end advocate Gene Brandzel, who passed away in 2021. Interim steward Octavia Chambliss is hoping to generate new interest in the shoreline and raise money to ensure it thrives.

When community and public shoreline advocate Gene Brandzel spearheaded the effort to turn the weed- and trash-ridden land on 41st Avenue East and Prospect Street into a nature preserve, he had hoped to create a legacy for area residents to enjoy.

Now, interim steward Octavia Chambliss is hoping new faces and funds will help secure the Prospect Nature Preserve’s future in Madison Park.

Chambliss, a now-retired landscape designer who worked with Brandzel on the Prospect Steet shoreline efforts, said the 11,000-square-foot preserve is not thriving as it should.

The last two exceptionally hot and dry summers have been hard on the preserve and prevented the park’s plants from getting established, Chambliss said. As a result, plants have died, and invasive species like wild clematis, horsetail and morning glory have moved in.

“What we really need are more work parties to get the preserve established because there are so many invasive plants,” Chambliss said.

Until the plants becomes established, Chambliss anticipates double the work will be needed in the next year or so to ensure the preserve thrives.

“What would be ideal is if we could have a mix of work parties and raise enough funds to hire a work crew to come out once or twice a year to help with weeding, pruning, mulching,” Chambliss said.

But that means additional help and funding is needed, as well.

Turning the over-run street end into a public shoreline was a passion for Brandzel, and Chambliss said the preserve would not have been possible without him finding volunteers for work parties, raising money and working with the Seattle Department of Transportation Shoreline Street Ends project manager. Chambliss does not want his efforts to be in vain.

“It’s a real gift to the neighborhood,” Chambliss said. “It’s a real legacy for the neighborhood.”

Since Brandzel died last year, Chambliss has assumed an interim steward role and organized several volunteer work parties this year to tame the park and care for the more than 868 trees and shrubs planted at the site.

A real community effort is needed to help to ensure it stays that way, however.

Chambliss, who wishes to ease out of the steward position to focus on her family, is looking for one or more people to step into the steward or volunteer coordinator role at the preserve. Longtime volunteer Doug Berry, who is retired, has agreed to step in as a co-steward but would like someone else to help fulfill steward duties, as well. Chambliss said anyone can offer to help.

Chambliss said the steward role is not difficult, nor does it require an expert gardener to help maintain the site.

“It’s not like you have to know plants or gardening. Gene knew nothing about plants,” Chambliss said.

She said she has all the information on the plants growing there and their requirements and can help people identify the native plants from an invasive species. Chambliss said Omar Akkari, the Seattle Department of Transportation Shoreline Street Ends project manager, is also knowledgeable about the plants and what trees and bushes are allowed at the site.

Chambliss said the steward’s job is to schedule work parties, oversee fundraising efforts, recruit volunteers and work with the city and tennis club to make sure the site stays watered.

“And really, that’s it. It’s not a huge responsibility,” she said.

Multiple people could even share the duties, Chambliss said, and she would like to see more people from Madison Park get involved to make sure the park is there for generations to come.

To help the nature preserve thrive, Chambliss has coordinated a GoFundMe account to raise money to backfill plants, purchase supplies and even hire a landscaping crew once or twice a year between work parties. She said a savings account of around $2,000 would be ideal.

Once the Prospect Street Nature Preserve is finally established, the workload will become lighter, Chambliss said. She hopes that, by that time, more people will be involved and a sense of ownership in the neighborhood established.

“It’s a great community asset,” Chambliss said. “It has so many possibilities.”

 

 

Final work party of the year planned

Volunteers are needed to help prepare the Prospect Nature Preserve for winter at a final work party of the year, from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 12 at the shoreline park at 41st Avenue East and Prospect Street, next to the Seattle Tennis Club in Madison Park. People can bring their garden gloves and favorite weeding tools if they have them. The work party will be doing a final cleanup and some mulching to put the garden to bed for winter. Contact interim steward Octavia Chambliss, 206-295-2979 oroctaviagarden@gmail.com, with questions.

 

Funding for maintenance

Chambliss has also created a GoFundMe website to accept donations for the upkeep of the nature preserve, which was overrun with weeds, trash, beer cans and needles before it was turned into a shoreline park with access to Lake Washington. The funds will be used to help maintain the preserve, which is a large site and needs more than volunteers alone to thrive. See this story on the Madison Park Times website to access the link, or visit https://bit.ly/3sxEE0w

 

 

Volunteers needed at Prospect Nature Preserve

Preserve organizers are also searching for a co-steward or volunteer coordinator to ensure the shoreline park is available for future generations. The person or people would work with the city to arrange three to four work parties a year, ensure irrigation is maintained by the city and recruit volunteers for weeding, planting and mulching, as needed. Gardening experience is not necessary. Anyone interested should contact interim steward Octavia Chambliss at 206-295-2979 oroctaviagarden@gmail.com.