The work party brought the total native plantings to nearly 600.
The work party brought the total native plantings to nearly 600.
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A team of volunteers completed the second half of fall plantings at the East Prospect Street End in Madison Park on Saturday.

“We leave it to Mother Nature until the spring,” said Gene Brandzel, who has been spearheading the street-end restoration project.

Gene and Liz Brandzel led the restoration of the 37th Avenue East shoreline street end more than a decade ago, and now the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary offers respite for neighbors and local wildlife.

Restoring the East Prospect Street End, which lies just south of the Seattle Tennis Club, had been in the works for more than five years, but had been challenged by a property owner to the north. Following a change in ownership, the project was able to proceed in early spring.

“People had told me it was going to take 10 years to get this done,” Brandzel said. “It’s taken me 10 months.”

Volunteers first started getting their hands dirty in April, clearing blackberries, ivy, clematis and garbage that had been swallowed by vines over the years.

“Between the work parties, I was here at least twice a week for four weeks here,” said resident Bert Phillipp. “It looks fabulous — such an improvement from what it was. I did not anticipate getting this done.”

Phillipp was among a primary group of volunteers lucky enough to be working at the site during the early phase of the restoration, when there were plenty of dumped treasures to be unearthed; he found a muffler and tailpipe.

“When I first looked at this, I was like, ‘This is impossible. This is a pure, dense blackberry jungle,’” said Karen Daubert, cofounder of the Friends of Street Ends.

Daubert has also regularly volunteered her time on the project, and plans to use East Prospect as an example for future projects.

There are more than 140 shoreline street ends in Seattle. SDOT manages their improvements and access through the Shoreline Street Ends Program, which is funded solely by permit fees property owners pay to use several in the city’s industrial and maritime sectors. But it's volunteers that make these projects happen.

“This is a huge amount of support,” said program coordinator Omar Akkari, who counts East Prospect as his first major street-end project since starting with SDOT in August 2018.

The 11,000-square-foot site was finally ready for planting native vegetation on Oct. 5. Thirty-four trees and 305 native shrubs were planted that month, followed by another 293 plants during the Nov. 2 work party. Brandzel credits the community for chipping in for not only purchasing the plants, but also the hours of labor it took to ready the site.

“I think, at this point, I’m going to retire,” he said. “This is my swan song.”

The Brandzels turned over the popular Beaver Lodge Sanctuary to new stewards Bruce and Lauri Bayley earlier this year. The Bayleys have also been dedicated volunteers at East Prospect.

It wasn’t just Madison Park residents in the dirt during the work parties. Trees for Seattle also regularly put out the call for volunteers.

That’s how Capitol Hill resident Aldrinana Leung found out about the street-end project. The Nov. 2 planting party was her second time out at the site.

“I didn’t know there was like a street-end society,” she said.

Leung brought coffee donated by the Madison Park Starbucks on Saturday, along with her fellow barista, Paulina Cravioto, and her husband, Jorge.

Jorge Cravioto said they helped with plantings along the slope and building a detention wall, adding it was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

Seattle Tennis Club has agreed to provide SDOT access to its water system, and now the challenge is finding out how to set up irrigation at the restoration site, Akkari said. The irrigation system should only be required for the first two years, Brandzel said, at which point the plants should be able to survive on their own.

Still on his list are new public benches and a table for the street end. Anyone wanting to find out how to help can contact Brandzel at genebb@gmail.com.