Heron helpers doing what they can: Activist, volunteers honored for efforts to preserve Kiwanis Ravine habitat

The weather was rainy and cold, but the mood was warm and thankful last Saturday morning when the Heron Habitat Helpers and city officials gathered to mark two years of work restoring Kiwanis Ravine. Those attending the April 16 ribbon-cutting ceremony also honored a Magnolia activist who helped preserve edges of the ravine as parkland.

Standing on a Kiwanis Ravine overlook that has also been restored just off 36th Avenue West, Heron Habitat Helpers co-chair Heidi Carpine noted that restoration work in the ravine has helped preserve the largest rookery of great blue herons in Seattle. "The Heron Habitat Helpers is committed to maintaining this as a critical habitat," she said.

But Carpine also noted that the preservation work got its start in the late 1980s through the efforts of Mary Hartnagel. Hartnagel, Carpine said, managed to raise $763,540 to buy land along the ravine and convert it into parkland so that it wouldn't be used for housing projects. "She lived right close to the park and was really dedicated to the park," Carpine remembered.

Hartnagel's sister, Robin Hartnagel-Heil, noted that Mary died of Lou Gehrig's disease in the early 1990s, and she said Mary was still enthusiastic about preserving the ravine even after she became sick.

"It was through the efforts of the Heron Habitat Helpers that her dream came true," said Hartnagel-Heil, who later unveiled a plaque honoring her sister and the committee she formed more than a decade ago.

Bob Kildall, a Discovery Park activist, noted that funds Hartnagel raised for the ravine came from state and local sources that included the Shoreline Park Improvement Fund. She successfully defended the ravine from the developers, he said. "The bottom line was that Mary's work was critical for the great blue herons."

Seattle Parks and Recreation open-space staff member Catherine Anstett said Kiwanis Ravine was not included in the city's 1989 open-space bond measure. "It was really started from scratch," she said of restoration efforts.

Because the ravine has since become a green space in the parks system, it was included in the 2000 Pro Parks levy, Anstett said. "You've totally transformed it," she told the volunteers.

Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds was also at the ceremony and said he appreciated the efforts of all the volunteers. "This is such a great example of Seattle's love for the environment," Bounds said. "You also educated a lot of people in the city about the value of that habitat."

It takes volunteer efforts like those made at Kiwanis Ravine to maintain an environment everyone can be proud of, he added. "So I'm here to really thank you."

David Della, chair of the Seattle City Council's parks committee, also thanked the volunteers for their work and for honoring Hartnagel. "This is a result of two years of hard work by all of you," he said. "I look forward to many more years of enjoying this ravine."

Heron Habitat Helpers co-chair Donna Kostka thanked volunteers for their work and city officials for their help. But she also added a humble note to a ceremony that included cutting a red ribbon tied between two tent poles. The HHH, Kostka said, has a saying: "We do what we can."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at rzabel@nwlink.com or 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]