For a first time visitor, it’s hard to imagine the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary as anything other than the small nature sanctuary it is today.
Wedged between the northeast border of the Broadmoor gated community’s golf course and a residential property, the 60-foot by 200-foot tract consists of a single tree-lined trail leading to the edge of Lake Washington, where a dock faces the beaver lodge from which the property gets its name. It’s a small respite from the city, even in the quiet, single-family house neighborhood that can itself be considered a respite from the city. It’s the type of place where people cross paths and, instead of retreating into themselves, strike up a conversation about how clear the view is to the Cascades.
But when Gene and Liz Brandzel discovered it in 2008, shortly after moving to a condominium around the corner on East McGilvra Street, it was just an overgrown thicket owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation and used by the public as an illegal dumping ground for unwanted furniture and trash. Invasive blackberry, ivy, knotweed and holly choked out the native plants.
“You couldn’t even see the fence,” Gene Brandzel said on a recent tour of the sanctuary. “ It was completely covered by invasive species. In terms of trash, there were probably 300 cans and bottles.”
Gene estimated they took out “11 truckloads” of invasive plants from the site on their own. As neighbors saw progress on the site, they joined in the work.
Gene drew on his experience as an attorney to work with the city on transforming the site. The city graveled a path at Beaver Lodge Sanctuary and installed two benches, while a contingent of neighbors that grew into 40 regular volunteers helped pay for and plant native species by contributing to what became the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary Foundation.
In the past two years, volunteers paid for and planted 13 trees and 65 new plants, including huckleberry bushes.
But with the possibility of especially dry seasons after winter, those new plants may need extra water to survive, Gene said.
Following failed attempts to hook up a utility or lake water to a drip watering system for the plants, neighborhood residents Bill and Mary Ann Mundy agreed to donate two agricultural water tanks, totaling 1,400 gallons, following the sale of their farm in Eastern Washington. Neighbors donated $1,000 for their installation.
After that, the only thing missing was water.
The Madison Park Community Council voted, on Jan. 9, to seek out and match a neighborhood Small Sparks grant from the city.
If obtained, the grant will pay for an estimated 15 water truck deliveries to the tanks, at a cost up to $3,000.If the upcoming seasons turn out to be not so dry after all, the Community Council’s match will be refunded in the unused amount, Gene said.