UPDATE: A neighborhood party will be held in the Alder Creek Natural Area 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, June 3.
Wallis Bolz walked the trails in the Alder Creek Natural Area on a wet Saturday in mid-April, pointing out areas in need of weeding and laying down wood chips.
Bolz and the Green Footprints Action Works group organized the first work party on the city-owned property that once served as a dumping ground thick with blackberries and ivy back in April 2008.
“We had a lot of ivy,” said volunteer Penny Bolton, who has lived in the Madison Valley neighborhood since 1979. “Now we don’t anymore. See, there’s progress.”
After more than a decade, Bolz said she thinks the restoration project could be done by 2035, at which point she will be in her 70s.
“I’m always looking for someone to replace me,” she said.
The Alder Creek Natural Area is located where 26th Avenue East dead-ends, west of the Washington Park Arboretum.
Bolz said the 2.3-acre natural area had once been part of plans for the defunct R.H. Thomson Expressway that would have gone down Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Bolton said she thinks construction contractors used the area as a dumping ground for years afterward.
Late Seattle Parks and Recreation employee Patrick Boland wrote a plan for the Alder Creek Natural Area, Bolz said, and she has been following it in order to restore the habitat for native plants and wildlife.
“The city pays for everything,” Bolz said. “This is all public money. We do everything here with public money and volunteer hours.”
As the neighborhood has grown, Bolz said she’s seen the loss of habitat, which is why she thinks so many animals flock to the Alder Creek Natural Area.
Volunteers were careful on April 14 not to disturb nesting birds, finding plenty of invasive plant species to pull along the trails.
“If you can keep ahead of it, you’ll eventually win the battle,” Bolton said, adding a lot more work will take place during the summer.
Bolz and her steady team of volunteers meet up for work parties every month, except in July, August, December and January.
“The reason for coming to work parties is to make friends who like going to work parties,” Bolz said.
David Gordon and Deb Green said they saw a notice about the work parties in the Madison Park Times more than five years ago, and have been coming out ever since. Gordon said they started on a trail that had been nothing but blackberries at the time.
“It was intimidating, really,” Green said about the work at the beginning. “I like to get rid of the invasives like Morning Glory and ivy.”
Susan Kaucic came out for her second work party on April 14, having moved to Montlake in November. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, she said, and she also loves gardening but her yard is too small.
“So I get to come out and play in this big park,” Kaucic said.
Bolz had Kaucic dig out a space on the back end of the Alder Creek Natural Area, looking out over Woody Lane, for an Olympic Mullein, a perennial that grows tall and disburses many seeds that will later create more plants.
The Alder Creek Natural Area work parties take place 9 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of the month. The next party will be on May 12.