This has been a fun and busy summer! From summer arts camps to weekly restoration work parties to the magic of the Arts in Nature Festival, there hasn’t been a dull moment. It’s been thrilling to see people become more connected to one another; more connected to themselves; and, more connected to nature through our programs.
The highlight of my summer was meeting families at Nature Consortium’s Overnight Family Camp-out at Camp Long. The weather forecast for the day of the camp was stormy and wet, the exact opposite of every previous day this summer. For several weeks before camp our staff excitedly did outreach to immigrant families living in the Seattle Housing Authority community of High Point.
Because of the weather forecast, we were concerned that no one would attend. Eighty-five family members from East Africa, South America, and the Pacific Islands had registered. But the thunder and lightning on the days leading up to the camp out were daunting. I recall hearing our staff talking with families by phone encouraging them to attend despite the storms. I recall hearing them assuage the fears of mothers concerned about being in a forested area at night. Most of all, I recall standing in the pouring rain on August 14th as 60 mothers, children, and grandparents, all immigrants to the United States and residents of our city, unloaded their belongings in wheel barrows and garbage bags into the 10 rustic cabins at Camp Long.
Before the families left the next day I asked them if they had enjoyed themselves. Hebo promised to come back often to walk with her sons along the trails and watch for birds. Fouli, who was celebrating her birthday with her four teenaged children and their cousins, said that they would be coming back to celebrate each of her children’s birthdays by camping out. And, Ayan’s young daughter advised her mother that camping out would be a more affordable and more enjoyable activity for their large family than going to dinner at a restaurant. I left having seen the evidence that a seed had been planted; an awareness had been raised; and, that there were now 60 more community members that share our love for Seattle’s urban forests.
Since 2005, Nature Consortium has been one of the leading partners in the Green Seattle Partnership. The GSP was established because the city realized that without a concerted effort Seattle’s forests could completely die away in 40 or fewer years. Our goal is not only to restore health to Seattle’s urban forests, but to also create communities that care for the forests, and to educate the next generation of forest stewards.
We are often asked how we know that our work is actually making a difference. In June we proudly reported on the Phase IV restoration that we are seeing in the West Duwamish Greenbelt. Phase IV restoration is that critical stage when the invasive species have been reduced enough to prevent possible large-scale reinvasion in the future. This combined with sufficient density and diversity of native plant species can almost guarantee the long-term survival and health of an area.. At sites in Phase IV the trees that we’ve planted are beginning to mature and reproduce cones that will fall to the ground and seed the growth of new trees. Reaching Phase IV means that Nature Consortium is succeeding in reestablishing the forest’s ability to continue this simple process and it represents renewed hope for the health of our urban forests.
These seemingly simple occurrences, a mother promising to take her children for walks in the forest or a tree dropping its cone to a forest bed that has been prepared to support the life of new growth, are evidence of a future we can create – a future that supports the reciprocal health of urban forests and urban people. Nature Consortium’s commitment to diversity and to building communities where all people care and connect to the natural world has placed our work at the forefront of Seattle’s efforts to nurture the next generation of forest stewards.
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