West Seattle has changed significantly over its long history from predating European settlement when the Duwamish tribe inhabited Seattle and fished the Duwamish River to our modern times of international commerce and diverse neighborhoods.

Pre-settlement

The Duwamish Greenbelt was part of the Duwamish tribe’s territory, The Duwamish river was a heavily used fishery during this time. Not only were the inhabitants of the West Seattle peninsula different but so was the forest, during this time conifers ruled; the western red cedar (Thuja plicate), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). In 2014 only 3% of all trees in the greenbelt were conifers mostly Douglas Firs, with deciduous trees such as the big leaf maple (51%) and red alder (46% ).

The establishment of West Seattle

In 1851 one of the first European settlements was built by the Denny party on Alki point. In 1910 just 60 years later the last longhouse of the Duwamish was burnt down. As the Native peoples vanished so did the large conifers, Seattle’s main export and source of revenue was the timber industry. With more than 340 lumber and shingle mills operating in Western Washington, 31 of those in Seattle the industries production saw a total 405 million board feet of lumber and over three billion in shingles in 1900. It is no surprise that not many old conifers can be found inside of the Greenbelt.

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Native plants waiting to be installed in one of the West Duwamish Greenbelt parks on MLK Day of Service 2016. Photo Credit: Ashlee Meyer

Recent times till today

By the early 20th century the steel mills attracted workers from neighboring cities and states to far off European countries. As the population of the neighborhoods grew and changed so did the values and needs of the citizenry; the necessity for schools, community center, and paved roads.

During the 50’s and 60’s a piece of the Duwamish greenbelt known as Soundway, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation ,was pegged for development. A road was proposed to connect the 1st Ave S Bridge, heading across Highland Park Way through the Soundway property and would eventually end near 23rd and Roxbury. This plan was a flop.

Many years later Mayor Nickels proposed the Soundway property be used for the development of housing. The community came together much as they did in the early and mid 1900’s to better the community. The City Council granted the community time to raise funds to preserve the Soundway property. Then the Nature Consortium, a nonprofit environmental arts organization, obtained funds from the state of Washington’s along with contributions from the community and became responsible with the preservation of the Soundway property along with organized community involvement.

By 2011 the Sound Way property was transferred from the Department of Transportation and is now under control of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Nature Consortium is still very active in West Seattle, tasked with the long process of removing invasive species, planting native species of flora and conducting restoration projects with volunteers from the community in a bid to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the area and to support a happy and healthy community in West Seattle.

Sources

  1. http://www.loghousemuseum.info/history/delridge-history/ Bentley, Judy. “Delridge History.” Southwest Seattle Historical Society Loghouse Museum Delridge History Comments. Web. 09 May 2016.
  2. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3428; Long, Priscilla. “South Park Bridge, Duwamish Waterway, King County, 1931-2010.” org. 17 Oct. 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
  3. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=1669; Warren, James R. “Business and Industry in Seattle in 1900.” org. 15 Sept. 1999. Web.
  4. http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/west_duwamish/greenbelt.htm; “West Duwamish Greenbelt Parks and Green Spaces Levy Project Information.” Seattle Parks and Recreation: West Duwamish Greenbelt – Parks and Green Spaces Levy Project Information. Seattle Parks and Recreation, 11 Aug. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
  5. Hanson, Kirk .“Restoring Native Forest Diversity to Seattle Parks.”Northwest Natural Resource Group. June, 2014

 

Britt MannPost written by: Britt Mann

Britt has a degree in Environmental Studies/Economics.  Growing up in Washington State has given him a love for the outdoors whether it is in the forest, on a mountain, or a body of water.  He is excited to participate in restoration projects and enjoys spreading natural resource education and awareness. When not with the Nature Consortium you can find Britt out hiking, biking, or exploring new music.