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Volunteers restore Duwamish shoreline naturally

Alania Miranda helps clean up the Duwamish River shoreline near BECU in Tukwila recently.  - Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter
Alania Miranda helps clean up the Duwamish River shoreline near BECU in Tukwila recently.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter

It’s backbreaking work, grubbing out those blackberries, but it’s for a good cause – feeding the Duwamish salmon.

Hundreds of volunteers have spent nearly 1,000 hours freeing a 1 1/2-mile stretch of the Duwamish River of blackberry canes that have grown up to 12 feet and other invasive non-native plants.

The Restore the Duwamish Shoreline Challenge was initiated by employees of the Boeing Employees Credit Union in the Tukwila headquarters that’s separated from the river by a bank and the Green River Trail.

During a work party on Feb. 8, Mike Arizona, a BECU quality-assurance manager, stood near the spot where the restoration started in July 2010 with fellow BECU employees. Progress was slow in the early days when they took shovel to blackberry once a month.

“We were barely able to stay ahead of where we had cleared the time before and what we had planted,” he said, clearing 30 or 40 feet each month.

Now, with the help of volunteers through the challenge that started last September and paid work, the project is nearing completion.

“A lot of people forgot the river was here, because it looked so – it looked like that [looking to the far bank covered in blackberries] – and you couldn’t see it.”

Because the Green River Trail is such a public place, the restoration “increases the appreciation of the river quite a bit, to see what a natural area really looks like.”

And there’s the important benefit to fish, especially young salmon that return down the river to Puget Sound.

“We are trying to plant along the shorelines native things that attract insects, create that food source for fish,” he said.

Newly planted willows and dogwood near the river will provide shade for fish and eddies create spots where young fish can rest.

Partnering with BECU on the challenge are the City of Tukwila; CBRE, a property owner and manager along that stretch of the river, and Forterra, an environmental nonprofit formerly known as the Cascade Land Conservancy.

Supporting the challenge are nearby businesses, Pepsi, Darigold and AMR, the ambulance company.

It’s also part of a larger Duwamish restoration project spearheaded by the Duwamish Alive! coalition.

The next Duwamish challenge work party is March 8. To sign up online, go to www.forterra.org/events.

On a sunny Feb. 8 with BECU as a backdrop, Katie Cava, Forterra’s stewardship outreach coordinator, walked through the tasks the dozen or so volunteers would face during the next three hours. First, she ran through some tool-safety tips, including putting the rake tine side down and don’t throw stuff over your shoulder with a pitch fork.

Volunteers grubbed out the blackberry roots, raked up debris, hauled compost and built a trail for fishermen.

Ziguora Howard was there raking leaves with Laura Williams, who both work for BECU.

Howard was there “to give back to our community.” The work was “fun,” said Williams.

They figured the raking was harder than the grubbing because they were constantly moving back and forth, moving their muscles.

Sandra Whiting, the City of Tukwila’s urban environmentalist, worked alongside the volunteers. She said the city is planning more such restoration projects along the Green River Trail.

The city has completed a number of restoration projects, some in partnership with King County.

The partners will continue to monitor and maintain the 1 1/2 miles along the Duwamish.

“It’s always going to need a little bit of human help,” said Arizona.

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