Saturday, March 14, 2009

"All of this used to be bog" - lessons from an urban nature walk

One of the first (and most interesting) things I learned today is that a wide swath of Shoreline was once all bog. This fascinating fact was imparted by Jennifer Youngman. Jennifer is Outreach Coordinator for Homewaters Project, an organization that exists to create "an engaged and informed citizenry by connecting people to nature and each other in the context of their home communities."

A group of about 15 people braved the cold and rain to meet with Jennifer on a Saturday morning to
learn about watersheds and storm drains, beavers and peat, native plants and invasive species, while following (on foot) the main branch of Thornton Creek's North Fork from its headwaters to Twin Ponds.

Jennifer (green jacket) is showing us the path of Thornton Creek

The group met in the parking lot at Twin Ponds park. Jennifer showed us a big map of Thornton Creek and gave us a basic idea of the journey we were about to embark upon, then we were off.

The future of Cromwell Park

First stop: Cromwell Park at 180th and Meridian. Cromwell Park will be
undergoing some big changes this summer. We saw a map of the new layout and it is totally different than the current one. Among other changes, the baseball field and the playground will both be moved and there will be new paths installed throughout the park. Other improvements, including wetland restoration, will be a positive change for the watershed and the natural environment in general.

The group gathers at Ronald Bog Park

Second stop: Ronald Bog Park. Jennifer told us a little bit of the history of Ronald Bog and a bit about the nature and ecology of bogs in general. Did you know people used to pick cranberries at Ronald Bog? That was back when it was an actual bog. Alas, back in the 1950s all the peat was harvested from the bog. So now Ronald "Bog" isn't a bog at all. It's a pond.

Info sign at the arboretum at Ronald Bog Park

While at Ronald Bog Park, we checked out the new-ish Pacific Northwest Conifer Arboretum. Jennifer encouraged us to return here on our own to explore the place more fully. She also explained that not all conifers keep their needles year-round. Indeed, "conifer" simply means "cone-bearing." We saw an example of a deciduous conifer - the tamarack tree. It had dropped its needles, but was sporting many little cones.

From Ronald Bog Park we walked south down Meridian Ave., where we encountered Dick Decker working at removing invasive blackberries from the edge of the pond. He and a group of local citizens have
regular work parties to improve Ronald Bog by removing invasives and replacing them with native species.

That's Dick Decker in the orange vest

We then meandered along the south side of Ronald Bog, along some little paths I never before knew existed, through James Keough Park (aka 'Freeway Park'), and found ourselves at our next destination.

At the recycling station

Third stop: Shoreline Recycling Center. Outside of a chainlink fence on the northern side of the recycling center Jennifer talked out how the (fairly huge) building there was LEED certified, meaning that it meets certain environmentally friendly standards. We also learned how and where the creek runs through this part of Shoreline.

Next we walked around to the main entrance of the recycling center to check out the educational display they have there. It's not only informative - it's also really cool, with a multi-colored river made of recycled glass. The display reminds us that we're "
always in a watershed."

Journeying on, we walked out of the south side of the recycling center, past the 'bus barn' and headed south towards our final destination.

Walking into Twin Ponds Park

Fourth stop: Twin Ponds Park. We learned how water moves through this park and we also learned that several of the improvements to the park over the years were made by Eagle scouts, including the construction of a sturdy little bridge and the removal of a bunch of junk metal. We saw the 'trail of cedars' and Jennifer showed us a 'secret' hidden-away little arboretum at Twin Ponds. Somehow, back in the early 1990s a man named John Dixon convinced King County to let him plant a tree there. Then more trees. Over the years he kept on planting trees and cleaning the place up - removing concrete debris, etc. Now, nearly two decades later, John is still taking care of this place. It really is a hidden gem.

Jennifer answering questions in the 'secret' arboretum at Twin Ponds

We walked back to the parking lot where Jennifer gave us each some informative brochures produced by the Homewaters Project including a really nice map of the Thornton Creek watershed, some general information about Homewaters, and some info about a fundraising party Homewaters is holding on May 18th.

Although it was cold and rainy most of the time we were out, I still really enjoyed this walk and I would recommend it to anyone interested in how the natural world flows on all around us all the time. Jennifer was a great teacher and a pleasure to spend time with.

Check out the
Homewaters website. There is a lot there to explore, including a virtual tour of the Thornton Creek watershed, ideas for fun activities, volunteer opportunities, and of course, information about upcoming events.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you that "you're always in a watershed." And when you're in the Thorton Creek watershed, remember that "all of this used to be bog!" :)

Link to see more photos from today's urban nature walk through Shoreline.

Link to get a free walking map of Shoreline that you can print out.

Were you on this walk? (or a previous one?) Please add your reflections, thoughts, memories, ideas etc. to the comment section.


  1. Great article and I am not surprised. Homewaters' Project (formerly Thornton Creek Project) has been doing this great work for years.

  2. nice post bern! I think I might take the big O on one of these walks.

  3. Ouch on the Cromwell Park changing. We moved here last year and the park was one of the lures. Looks like it's being turned from a playing park to a walking park.

    The 'soccer area' looks like a joke. I'm guessing that's there to allow the current kidzlovesoccer classes to have a space barely large enough for them to continue on. Any idea if the baseball diamond will remain grass, or will it be sanded over?

    I'm also confused about the detention facility - seems an out of context thing to just represent with a vague squiggle and some contour lines.

    On the positive side... maybe it'll be great :)

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