Volunteers restore Mercerdale Park

A dozen or more volunteers came to North Mercerdale Hillside Park, a woodland just minutes from downtown, during snowy and rainy weather on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 4 to plant more than 100 ferns salvaged from King County homeowners and about 175 native plants purchased from a King County Small Change grant.

Some of the plants and trees are vine maple, wood sedge, sword and lady fern, Indian plum, red twig dogwood, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, hazelnut, elderberry, yellow monkey flower; piggyback plant, creeping veronica and cascara.

North Mercerdale Hillside Park is accessed from Southeast 27th Street, uphill from the hardware store, across the street, and up stairs to a path running south. Across a small footbridge over the stream are a bench and small pond. The plants are along the path by the pond and beside the stream banks. This stream used to be the water supply for downtown Mercer Island.

Instrumental in its restoration are the city, Earth Corps and Mercer Island’s Rita Moore, Virginia Arnon and Judy Roan, members of the Washington Native Plant and Audubon steward programs. Earth Corps, working for the city, removed ivy from most of the trees. Volunteers have clocked more than 250 hours on the project, pulling English ivy and other invasive plants, and removing barrels of trash.

North Mercerdale Hillside Park is a low priority on the city parks list, says Moore, “but it is downtown and a beautiful quiet place with a bench next to the stream. If I worked downtown, I would come here often to eat lunch and enjoy the peace and relative solitude.”

In 2006, salvaged native plants were put in, and last fall, using a Small Change for a Big Difference Grant from King County, bare root native plants were purchased from the Snohomish Conservation District and planted in spring. The city also planted small bare root trees throughout the park. This fall, the remainder of the grant funds helped purchase larger potted native plants for the streamside restoration.

While working in the park, Moore met an elderly resident who said the stream source used to be the city’s water supply, and that the area had originally been covered with mature Western red cedar and Western Hemlock, but was logged a second time in the early 1950s. Remnants of the wells, tanks and platforms remain. The city filled in the well and later dredged the small sedimentation pond, which disturbed many of the plants, she said.

Recently, the city removed non-native Himalayan blackberries that covered the hillside to the west of the stream’s source and plans to restore it with native trees and shrubs. Moore hopes the city will also do the same at the old well site; and that neighbors and local businesses will take part in the rest of the park’s restoration, including interpretive signs.

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