Restoration event on tap for Sept. 24 at Island Crest Park

Mercer Islanders love their parks, said Lizzy Stone, the city’s Natural Resource project manager. Island Crest Park is up next on the restoration front this Saturday.

With 20 restoration events featuring more than 200 volunteers in the books from June until mid-September, the city’s Public Works department Natural Resource division will continue along its schedule with the upcoming clean-up event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The park is located at 5500 Island Crest Way.

Volunteers will be protecting native plants from weeds like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry.

“It will be a great chance to get your hands in the dirt, learn about native plants and our local forests, and work alongside neighbors and friends,” the city’s website reads, adding that no experience is necessary, and small snacks, gloves and tools will be provided. People are encouraged to wear long pants, boots or sneakers, and bring a water bottle.

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Stone, who has been employed by the city for just over a year, said that Jordan Fischer has played an integral role in organizing the small-sized events as the seasonal volunteer coordinator on the Natural Resource team since mid-May.

“It’s felt like momentum has started to build, which is nice,” said Stone, adding that along with community volunteers, they’ve engaged with schools and a senior living facility on the events and aim to get scouts and other organizations involved. “From my perspective, it feels like there’s a lot of positivity and I’m feeling pretty excited about it.”

The trails- and restoration-focused events are open to Islanders and volunteers from throughout the county, said Stone, who noted that the team has hosted two forest steward orientations to provide training for people interested in presenting their own smaller volunteer events at parks. Thus far, 10 new stewards have come on board since the summer.

Things got especially interesting during one event with the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) when volunteers made natural dyes out of the weeds they pulled and participated in an arts and crafts session.

Stone, who has extensive experience working with Puget Sound-area communities and volunteers in the restoration realm, said she’s impressed and pleased with Islanders’ affinity for their parks.

“When we’re out there working, pulling ivy in Pioneer Park, people are walking by and cheering us on and taking fliers. It feels like there’s a lot of support and people are excited about it,” Stone said.

Fischer, who previously worked as an EarthCorps crew member and habitat restoration specialist, said that people are pleased to participate in the events and give back to the land that offers everyone so much.

It’s important for Fischer to lead the younger volunteers through the events and show them how the community unites to care for their parks.

“It just feels really impactful to me to be able to influence the next generation,” said Fischer, who formerly lived and worked in New York City and engaged with students while doing environmental education-based volunteer coordinating work.

Next up on the schedule will be a clean-up event from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 28 at Homestead Park, followed by a Clarke Beach Park planting party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 8, a Pioneer Park planting party from 4-6 p.m. on Oct. 13, an Arbor Day planting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 15 at Mercerdale Park, Homestead Park planting and mulching from 3-5 p.m. on Oct. 27 and a second Clarke Beach planting party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 5.

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Volunteers pull weeds during Saturday’s Island Crest Park restoration event. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Volunteers pull weeds during Saturday’s Island Crest Park restoration event. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo