Green Kent Partnership: after one year on the ground, how are we doing?

By Victoria Andrews
For the Kent Reporter

The Green Kent Partnership began in 2009, and received initial funding through a $95,000 grant from the King Conservation District.

The funding allowed the city to begin the process of assessing the ecological health of our publicly-owned natural spaces, and developing a 20-year plan to restore and actively manage these areas.

Why? Because of the very real threat that within our children's lifetime our urban tree canopy will be taken over by English ivy, Himalayan blackberries, scotch broom and other aggressive, non-native species. Natural areas in urban settings are under pressures that more remote wild areas are not, and they need regular attention in order to fight back against those pressures.

Having natural areas near where we live provide all sorts of benefits to us. Trees and natural areas are public assets that clean our air, buffer noise, retain stormwater to reduce flooding and help filter our water, increase property values, provide habitat to birds and animals and recreational benefits for residents. So, it is in everyone's interest to keep them healthy.

Since we began implementing the plan, more than 700 community volunteers have participated in Green Kent Partnership restoration events and over 1,000 are on the monthly electronic newsletter mailing list. However, many residents still do not know what "Green Kent" is all about.

Here are a few benchmarks:

• Our restoration and management plan includes over 1,300 acres of forested parks, wetlands and other natural areas within Kent's boundaries.

• 14 volunteers have become community leaders through the Green Kent Steward program. Free training is available to stewards, who adopt a park or natural area and host their work parties to help other volunteers get involved. Current stewards range in age from students to retirees and include corporate executives, young mothers and neighborhood advocates.

• Volunteer hours totaled 1,820 for 2011 and city crews documented 4,901 hours.

• The 2011 goal was to begin working in 7 acres, and we ended the year with 47.5 active acres throughout the city. The challenge now is to maintain what has begun while adding new acres and volunteer stewards every year.

• A total of 7,037 trees, shrubs and groundcover plants have been planted.

• You can now find the Green Kent Partnership on Facebook and sign up at www.GreenKent.org to receive our monthly electronic newsletter.

Reach Victoria Andrews, special programs manager for the city of Kent, at 253-856-5113 or vandrews@kentwa.gov.

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