By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Duwamish Cleanup

I was dismayed to realize it’s been over three months since I’ve posted here. Time!! It had also been awhile since I’d worked in a park, but I corrected that March 1 at the Georgetown Riverview Restoration Project at the Duwamish River/Gateway Park North. It was a cold and cloudy day, so the pictures aren’t very good, but luckily, the rain held off until we’d accomplished our goals for the day.
Gateway was a new park for me. I mostly only go through Georgetown to get on I-5, though I have explored the community a little during the summer Georgetown Arts and Garden Tour. Held every July, the tour is now in its twelve year. The neighborhood sports an eclectic mix of artists and industry and is fun to walk through and gape at the odd assortment of items people consider art and the beautiful and the weird gardens.

Georgetown has an interesting history with a claim to being Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. The Duwamish were the first recorded inhabitants. They called their community Tu-kweltid-tid, by the riverbank. Europeans arrived in 1850, and in 1871, Annie and Julius Horton platted their land into a town, naming it after their son George in honor of his graduation from medical school.

The Duwamish River played an important role in the development of Georgetown. The city’s skewed street layout is based on the river’s original path. Regular flooding created fertile soil, and the river valley provided a rich habitat for salmon, trout, clams, oysters and waterfowl. Farmers sold their produce at Pike Place Market. Hops grew particularly well, and in 1883 the Seattle Malting and Brewing Company opened and grew to become the sixth largest brewery in the world. Seattle residents boated down the river to visit waterfront beer gardens. But in the usual way of human history, government leaders couldn’t leave a good thing alone, and in the name of encouraging industry by providing cheap, accessible factory sites, ten of the sixteen bends in the Duwamish were removed by 1917, rerouting the river nearly a mile away from Georgetown. Industry flourished, and the Duwamish is now an ecological catastrophe and a Federal Superfund Cleanup site.

Currently, Gateway Park North, at the end of 8th Avenue South, is the only public access point to the Duwamish River in Georgetown. I learned about the cleanup and restoration project through a Washington Native Plant Society e-mail notice. As a Native Plant Steward, I watch for nearby work opportunities and was delighted to play a part in adding native plants to this tiny pocket park. Earth Day, Saturday, April 19, is the next scheduled work party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Duwamish Alive! is sponsoring this event, which will include eight work sites along the river and an Earth Day Festival at the Cooper School near Pigeon Point Park from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with free food, performances, giveaways, etc. It will be a great way to spend a Saturday. Pick a spot closest to you along the river, and come join us!

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