New training program to restore Berntsen Park

March 9, 2010

By Edwin Ortiz

Continuing efforts to restore Berntsen Park, the city of Issaquah has partnered with the Washington Native Plant Society to provide community members with local habitat experience through the Native Plant Stewardship Training program.

The 10-week program begins in April and continues into June, before newly graduated members start their own projects in July. Covering five different regions, The Washington Native Plant Society is expecting to recruit 40 volunteers for its 2010 program, with a group of four to five working extensively on Berntsen Park.

Deborah Gurney, who will oversee the program as stewardship coordinator, explained that volunteers will have the opportunity to receive free expert training in exchange for time spent restoring native ecosystems.

“The goal is that individuals will get 100 free hours of training, and they return 100 hours of volunteerism back into their community, as well as the Washington Native Plant Society, within one year,” she said.

“A lot of it is class training,” said Carolle Foucault, who graduated from the stewardship program last year and is working on restoring Berntsen Park’s northern region near Issaquah Creek. “We had a lot of speakers on different subjects: restoration, identifying invasive plants, identifying native plants. A lot of people doing the program are not necessarily experienced.”

While experience isn’t required, Gurney hopes for applicants who show enthusiasm for the environment, and a well being for their community.

“We seek individuals who are interested in preserving and restoring native plants of Washington, and who can be community leaders in this area,” she said.

City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod said that size and park status were the main reasons behind choosing Berntsen Park for the project.

“When we first started discussing the program with the Washington Native Plant Society, they suggested each jurisdiction designate an area that would benefit from restoration,” she said.

“We didn’t want a really large open space area, because that might be too overwhelming. Berntsen Park was just the perfect size to have restoration,” she added. “The city of Issaquah had purchased Berntsen Park a few years back, and we knew that the riparian corridor had a lot of invasive plants.”

These invasive plants include wild blackberry and Japanese knotweed, which can prohibit regeneration of native vegetation. In turn, wildlife near Issaquah Creek, such as chinook and coho salmon, could suffer without proper plant removal.

With sights set on restoring and preserving the wildlife habitat at Berntsen Park, Gurney hopes applicants realize the importance of participating in this program.

“The goal is that graduates become lifelong stewards, and they will develop either a sense of place at the site they are starting to restore, or move on to another location within their city’s natural areas to help continue that cycle of preserving forests and native plants,” she said.

Edwin Ortiz is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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