City celebrates Arbor Day at Ruth Kees Grove planting

April 20, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Volunteers gather along Issaquah Creek on April 16 to observe Arbor Day. By Margaret Macleod

NEW — 4 p.m. April 20, 2011

Issaquah leaders gathered on a less-than-springlike day April 16 to observe Arbor Day and plant a grove to honor Ruth Kees and the community’s other top environmentalists.

Like the top environmental honor in the city, the grove is named for the late Kees. The bespectacled environmentalist fought for decades to protect Issaquah Creek, Tiger Mountain and the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer from development-related threats.

The grove is set amid hundreds of other saplings in city parkland along Issaquah Creek.

Former Councilman David Kappler, plus environmentalists, Joanna Buehler, Ken Konigsmark and Janet Wall — all past Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community recipients — participated in the planting.

Together, city leaders and residents planted 10 conifers to symbolize the 10 Ruth Kees award recipients on a gray morning. The participants dipped shovels into the mud to plant Alaskan weeping cedar, Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine, Western red cedar and a half dozen other tree species at the long-planned grove off of Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast near the southern city line.

City Open Space Steward Matt Mechler said the planting event — plus additional efforts to improve the park and other city open space — rely on thousands of volunteer hours each year.

The grove honors both citizen activists and elected leaders. Plans call for the area to include a trail, decorative rock features and a small patio or courtyard featuring recipients’ names engraved on paver stones. Mechler is receiving help from Boy Scouts to complete the trail.

Former Councilwoman Maureen McCarry received the most recent Ruth Kees award in a ceremony last month.

Past recipients received the honor for efforts to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway, blaze trails in the Issaquah Alps and protect Issaquah waterways. Leaders singled out McCarry for efforts to preserve the Park Pointe site on Tiger Mountain and for shaping the city’s hillside urban villages.

Former Councilman David Kappler plants a tree at the Ruth Kees Grove on April 16. By Margaret Macleod

Recipients

2003: Ruth Kees

2004: Joanna Buehler and Janet Wall — Buehler founded Save Lake Sammamish, a nonprofit organization set up to protect and raise awareness about the lake and surrounding watershed. Wall, a city River & Streams Board member, helped improve water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat, in the lake and watershed.

2005: Chrys Bertolotto — Bertolotto, a former city Resource Conservation Office employee, established the Issaquah Stream Team and marshaled dollars to build the Pickering Farm Garden.

2006: David Kappler — The then-councilman advocated for expanded public trails and open space preservation as a public official and as a longtime Issaquah Alps Trails Club member.

2007: Ken Konigsmark — Konigsmark, often the go-to guy when the city needs a strong environmental voice on a task force, shaped land-use policies and helped establish the greenway.

2008: William Longwell Jr. — The longtime Issaquah Alps Trails Club member established trails on Squak and Tiger mountains, and helped preserve west Tiger Mountain for public recreation. (posthumous award)

2009: Harvey Manning — The lifelong mountaineer coined the phrase “Issaquah Alps” for Cougar, Tiger and Squak mountains, but he also pushed to preserve untold acres in the Cascade Mountains. (posthumous award)

2010: Ted Thomsen — Described as “the unsung hero” behind the greenway, Thomsen helped form the 101-mile greenbelt from Seattle to Central Washington. (posthumous award)

2011: Maureen McCarry

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