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Please join us for Earth Day!

Hosted by UW Restoration Capstone groups
Douglas Research Conservatory Headhouse at the Center for Urban Horticulture
Sunday, April 22nd – 12-2pm

Come celebrate with us and learn about our (almost) completed restoration projects at Yesler Swamp. Snacks and a good time provided, as well as information on community involvement.

If you have taken a walk through Yesler Swamp this past spring or winter you may have noticed a couple restoration projects taking place. Near the viewing platform, along both sides of the boardwalk, is the location of one of these projects, and we’d love to tell you all about it.

We are a group of six University of Washington students, pursuing degrees in Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Ecological Restoration, and Landscape Architecture. This year we are taking part in a series of three “capstone” classes where we were assigned a location (Yesler Swamp) in need of restoration, analyzed the site, planned an approach to restoring the site, and then got to work! Along the way, we have completed dozens of tasks aimed at not only improving Yesler Swamp, but preparing us for future restoration work as well. From taking soil samples and identifying invasive species, to purchasing plants and hosting work parties, we’ve learned, first-hand, exactly what goes into a restoration project.

October, before restoration work began

Our work began in the fall, with a thorough analysis of the site, looking at the soil and hydrology, existing plant and animal species, slope, sunlight, human disturbances, and more. We gathered this information into a report to refer back to as needed. We then drafted a proposal for how we would remediate the site. Based off of the information we had gathered, we determined that our primary goal was to attempt to discourage and control the growth of three invasive species on the site: reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and garden loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). All three thrive in the sun, but especially the reed canarygrass, which is also the most abundant and invasive on the site. For this reason, our proposed method of control was to plant a variety of native species which would grow quickly to shade our the invasive species while also being able to tolerate the wet, swampy conditions. This turned out to be a greater challenge than anticipated! Our plan also included choosing species that would add bird habitat and aesthetic value to the site while preserving the view.

Reed canarygrass and loosestrife

The on-site work began during the cold, wet winter months. In January and February, we spent several weekends putting our plan into action. First, we removed as much invasive biomass from the site as possible. This included all of the tops and as many roots as possible from our targeted invasive species. Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load was taken away from the site to be composed. We then covered the areas most impacted by invasives with cardboard and a six-inch layer of soil (photos below). The intention was to smother and block out the light to prevent further growth of invasive species while also raising the level of the soil in an attempt to dry it out. We knew that the shrubs and trees that would later be planted on the site would appreciate having slightly drier conditions than what was existing. Last, we planted the site with over 500 native shrubs, small trees, herbaceous species, and grasses and sedges. All were carefully chosen for their tolerance of water, and other desirable qualities, such as blooms, berries, or interesting foliage.

Removal of invasives and addition of topsoil (and cardboard underneath)

Planting day!

This spring we are looking forward to the future of the site by considering what maintenance needs will arise. Will the restored site be successful? What will guarantee its success? These are some of the questions we have asked ourselves. Community involvement is the answer. Stay tuned to see how you can help. In the meantime, here are a few photos of our restoration process.


click picture to enlarge

From this northeastern perspective you can see the eastern boardwalk of the Yesler Swamp in the foreground and the entire southern loop close to the lagoon that once floated logs into Yesler’s mill. You can also see the western boardwalk up to the T intersection of the entrance boardwalk.

The swamp has much more rainwater than usual. And Lake Washington is beginning it’s annual rise to store enough water for the Crittenden (Ballard) Locks to run all year. So it is very swampy place indeed but accessible on the boardwalk.

The early spring has given us a leafless window to the boardwalk from the sky. Although this was taken early in the spring, this spring is not early.

In the background is Union Bay, a western out-pouching of Lake Washington that communicates with Lake Union. To the right are the greenhouses run by the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH), the Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) and the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) which supply some of the native plants which are restoring Yesler Swamp.

Late-afternoon snack

On February 2 late in the afternoon, Gordon Starkebaum photographed this female merganser heading toward the shore of Yesler Swamp with a fish in her bill, trailed by a second female merganser. Gordon used a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with a 400mm lens.

Lots of people enjoyed the views of water and birds today (Dec. 26, 2016) as they strolled the boardwalk at Yesler Swamp, including Gordon Starkebaum who took this photo of a beautiful Great Blue Heron. He used a Canon EOS REBEL T3i with a 400 mm lens.



On this first day of fall, September 22, 2016 the Friends of Yesler Swamp with the help of the staff of the UW Botanic Gardens and supervisors from the Washington Conservation Corps completed two days of intensive work on the upland entrance trail to modify the trail’s 10% sloping grade so that it now meets ADA specifications for accessibility. As pictured here today, we incorporated two level resting areas and a level switchback to accommodate for a lessor 8.33% sloping grade between the resting areas.




Each of these 5 foot flat resting areas is demarcated by 4 inch high kick boards secured by rebar.

The remaining portions of the entrance trail and other Yesler Swamp upland trails and boardwalks have less than a 5% sloping grade which makes for easy travel by wheelchair.  About half of the boardwalk is five feet wide which allows wheelchairs to pass at any point. In other sections where the boardwalk is four feet wide, there are “pullouts” to allow wheelchairs to pass.

Friends of Yesler Swamp is pleased to complete this trail so it can be used by everyone. To celebrate this accomplishment, on Sunday October 16th from 1 to 3 p.m., UW Botanic Gardens will publically thank us and our many supporters and volunteers. This event will take place at the Center for Urban Horticulture 3601 NE 41st St. Seattle,WA. Please join us in this celebration.

Through the combined efforts of the Friends of Yesler Swamp, UW Botanical Gardens staff Annemarie Bilotta and supervisor David Zuckerman we did it! Volunteers used hand tools and UW staff used machinery to make the volunteer effort easier. Last week volunteers removed 2 inches of soil along the 60 foot long 4.5 foot wide path.



Monday Annie, David and volunteers secured porous fabric over the dirt and then placed 4  inches of thick gravel on the trail. Tuesday Annie compacted it. Wednesday, today, we place an additional 2 inches of fine gravel on top and compacted it. Done!


Completed east upland trail looking south

Completed east upland trail looking south

Completed east upland trail looking east

Completed east upland trail looking east


Now the entire loop is accessible to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We have some tweaking to do on the entrance trail over the summer but a wheelchair did get down and up it safely on a tour two days ago. Once the entrance trail is finished to our satisfaction, the Friends of Yesler Swamp can hand the Yesler swamp and it’s trail over to the University of Washington Botanical Gardens.

Six members of the WCC returned for their Swan Song as a team for this last two week effort on the Yesler swamp boardwalk.

2016-06-22 10.47.00

The boardwalk was completed today June 22nd 2016, a construction process that started before April 15th 2014.

Junior, the foreman:

2016-06-22 10.38.08

“Junior” Joseph Fulmaono has been the dedicated crew supervisor from the 2014 start, now proudly displaying the Yesler Swamp T shirt and equally proud of his work and for good reason!

He left this message:

“After 3 crews, 3 phases we made it to the end of the line…..official completed. Have a nice day folks.”

And he took this photo of his crew: 2016-06-22 14.44.05

The whole crew was smiling today!

2016-06-22 10.39.05  2016-06-22 10.38.21 2016-06-22 10.35.332016-06-22 10.38.55

And even though the boardwalk is now finished, the boardwalk will miss Junior and his WCC crews. 2016-06-22 15.55.01 Thanks! Please come back and visit!

New Resting Areas

Nearly a year ago the UW arboretum cut down a very large cedar and sliced it in 6 foot sections nearly 3 inches thick yielding four slabs of wood. David Zuckerman and Fred Hoyt who are administrators for the UW Botanic Gardens suggested we could use this wood for seating areas at two overlooks of the lagoon on the Yesler Swamp Trail.

2016-06-19 17.41.48

Fred Hoffer designed the three resting areas and put one next to a plaque honoring his late wife, Dr. Kathleen Kelly.

2016-06-19 18.47.59

Bill Bender, chair of Construction Management, UW College of Built  Environments and also a Friend of Yesler Swamp, signed off on the plans and the two of us built and installed them on Father’s day for everyone to enjoy.


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