Patrick Robinson
Rory Denovan, Nancy Whitlock and Monica Thomas celebrated at the Picnic in the Park event for the West Duwamish Greenbelt on Saturday, June, 15. Denovan was honored for his efforts to preserve the land as park space.

SLIDESHOW: Nature Consortium celebrates Seattle's largest forest with a Picnic in the Park

Seattle's largest contiguous forest, the West Duwamish Greebelt was celebrated on June 15 with an event called Picnic in the Park, sponsored by Nature Consortium and Seattle Parks. It featured live music, hiking, and art activities.

Honored at the event was Rory Denovan, who is leaving Parks to become an ecologist with City Light. He was instrumental in saving the greenbelt. He was joined by Nancy Whitlock, founder of Nature Consortium, who is leaving the role of Executive Director soon, and Monica Thomas, who handles marketing for Nature Consortium.

Lili Allala, Restoration Director also presented the Golden Shovel Award to volunteer Tim Jeragy. Lizzie Jackson, Restoration and Education Coordinator for Nature Consortium, who is leaving the organization to get a teaching certificate was honored with the award of a Japanese hori hori knife, useful they said for removing vine weed.

Nature Consortium volunteers have worked to restore the habitat there and campaigned since 2003 to save a portion of the West Duwamish Greenbelt called the Soundway property to have it become park space.

The property is a wooded area located south of South Seattle Community College.

The effort began when former mayor Greg Nickels planned to sell the seven-acre area of woods called Soundway West to housing developers. Nature Consortium and others cited the importance of the forest as public green space, as habitat, and as a filter of air pollution emanating from the Duwamish industrial corridor.

Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Richard Conlin and Jean Godden, as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine supported the effort. Previous State Senator Erik Poulsen and State Representatives Eileen Cody and Joe McDermott (now with the King County Council) were also active in making the park a reality.

The City of Seattle designated the property as park space in January 2011. The designation included the original seven acres of Soundway West as well as 25 acres of adjacent habitat, which are now preserved as parks space in perpetuity.

$500,000 was set aside by the state for preservation of the property, which eventually went to the City of Seattle. Nature Consortium has been collaborating with Seattle Parks and Recreation to steward and restore the property back to a healthy ecosystem.

To commemorate the occasion, Mayor McGinn proclaimed June 15 to be Soundway Day.

Hikes took visitors through the trails in the greenbelt that have been built in the last two years. Jacobo Jiminez, Trails Program staff lead for Seattle Parks described what was done in the Greenbelt. "People have always been drawn to the forest and created their own trails but they haven't always been laid out in a sustainable way. What we're charged with is repairing or building trails up to a standard so they can stand years of use."

A project they started last year in a partnership with Seattle Goodwill where three days out of the week, young people in a job training program, came to the park to do forest restoration and trail work. They built trail re-routes and retaining walls from recycled city granite curbing. Jimeniz said the long term goal is to build a trail all the way to Pigeon Point in the next 5 to 10 years. "You could walk, in the forest from here and make your way down to Alki."

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