Give back at Volunteer Park this spring

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Photo by Nick Rapp
Photo by Nick Rapp

A stroll through Volunteer Park offers just about anything one could possibly aesthetically desire: water features, an art museum, a tower with sweeping views (and an additional exhibit), a tennis courts, an amphitheater, and a conservatory, as well as large trees, abundant birds, and neatly landscaped flower arrangements throughout. There is not a single unintentional square foot of space.

But it doesn't stay this way on its own. The neat tree beds, plants, and flower plots demand meticulous attention to detail and outside care. At the ready for the park's maintenance needs is the Volunteer Park Trust, a local group of passionate park conservationists who strive to uphold the park's long history of community enrichment and leisure.

The Trust runs monthly "Second Saturday Work Parties," along with committee meetings and occasional large volunteer events. It has an extensive track record of utilizing donor funding to integrate beloved features into the park and works with community members to ensure Volunteer Park's legacy as a quintessential Olmstead Brothers' project.

This past Saturday, April 9, over 60 volunteers gathered for a Second Saturday Work Party, at which the Trust typically accommodates around 20 volunteers. A group of 40 high schoolers signed on to help out at the last minute, though, so the Trust found a way to utilize the giant cohort.

In front of the "Black Sun" sculpture, Landscape Committee Chair Brooks Kolb addressed the group, explaining the nature of work parties and giving the rundown on what needed some attention in the park. Wheelbarrows of rakes and shovels sat next to water, soda, snacks, and gloves. The group buzzed with eager energy; volunteers of all ages gathered, awaiting group assignments. Kolb thanked everyone for joining and assured them that there would be tasks for all, even those who were unfamiliar with landscaping specifics.

Photo by Nick Rapp  

The groups split off, each led by a member of the Trust. The main task of the day was weeding in various flower and tree beds throughout the park. Teams of high schoolers, young children, young adults, middle-aged folks, and even a dog worked together to rake aside fallen leaves in search of invasive weeds.

When volunteers became unsure of their next tasks, Trust members guided them toward areas in need of help. Over the course of the two-hour session, there was a visible difference in the tidiness of the park.

The Trust members also delivered fascinating talking points on Volunteer Park's history and maintenance objectives. One claimed the group "has been trying to remove the fence around the reservoir for years," as it no longer functions as a main water supply for the city. It is merely maintained in case of emergency these days. Different city departments have their own agendas for the best use of the water, making it difficult for anyone to stake a claim on its future.

Other Trust decisions are made from a place of love for the community members that have given so much to Seattle's parks over the years. The Trust's co-founder, Douglas Bayley, passed away in January of this year. In his memory, the Trust planted 25,000 daffodil bulbs, now visible all over Volunteer Park. In fact, a Trust member told me the daffodils proliferated far beyond the expected yield for the year.

For those interested in helping out with landscaping, the Trust has some exciting events on the horizon. The Second Saturday Work Parties continue monthly, and chances are they will not be quite as packed as April's surprise turnout.

In addition, the annual Spring Restoration Day falls on April 23 this year. It is one of the group's larger volunteer gatherings. The four-hour day will include "weeding, removing invasive plants, improving gravel paths, and mulching garden beds for a beautiful summer," according to the Trust's website.

Sign up for events and read more about the Volunteer Park Trust at