Seattle is known for being green.
With 489 parks covering more than 6,000 acres, it’s easy to see why. But the woods of Seattle are remnants of the vast forests that once stood in the Puget Sound region, and because of invasive weeds, development and a host of other factors, our forests are in need of stewardship and care.
In 2004, the Green Seattle Partnership was formed, partnering Seattle Parks and Recreation with a host of community organizations to create what is now the largest urban reforestation project in the country. One of the major undertakings at Green Seattle is the annual Green Seattle Day, during which thousands of volunteers help plant trees and keep urban forests healthy across Seattle — a tradition dating back 16 years.
This year, for the first time, Green Seattle is partnering with Trees for Seattle, the umbrella organization for the city of Seattle’s urban forestry efforts, to create the first-ever Seattle Forest Week, which will include events running from Nov. 6 through Nov. 13.
The week kicks off with Green Seattle Day on Saturday, Nov. 6, and culminates the following Saturday with Seattle Arbor Day — not to be confused with the national Arbor Day in April — at John C. Little, Sr. Park, hosted by the Seattle Housing Authority and the residents of NewHolly. Throughout the week, there are opportunities to engage and learn.
There has been “a lot of effort among a big host of agencies and organizations to consider types of opportunities that would be appealing to community members,” says Lisa Ciecko, a plant ecologist with the Green Seattle Partnership. “Each of the individual events has a lot of thought and community input involved in the planning. So, each is going to be really an individual experience.”
Events are free and run the gamut of eco-focused fun. What should Seattleites expect this week? We’re glad you asked. Here’s what Seattle Forest Week organizers have in store.
There’s a planting event and exploratory walk of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands on Saturday, Nov. 6; that same day, renowned Seattle artist and muralist Stevie Shao will be live-painting a portable mural at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands; expect a BIPOC Beach Walk with Sea Potential at Discovery Park on Sunday, Nov. 7; there are bulb planting parties with the Freeway Park Association on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; there’s a “forest bathing walk” with Cascadia Forest Therapy in Seward Park on Thursday; a Barks and Barks Tree Walk that’s perfect for four-legged friends, hosted by Seattle Public Utilities on Friday; and a Youth Climate Panel that will be held via Zoom on Sunday, Nov. 13. There will also be Instagram Live walks throughout the week.
Overwhelmed by the range of options? One of the standout events is a planting event on Green Seattle Day at Daybreak Star Cultural Center, Ciecko said, in partnership with United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and the Na’ah Illahee Fund. “This is part of a vision to create a food and teaching forest so that Indigenous communities living in Seattle can continue to learn and harvest traditional foods and medicines,” Ciecko says. It’s an opportunity, she continues, “to bring people to the work, and in particular prioritize BIPOC participation and make a welcoming space for folks to come and learn about this work.”
Sea Potential, a Seattle-based nonprofit that is hosting the BIPOC Beach Walk Nov. 7, is also doing work in this realm, with a mission to foster representation in this sustainability space for Black and Indigenous people and all communities of color. “Through healing activities and ocean justice conversations, we focus on fostering youth appreciation and connection to marine ecosystems, in addition to transforming the maritime industry with inclusive workplace culture,” the group’s mission statement reads. The inclusion-minded beach event on Sunday “is a chance to consider marine ecosystems and how they interface with the urban forest, and the value of the urban forest to crabs, fish and orcas,” Ciecko said.
And as much as you might learn from organizers and volunteers this week, you’re likely to learn even more from Mother Nature.
“Forests give us so much. They can teach us so much,” says Michael Stein-Ross, owner of Cascadia Forest Therapy. “Getting involved with Seattle Forest Week means you are creating opportunities to learn, to grow and to repair culture through nature connection.”
What should participants in Stein-Ross’ forest bathing event expect? Gear up for a slow, gently guided walk in the woods that is meant to foster that connection.
“I’m excited that the Seattle Forest Week sessions are happening on Veterans Day, so we can bring attention to how time spent in nature is one way veterans can find support for their particular wellness needs,” Stein-Ross said. Continuing, he noted that a commitment to sustaining forests is a commitment to sustaining our own communities.
“When a city is willing to partner with us, it shows that they understand how forests are integral to the health of its citizens and how its citizens are integral to the health of its forests.”