IN 1970, AT the dawn of America’s environmental movement, Joni Mitchell wrote a song about the paving of paradise. Four and a half decades later, an inspirational immigrant, whose family fled war-torn Bangladesh, reversed the process in Kent. And by doing so, helped protect Puget Sound.
Soon after arriving in King County in 2016, Tahmina Martelly signed on as manager of the Resiliency and Empowerment programs for World Relief Seattle. Through that work, she envisioned and led an innovative effort at a church to tear up an unused hillside parking lot and replace it with food gardens and a rain-collection system — diverting many thousands of gallons of polluted storm runoff before it could reach the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay on Puget Sound.
For Martelly, the parking-lot plots are more than a garden complex, and more than a pollution-prevention project.
“Because the people who are served by this garden are asylees, immigrants and refugees, it’s a metaphor,” she says. “When you take barriers away, new things can grow.”