Bush teacher Ben Wheeler’s elective Urban Forestry class has taken to the muddy slopes of the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt with smiles all around. It’s a popular class. Ben combines classroom learning with two days of field work per week for several weeks of two sessions a year in the spring and fall.
The students use picks and loppers to remove invasive plants such as ivy and blackberries. They create “life rings” around trees to protect them from the invasives. A layer of burlap and wood chips is then put down over the newly bare areas.
Each session has its own rewards. In spring, the students experience the bare branches of shrubs and trees at the beginning of their session and then delight in the leafing out and flowering that occurs over the weeks.
Fall’s reward is the installation of new plants. The Parks Department delivers a treasure trove of native ferns, trees, and shrubs that were ordered by the Greenbelt’s forest stewards. It’s tons of fun to plant the new forest baby plants.
Ben Wheeler working alongside a student.
Some people mistakenly think that the wild areas around Seattle can be left unattended. This attitude of benevolent neglect, however, does not promote a healthy urban forest. Committed removal of invasive plants and the nurturing of a diverse selection of new natives create sustainable flora and habitat for wildlife.
Harrison Ridge Greenbelt Forest Stewards Trina Wherry and Catherine Nunneley are immensely grateful to Ben and his students. We love working alongside them and are always astonished at the huge progress they are able to make. Thanks a bunch, Bush School!!