A view of the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trail, where this year's planting is taking place.

A view of the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trail, where this year’s planting is taking place. Credit: Eric Peacock/Flickr

About the Greenbelt Urban Forest Restoration Program ReLeaf Project:

The project enlists thousands of volunteers of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds within the surrounding communities to remove invasive vegetation, plant native trees and plants, and monitor already-restored plots. Partners will also engage in wider-spread community outreach, including an urban forestry restoration job training internship for underserved teens.

ReLeaf Location:

Seattle, Wash.

Key ReLeaf Activities:

  • Remove two acres of invasive trees and plants.
  • Reforest one to two acres with 1,100 native trees.
  • Plant native understory vegetation.

Why This ReLeaf Project?

In close proximity to the Duwamish Waterway, the Puget Sound, and downtown Seattle, the original old-growth forest of the West Duwamish Greenbelt has taken a severe beating over the last century. From being clear-cut by early settlers and later used as a gravel quarry to sitting in one of Seattle’s most polluted, heavily trafficked and industrial areas, the Greenbelt has been severely impacted by human activity. The decades of neglect resulted in the Greenbelt degenerating into a tract of invasive and non-native species. This vegetation fails to filter stormwater runoff and air and noise pollution as successfully as native forests do, thereby reducing the Greenbelt’s ecological benefit to migrating salmon and other native wildlife in the vicinity.

Why Underserved Communities?

Urban forest restoration efforts are only successful when communities are engaged and aware of the benefits their new trees provide. Urban trees absorb air pollution, improve water quality and mitigate . For the residents in the low- and middle-income neighborhoods near the Greenbelt, these increased ecological benefits will greatly impact their lives and well-being. Many in the communities around the Greenbelt are poor, foreign-born and have no health insurance, and studies show their life expectancy is up to 13 years shorter than that in wealthier parts of Seattle.