By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What’s often the biggest neighborhood cleanup of the year is happening Saturday morning.
Biggest in volume, if not always in turnout. Last year, the neighbors of Fairmount Ravine piled up two tons of trash and debris before they were done.
This year, while they are again hoping for your help (here’s the official announcement/invitation), they are also expecting the final tally to be considerably less.
One uphill neighbor got an early start and has already pulled out prodigious piles of refuse, according to John Lang, longtime cleanup cooordinator, and Matt Algieri, who succeeded John in that role starting with the 25th annual cleanup last year.
That means this year, the neighbors – and whoever else shows up – can spend more time trying to rescue the ravine’s trees from ivy. They’ve already lost more than a few, not just to the top-heaviness that comes from the ivy takeover, but also to slippery soil, and some to age and disease.
They also are hoping to deploy resources on the topside of the eastern Admiral Way Bridge, which spans the ravine. to clean leaves and debris from its sidewalks. John only recalls the city cleaning those sidewalks once in his quarter-century-plus of ravine residence.
Speaking of the city – they’re working to get it more involved in taking care of Fairmount Ravine.
If you’ve participated in the cleanups – or seen our coverage here over the past decade – you know the neighbors have taken on a huge task. The space under the bridge was the site of encampments before that word became part of the daily vernacular citywide. It’s also a popular party spot. And taggers have long used it as a canvas. But it’s the ongoing volume of trash that has the neighbors saying it’s beyond their efforts. “When we got two tons last year, it was far beyond a neighborhood effort … we’re doing the city’s work.”
The bridge and the land immediately under it belongs to SDOT. What’s not SDOT or private property in the ravine is Seattle Parks land. And Seattle Public Utilities is supposed to handle illegal dumping and graffiti vandalism. Parks has been working slowly on forest restoration in part of the area, but keeping it from being overwhelmed with junk is a more-urgent task, as the neighbors see it. They plan to meet again with city reps in April. “We hope the city will take responsibility,” John says. In the past he’s found himself handling sharps and biowaste. “It’s beyond the scope of what a neighborhood group should do.”
The group itself has done much more than organize and carry out annual cleanups, as explained in our report about their 20th annual cleanup in 2012. But as they plan now to push for city departments to commit to regular attention to the area, they have warm words for City Councilmember Lisa Herbold and her staff, who helped them connect, Matt says. “They took the time to meet with us face to face and understood what we were looking for.”
But in the immediate future – it’s time for the annual work party. You don’t have to live nearby to help. Maybe you drive or ride or run in the ravine sometimes – this is your chance to give back.
To help with the ivy, bring heavy lopping tools and small hand saws. Wear gloves and sturdy clothes and shoes. It’s fun, John insists. “It’s very intimate. You get to meet neighbors (and) it’s a great cardio workout!”
Depending on what you volunteer to do, the terrain can be a bit challenging, but John says they’ve never had an injury, perhaps because they always have a safety talk.
Just show up at the top of the ravine, Fairmount and Forest, at 8:30 Saturday morning. It’s not an all-day event – they work for a couple hours, and then it’s time to take pride in a job well done.