WDGT Group

South Seattle staff walk the greenbelt.

The West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails group (WDGT) has come together to promote use of the greenbelt, identify common goals for the greenbelt, and develop a unified strategy that will benefit the surrounding neighborhood and larger Seattle community.

 WDGT began as a joint effort by South Seattle College faculty and  staff and Puget Ridge, Highland Park, and Riverview neighbors.  Our goal was to increase the visibility of the greenbelt, restore the  forest on its slope, and develop trails that will make connections in the community.  Our work continues efforts that began more than 20 years ago.

For a discussion of how the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails group started, what our work has been, and what we envision for the greenbelt, listen to “Forging Connections in the West Duwamish Greenbelt” on this Allways West Seattle podcast.    

In the Fall of 2000 a small group of neighbors were encouraged by the City of Seattle to plan bicycle paths in the neighborhood.  They formed the Riverview Trail Improvement Project (rTrip) and proposed a multi-use trail that would connect the Puget Ridge and Riverview neighborhoods.  The route would start from the south end of the Riverview Playfield, travel north through the greenbelt, through the SSC campus and reach east down the hill to connect to the Duwamish River Trail.

This project faced some major hurdles and uncertainties such as property rights, steep slopes, hydrology, and funding. As the plan developed, Mayor Greg Nickels proposed that seven acres of the greenbelt be used for the development of housing.  Neighbors opposed this, and the City Council granted the community time to raise funds to preserve the property as greenbelt.  After much negotiation, the Mayor’s office announced in 2005 that the property would be saved for green space and in 2011 the property was transferred to Seattle Parks.  By that time, rTrip’s proposal had lost momentum. (For a more complete description see rTrip. The maps and plans rTrip developed are available in print form at the South Seattle College Library.)

Throughout these years, Nature Consortium has been creating trails, removing invasive species of flora and replacing them with natives in the greenbelt.  South Seattle College’s landscape horticulture program students have also worked to restore native plantings and educate the public about reforestation.  In the last few years, Seattle Parks has extended and improved trails. The Highland Park Action Committee and Delridge neighborhood associations have advocated for trail improvements.

In the fall of 2014, the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails group picked up where rTrip had left off.  Faculty, staff, and students at South Seattle College wanted a walking connection to the Duwamish Longhouse on West Marginal Way and to the Duwamish Waterway.  A kernel college and community group sponsored a community meeting in January 2016 at South Seattle College.  More than 35 neighbors met to talk about their visions for the greenbelt.

The result of that conversation was our mission:  Creating a larger Duwamish Peninsula trail system, with a spur to the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, focused on native species restoration, serving the hiking and walking community with space for other uses.

Since then a steering committee and the college group have been meeting regularly to pursue these goals.  In the Spring of 2016, the group helped plan Spring at South, a day-long event that combined activities in the Greenbelt, the Arboretum, the Chinese Garden, the community orchard, and the spring wine release of the college’s wine program.

College staff launched weekly walks in the greenbelt.  On National Trails Day, 2017, Nature Consortium and WDGT combined to lead guided hikes, which continued through the summer of 2019.

WDGT applied for a city grant to develop a master plan for the greenbelt, but we were advised to wait for the Parks Department to complete a city-wide master plan.  In the spring of 2017, we applied for and received a grant for community outreach.  This website is one result of that grant.

In 2020-2021 representatives of the group participated the Ridge to River project (R2R) that envisions a trail from the top of Puget Ridge, Pathfinder School and South Seattle College to the Duwamish Longhouse.  With funding from the King County Conservation District, a feasibility study was completed for this proposed trail. Water quality monitoring was also conducted in Puget Creek in 2021 and will continue through 2022.  

WDGT Steering Committee

Judy Bentley is South Seattle College emeritus faculty and a Pacific Northwest historian. She taught composition, literature, and Pacific Northwest History for more than 20 years at the college, which included a history of the Duwamish River. In association with the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, she conducted an oral history project about the history of Delridge. She is also an avid hiker who has authored Hiking Washington’s History and Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, both published by the University of Washington Press.

Christine Clark is a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward for Puget Park.  Christine leads and coordinates work parties for trail improvement, invasive removal, and native plantings primarily in Puget Park but also at other locations throughout the greenbelt when needed.  Puget Park is in Christine’s backyard, and since moving to the Puget Ridge neighborhood she has gained a newfound appreciation of the importance of urban forests, which is why she became a Forest Steward.  There is a good chance when you are visiting Puget Park that you will likely run into her, her husband Matthew, and their family. 
Mackenzie Dolstad is the Stewardship Program Manager for the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust where he oversees the organization’s Trails and Restoration programs.  A graduate of Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, Mackenzie and his work support the Greenway ethos that our lives are better when we’re connected to nature.  He enjoys many of the outdoor pursuits common to the Pacific Northwest, including biking, hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing.  

Joanna Florer is an Environmental scientist with over 20 years experience specializing in evaluating risk and toxicity associated with cleanup and restoration projects. She currently works for the Port of Seattle on the cleanup of the Lower Duwamish Waterway (LDW). She is also a mentor for Women In Environment (WIE). She is a South Seattle College and Huxley College alumni and West Seattle resident for nearly 30 years. Joanna is also a member of the volunteer team conducting the water quality monitoring in Puget Creek.

Matt Groshong is an avid hiker and reading tutor at Sanislo Elementary, and he serves as secretary for the Seattle chapter of the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington.  He has lived in the Puget Ridge cohousing community for 23 years and retired as a community college administrator in 2015.

Randy Nelson is a retired academic and public librarian who also taught photography for 40 years at South Seattle College.  Currently Randy is on the faculty of the Scandinavian Language Institute.  He enjoys hiking, skiing, and public access to nature.  

Craig Rankin has participated with Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) since 2008 and is currently their vice chair and Delridge Neighborhood Council representative. He has written several grants promoting pedestrian safety and parks improvements in the Delridge area over that time frame. He is also a forest steward active in Westcrest Park and the Delridge and Myrtle Greenspace.  For Seattle Public Schools, he has led school involvement in urban forestry, the Delridge Wetlands project, and brought native plants onto campus at K-8 STEM.

Steve Richmond is the owner of Garden Cycles whose mission is to control exotic invasive plants and restore native plant communities. He is also the chair for the Puget Creek Watershed Alliance, a grassroots organization whose mission is to protect, restore, and enhance the natural environment in the Puget Creek Watershed and West Duwamish Greenbelt.  Steve has been doing landscape and horticulture work for more than 20 years and enjoys sharing his experience and is proud of his work restoring parts of Longfellow and Puget Creek in West Seattle.

Esther Sunde was a faculty librarian at South Seattle College for over 20 years. She taught information literacy and research skills and connects students with information. She believes in the power of nature to restore the human spirit and frequently walks the existing trails in the vicinity of the college as well as other green spaces around the city.  She was born and raised in West Seattle and is proud to be a part of the effort to develop trails in the Duwamish Greenbelt.

Paul West is a planner and urban forester focusing on restoration of natural areas within cities with 35 years of experience in natural resource management. He currently works as Parks Operations Superintendent for the City of Mercer Island. He previously worked for the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation as the Senior Urban Forester. He wrote the department’s tree policy and has authored numerous urban forest management plans. Paul has been a West Seattle resident for more than 20 years.