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 15 years ago.
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.
(See a more complete description of rTrip and for the housing proposal, visit Alan Robertson’s website: Walking Riverview. 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 2017.
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.
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 South Seattle 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.
Esther Sunde has been a faculty librarian at South Seattle College for over 20 years. She teaches information literacy and research skills, and connects students with information. She believes in the power of nature to restore the human spirit and 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.
Judy Cashman is a board member at Nature Consortium, a grassroots organization whose mission is to connect people, arts and nature. She has been a board member for over 9 years and a volunteer for over 14 years. Since 2003, the Nature Consortium has brought volunteers and community members together to help restore habitat in the West Duwamish Greenbelt by removing invasive weeds, amending soil, addressing erosion issues, and planting new native trees and shrubs. West Seattle Resident for over 20 years.
Craig Rankin has participated with Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) since 2008 and is currently their vice chair and Delridge Neighborhood Council representative. Craig . 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 lead school involvement in urban forestry, the Delridge Wetlands project, and brought native plants onto campus at K-8 STEM.
Ben Ahrens is a resident, along with his small family, of West Seattle. Their home borders the West Duwamish Greenbelt’s Puget Park. His interests and passions include ecological conservation and restoration, social justice, community building, and parenthood. Ben works as a landscape designer and small business operator providing landscape services.
Paul West is a planner and urban forester focusing on restoration of natural areas within cities with 33 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. West Seattle resident for 20 years.
Joanna Florer is Environmental scientist with over 15 years experience specializing in evaluating risk and toxicity associated with cleanup and restoration projects. She currently works for the Port of Seattle overseeing the cleanup of the Lower Duwamish Waterway (LDW). She is also a mentor and boar member for Women In Environment (WIE). She is a South Seattle College alumni and West Seattle resident for nearly 30 years.
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 over 20 years and enjoys sharing his experience and is proud of his work restoring parts of Longfellow and Puget Creek in West Seattle.
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.
In addition to the steering committee, a parallel group of faculty and staff members from South Seattle College have been meeting for two years to develop this idea. The core group includes:
- Judy Bentley and Esther Sunde (WDGT steering committee)
- Randy Nelson, Faculty Librarian
- Van Bobbitt, Landscape Horticulture Program Faculty
- Monica Lundberg, Manager of Student Programs
- Colby Keene, Campus Recreation Coordinator
- Eric Steen, Director of Facilities and Plant Operations
- Robert Glatt, Dean of Hospitality and Service Occupations