A Return to the Beloved Tree Planting Celebration

It’s that time of year again: tree planting season! For many years, we’ve hosted a large Tree Planting Celebration in partnership with Carter Subaru to kick off the season and recognize this important work happening across the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area.  

After weeks of oppressive wildfire smoke, the much-anticipated rain finally made an appearance just in time for our 2022 Celebration. The cool, damp morning air was a welcomed change, but still delivered a shock to the system for many of us! Despite the conditions, our staff, partners, and more than 100 volunteers dusted off their waterproof attire and made their way to Lake Sammamish State Park to dig in and give back.

Two Greenway Trust staff members don rain gear and demonstrate how to plant a tree

The Tree Planting Celebration is a favored event by new and returning volunteers, and you could feel the positive energy from the first turn of the shovel up until the last tree was nestled in the ground. This was our first time hosting the event since 2019 due to the pandemic, and it was so inspiring to see the turnout and enthusiasm from this community that cares so much about the health of the Greenway NHA landscape!

Tackling the Last Unrestored Section of Riparian Buffer Along Issaquah Creek

Planting along Issaquah Creek in Lake Sammamish State Park

In addition to the reunion-type feeling of this year’s celebration, the event was monumental for another reason. Together, we planted the last remaining unrestored portion of riparian buffer* along Issaquah Creek within Lake Sammamish State Park. The site is approximately 3 acres and like most of the buffer of Issaquah Creek prior to restoration, was a monoculture of blackberry and reed canary grass. Our crews worked hard over the past year to control those noxious weeds and prep the site for planting. During the event, we transformed this important streamside area by planting roughly 1,000 native trees and shrubs that we’ll continue to care for in the years to come. Check out the before and after photos below – the change is truly unbelievable!

*Curious what a riparian buffer is and why it’s important? Check out this video for an explainer!

At the start of the Tree Planting Celebration
During the Tree Planting Celebration

Building on a Legacy of Volunteerism and Restoration at Lake Sammamish State Park

Volunteers such as those at this year’s Tree Planting Celebration have played a critical role in restoration efforts along Issaquah Creek. Since 2005, more than 15,000 community volunteers have provided more than 62,000 volunteer hours toward restoration projects at Lake Sammamish State Park alone. Over nearly two decades, these projects have removed substantial amounts of invasive plants, and planted more than 50,000 native trees and shrubs.

The Greenway Trust’s successful riparian restoration efforts within Lake Sammamish State Park have also created the opportunity for more comprehensive, in-stream large woody material restoration, which is planned for construction in the summer of 2023.

Dirty work gloves in the foreground an volunteers gather around at the end of the Tree Planting Celebration event

Braving the Rain for a Greater Purpose

That’s a whole lot of time spent (typically in the rain!) planting trees; so why do we do it? Native trees are a vital part of our healthy forests and urban canopy. Trees improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gases, and provide shade to creeks which protects threatened salmon. Trees also reduce erosion and filter pollutants, improving water quality and providing important wildlife habitat. Our urban and rural forests provide environmental, economic, and social benefits and help make the Greenway NHA an incredible place where we all love to live, work, and play.

Partnerships Make It Possible

Three people use shovels to plant a tree in the Greenway
Planting the 200,000th tree with Carter Subaru in 2019

As with nearly all things accomplished in the Greenway NHA, partnerships are a critical component of making this work possible. One of our longest standing partnerships is with Carter Subaru. Since 2008, the dealership has been a dedicated partner whose forward and long-term thinking paired with their financial support has allowed the Greenway Trust to carry out countless restoration projects, including the planting and continued care of more than 225,000 trees.

This event was made possible thanks to support from Carter Subaru, along with our friends at REI, who together provided food and drinks for all of our attendees. Thank you to these fantastic partners, and THANK YOU volunteers for braving the elements with us!

The Tree Planting Celebration was the start of many tree planting projects throughout the Greenway NHA this fall. These events are excellent for individuals, families, groups, and work teams. The Greenway Trust provides all the tools, plant material, gloves, and project oversight – no experience necessary. Check out the schedule of upcoming events here. We’d love to see you out there!