Restoration events held at local parks for MLK Day of Service

Mike Shaw (left) checks the work of Sahith Gorty to make sure his plant will stay in the ground. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Mike Shaw (left) checks the work of Sahith Gorty to make sure his plant will stay in the ground.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Monday's nearly freezing temperatures were not enough to stop about a dozen individuals from participating in a park restoration event at the Watershed Preserve in unincorporated King County just outside of Redmond.

The event was held as part of the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which honors the late reverend on the holiday bearing his name by encouraging people to give back to their communities.

For their part, the group at the Watershed Preserve, led by forest steward Mike Shaw, spent the day planting native trees and plants along the road running through the park.

"It's a great way to honor Dr. King and the service he provided to this country," Shaw told the group about them volunteering their time.

Shaw became a steward in 2010 through Forterra, an organization whose mission is to protect, enhance and steward the region's communities and landscapes.

Monday's work party at the Watershed Preserve was one of three held that day through Forterra's Green Redmond Partnership, which is part of the organization's Green Cities program. The remaining restoration events in Redmond were held at Grass Lawn Park and Westside Park.

Norah Kates, Green Cities project coordinator for Forterra, said in addition to Monday's event, they have ongoing efforts to keep the local parks healthy.

"We do restoration work all year round," she said.

During the warmer seasons, the Green Redmond Partnership and City of Redmond hold work parties at various parks throughout the city each month as part of the Last Saturday of the Month program.

In addition to keeping the local parks healthy, Kates said the work parties are also a way for people to get involved in their neighborhoods, stay active and socialize. She said the events are open to all ages, but parent permission is required for children younger than 18 if their parents are not attending the work party.

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With the cold weather, Shaw admitted to the work party on Monday that they were working in "less than ideal conditions" and the plants and trees they were planting had a survival rate of less than 50 percent, but the plants were hearty ones. He explained that they were working to find which plants would work best at the site.

"This is kind of trial and error," he told the group. "We're kind of experimenting as we go."

Shaw said only three people had preregistered for the restoration event and he was only expecting about six people to attend, rather than the dozen who did.

Claire Murphy and Ashley Gullett were part of that dozen. As members of University of Washington Medicine's Pathology program, the two women spend most of their time indoors and saw the work party as a chance for them to get outside and give back to the community.

Murphy added that as dog owners who frequent the area's parks, they thought it was important for them to help make those parks look nice.

Other work party attendees included the Murthy Gorty, his Sunitha and their 9-year-old son Sahith. This was the second park restoration event the Gortys have attended, having previously volunteered at a park in Bellevue. While the Redmond Ridge family volunteers through AID India — which promotes sustainable, equitable and just development in India — Gorty said they also look for ways to contribute to the local community.

"We feel it's very important," he said, adding that he hopes this tradition of volunteerism gets passed down to Sahith and his children.

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