Hannah Pederson, Reporter
Six American Honors students, led by the program’s Service Chair Sarah Henry, volunteered on May 14 with the environmental organization Forterra along the banks of the Cedar River.
The group worked from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to place mulch over newly-planted native shrubs and trees in an effort to help the saplings fend off weeds and retain moisture in the event of another hot summer.
Stewardship Coordinator Michelle Quast has worked to restore the Cedar River for seven years now, most recently through Forterra, a non-profit organization in Washington.
Most of the river is within the boundaries of the Cedar Grove Natural Area owned by King County, which Quast explains is like a park without the amenities.
Quast partners with King County Parks through Forterra and their stewardship in action program, which works to get the community that relies on the river involved in taking care of it. The program hosts numerous events like the one American Honors participates in every month.
“We volunteered with Forterra back in March and everyone seemed to like it, so we decided to work with them again,” Henry said. “It was pretty nice, but it would’ve been better if more people had read the email and come with us.”
Henry chose this event not only because it was another way to get in community service hours but because it’d leave a positive lasting impact on the community.
“The Cedar River provides drinking water to more than a million people in Seattle, and at the same time it’s home to salmon,” Quast said. “It’s a great example of how people and the environment thrive together.”
Sockeye salmon are the primary species that pass through the river. They’ve suffered over the past years because rising temperatures have left water levels too low and water temperatures too high for the fish’s delicate systems.
The trees and shrubs planted along the banks are native species like western red cedar and Douglas fir, plants that thrived on the river’s bank up until knotweed, an invasive plant native to Japan that thrives in volcanic soil (which is pretty much everywhere), forced all other plant life out.
“Because knotweed is such a strong invasive plant, it’d taken over the area to the point that there was nothing else growing there but knotweed,” Quast said. “It’d outcompeted all the native plants.”
The stewardship program volunteers have been working to eradicate knotweed since 2009 and replanting the area is one of the last steps in the process.
The salmon need the trees and shrubs to provide shade and cool down the water, plus the roots anchor the dirt to the banks, preventing soil erosion.
Henry looks forward to volunteering with Forterra again and urges other American Honors students to join in.
“They were just thankful that people were volunteering,” Henry said. “It was good to just go help people in the community.”
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