On July 25th, Eagle Landing Park suffered its worst case of vandalism yet.  Previously, people have left graffiti, carved on benches, destroyed plants, driven through the landscape with a four-wheel-drive truck, and gouged up the trails with bike tires, but this is the worst incident so far.  I have asked the Parks Department if they know anything about it, and they have not responded.

On Friday afternoon, I stopped by the park to find that someone had "cleaned up" the landscape around the entrance.  Unfortunately, this work involved the destruction of two dozen ferns and many other native plants.  Among the plants destroyed were Starflower, trailing blackberry, Cooley's hedge nettle, native strawberries, purple-leaved willowherb, and vine maple.  This native plant landscape had been designed and planted by the Parks Department at considerable expense, and the plants had been kept alive and maintained by tens of volunteer hours, including the removal of invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry and clematis.  The ferns and other plants that were removed will not grow back, but the bare soil left behind will be filled with invasive species, requiring more hours of labor by paid employees or volunteers.

As the Native Plant Steward of Eagle Landing Park, I have often told the Parks Department that I would maintain the area around the parking lot.  There are three dozen species of native plants in that third of an acre, and also about a dozen non-native, invasive species that keep popping up.  As far as I know, I am the only person in the City of Burien with sufficient plant identification skills to know what is native, what is valuable, and what is a weed in that landscape.  This isn't just my opinion, but also the opinion of many others familiar with the park.  Myron Clinton, the maintenance supervisor has told me, more than once, that the landscape is not the sort that could be managed with power equipment, and that the work needed to be done by hand.  I completely agreed with that, and I have spent at least fifty volunteer hours nurturing the natives and pulling weeds by hand.  Since going into the park and mowing things down with a weedwacker would be against Parks Department policy, against the stated objectives of the Parks Department, and against basic common sense, I would hope the City will investigate this vandalism as a crime and hold "Mr. Weedwacker" responsible.  No doubt, whoever did this will claim good intentions and ignorance of policies and goals, but destruction of this magnitude can only be viewed as malicious.  No one could claim they don't know what a fern is. Below are pictures of the bare dirt, which doesn't really show the extent of damage that has been caused.  Compare the images with this video of the park on a better day.

Half a dozen ferns used to camouflage this ugly water meter.

 

Mr. Weedwacker seems to have "spared" these rhododendrons, but they are really doomed to a slow death.  They will bake in the sun unless the coming August turns out to be the wettest and cloudiest ever recorded.  They already look wilted, and it has only been one day.  There is no water source in the park.  (The water meter is for adjacent private property.)

 

The garter snake below used to be a key element of the ecology of the park before Mr. Weedwacker came along and killed it.  The area where this carcass was left used to have a ground cover of native blackberries, providing shelter for the snake along with opportunities for sunbathing.  Garter snakes are the main predator of invasive slugs that eat our native plants. 

This area had an established groundcover of native plants.  Now it is open to weed invasion. 

Several ferns once covered this slope, slowing soil erosion.

 

Supposing that you are not as fond of native plants and garter snakes as I am, why should you care if a couple dozen ferns were killed? 

  1. The Parks Department spent thousands of dollars hiring a landscape architect to select the plants and design the landscape, and to buy and install the plants.  This is a criminal waste of taxpayer money, at least.
  2. The Parks Department has a stated goal of restoring the 300 plus acres of park land, removing invasive species and reestablishing natives.  Tens of hours of restoration work were wiped out in a single afternoon by Mr. Weedwacker.  How can the Parks Department meet its goal if someone is destroying the landscape faster than they can restore it?
  3. What used to be a low-maintenance landscape has been turned into a high-maintenance landscape by the removal of the groundcover.
  4. A carpet of plants was removed from the drainage ditch, which will increase soil erosion.  This cannot be corrected overnight with the planting of new plants.  Only plants with established roots would bind the soil this winter. 
  5. If this eventually gets blamed on good intentions and miscommunication, as I suspect it will, why aren't the people responsible capable of such basic communication?  I have told everyone who will listen that I will maintain the landscape, for free, and that they should come to me if they have questions.  I maintain a web site about the park, I am in the park every single day, and I am not difficult to contact. This is not the way to run a railroad.
  6. Why is Mr. Weedwacker running free in the world with power equipment?  How can someone work in the landscaping business and not know what a fern is?

If Mr. Weedwacker is not prosecuted for destruction of public property, that in itself will be a crime.

Pictures of some of the plants destroyed: