Enviromental Stewardship Report

Supporting a Healthy Urban Environment

As a department we plan for the future by integrating an environmental ethic into our everyday activities. We know that small steps can have a big impact. This work does not happen on its own; it takes the care and commitment of parks professionals to select each tree that gets planted, develop a fieldtrip curriculum, operate a maintenance building thoughtfully and efficiently, and coordinate volunteers.

The 2013 Environmental Stewardship Report: Our City, Our Parks, Our Environment highlights the excellent work of staff, volunteers and partners in stewarding a healthy environment for the next generation. Our work is spread throughout Parks and Recreation and takes many forms from operational choices to programming to developing new parks and buildings. Although the report is focused on environmental goals and objectives, our work also supports people, communities and the financial sustainability of our parks and our city.

Community Programs - Get Involved!
Join Seattle Parks and our partner organizations to help us care for our environment and volunteer in our parks. Discover your local environment by spending time in it!

Maintain a Vibrant Urban Forest
Seattle's urban forest is at risk. We have an aging forest that is being overtaken by invasive plants like English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry. The forest is unable to take care of itself and requires our help to pull out invasive plants and plant new trees to establish the next generation of forest. To that end we’re embarked on a 20-year effort to restore 2,500 acres of forest land by the year 2025. Learn more about the Green Seattle Partnership and our Forest Stewardship opportunities

Maintain Our Forested Trails
The aim of our forested trail system is to provide access to Seattle's natural areas. Our 120-mile soft surface trail system provides a national park experience in a city setting.

Trails program staff work with about 20 organizations and hundreds of individual volunteers throughout the city to inventory the trail system, create maintenance condition maps, and provide public maps for recreation purposes. These volunteer ambassadors often provide feedback and leadership around trail projects, standards, installations, and planning across the city, while also providing technical support to Park Resources Staff and the Natural Area Crew.

The Youth Green Corps, a partnership between Parks and Seattle Goodwill, educates and trains young adults by mixing classroom experiences with outdoor forestry restoration. In an effort to provide youth employment and create a pathway to green jobs, Parks staff members teach site management, restoration skills management, tool safety, native and invasive plant identification, and environmental stewardship to Youth Green Corps participants.

Find out more information about our Trail Program and the work by the Youth Green Corps partnership with Goodwill.

Care for Urban Orchards, Farms, and Gardens; connect people to healthy food choices
The Good Food Program's mission is to encourage healthy and active lifestyles, steward parkland for long-term sustainability and support the local food system while building community. Thanks to 18 non-profit and governmental partners as well as individual stewards, we have a thriving stewardship program at our community gardens, orchards, and farms. We dedicate 1 million square feet of parkland to growing food including 12 community gardens, 3 urban farms, 30 p-patch gardens and 8 park orchards. Find out more information on our Good Food's Grow Programs, Department of Neighborhoods’ P-Patch program and the City of Seattle Food Action Plan.

Programming in our community gardens and orchards fosters understanding of where our food comes from, sustainable food choices and the joy of cooking produce out of the garden. With the help of nonprofit organizations and volunteer partners, we provide low-cost educational opportunities to grow, cook, and eat nutritious foods grown in our parks. We donated 18,000 pounds of produce from our community gardens and orchards to food banks and educational programming.

Reduce Our Use of Pesticides
Seattle Parks and Recreation is constantly seeking balance between efficiency and environmental sensitivity. In a large system like ours, we have to make choices like whether to rake leaves or blow them; whether to hand-pull weeds, including noxious weeds, and using pesticides. To that end, our pesticide reduction program is an effort to Identify pesticides being used, categorize them according to human health and environmental criteria, phase out the highest risk pesticides first, identify alternative management strategies to replace phased-out pesticides, conduct training on integrated pest management, monitor the success of the alternative strategies and adjust as necessary to maintain healthy, attractive landscapes.

Protect wildlife
With your help, we can identify and protect critical urban wildlife habitat for Washington State's most vulnerable species. Our Wildlife Sanctuary Policy articulates our commitment to sustain habitats for a wide variety of wildlife and outlines steps Parks will take to create and manage wildlife sanctuaries. Seattle Parks and Recreation is a Bee City and we protect bird habitats and conduct research on wildlife in partnership with Seattle Audubon, Washington Audubon, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Heron Habitat Helpers.

Save the Chinook Salmon
Seattle Parks and Recreation is owner and steward of 11 percent of the city’s land area, much of it undeveloped “natural area,” and plays a significant role in preserving salmon habitat. Through the generosity of Seattle voters, we had added habitat lands. We have replaced bulkheads and seawalls with natural beaches, and reduced stormwater runoff. We employ best management practices with a strong environmental element for all our landscape, horticulture and forestry operations, and we are restoring our urban forests. Many of our environmental education programs focus on salmon habitat to teach Seattle residents how they can be responsible stewards of our lands and watersheds; the four environmental learning centers and the Seattle Aquarium offer many classes, tours and programs.

Responsibly Manage Energy Use
We manage more than two million square feet of building space that includes swimming pools, community centers and office buildings. Such a large portfolio of buildings requires continuous attention to operational and built solutions to move the needle on the reduction of energy use. Find out more about Seattle Parks and Recreation’s and all City agencies’ efforts in the Resource Conservation Management Plan for the City’s buildings. Recent investments have resulted in such efficiencies as a 7.4 percent energy savings from upgrades at community centers that now saves $15,000 per year, and an 8.9% energy savings at the City’s Airport Way Complex from 2013 to 2014, saving nearly $21,000 per year

The City's latest municipal benchmarking report shows that, adjusted for weather, 70% of City buildings had reduced energy use; unfortunately those reductions were offset by increased use in the other 30%, resulting in no net change in overall energy use. These results highlight the need to monitor and improve building operations a consistently.

Responsibly Manage Water Use
Parks staff practice smart irrigation by setting water targets for 343 irrigated parks and tracking monthly water use. Irrigation is scheduled based on weather patterns and historic trends. Learn more about irrigation best management practices.

Responsibly Mange Weeds and Invasive Plants
Seattle Parks and Recreation staff are trained to use alternative methods of and plant management before resorting to chemicals. The use of fungicides and herbicides are limited and primarily used at golf courses, greenhouses and natural areas where business needs or regulations require control strategies. Find out more about our Horticulture Program.

Use Green Cleaning Products
We go the extra mile to keep our parks clean and healthy for our visitors and nature by using green janitorial products at our facilities. Some cleaning chemicals can be hazardous, causing problems ranging from skin rashes and burns to coughing and asthma. We have switched to green cleaning products because they are thought to be less hazardous to workers and the environment.

Divert Waste from Landfills
Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. With growth comes additional consumption and garbage. It is critical we continue enhancing our recycling, composting and reuse programs to achieve the City of Seattle’s ambitious 70% target for waste diversion. Part of a successful waste diversion is providing the public with opportunities to learn and practice sustainable behaviors. In 2008, we expanded our recycling program to add 123 recycling cans to outdoor parks. Cans are located in areas with the greatest generation of recycling such as picnic shelters, boat ramps and playfields. We must continue creating opportunities to recycle in order to meet ambitious City goals. 

Mitigate Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste is a reality of construction work, maintenance, illegal dumping and remediation of polluted soils from former land uses. We report to the Washington State Department of Ecology to ensure the safety of Seattle’s residents and environment.

Decrease Vehicle Emissions
With properties in every corner of Seattle, driving creates a significant greenhouse gas emission impact for Parks and Recreation. In partnership with Seattle’s Green Fleets program, we are committed to optimizing our fleet and practices to minimize our emissions. For more information please visit the Green Fleet Program.

Encourage Sustainable Practices at Public Events
In addition to preventing waste from ending up in landfills, we “walking the talk” by setting good examples. In our Compost Squad program, we provide teens extensive training in soil building and food waste recycling techniques. The teens use this new knowledge to give back to their communities by providing the public guidance and advice at our special events.

Build and Maintain Environmentally Sound Buildings
Parks strives to create healthy built and natural environments for Seattle residents. Learn about solar generation, green buildings and ways we integrate nature into the city.

Because Parks and Recreation is committed to sound environmental practices and the associated benefits of sustainable design and construction, the Planning and Development Division includes sustainable features in all capital projects, including buildings smaller than 5,000 square feet and site development projects. These features reduce operations and maintenance costs, reduce initial and ongoing adverse impacts on the environment, increase the ecological function of landscapes and natural areas and increase the comfort, health and safety of park visitors and building occupants