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Ivy strangles Federal Way's forests; Friends of the Hylebos take action

Dumas Bay Park is heavily invaded by English Ivy. The plant has covered the ground and crawled up the trees’ trunks into the forest canopy.  - Courtesy image
Dumas Bay Park is heavily invaded by English Ivy. The plant has covered the ground and crawled up the trees’ trunks into the forest canopy.
— image credit: Courtesy image

Invasive species are choking Federal Way's forests.

The city is home to roughly 660 acres of city-owned forestland and 333 acres of publicly or privately-owned forestland, said Chris Carrel, Friends of the Hylebos executive director. In several areas, especially along Federal Way's northwest Puget Sound shoreline, invasive species are slowly killing the forests, he said.

"Eyeballing it, I knew we had a problem," Carrel said. "But when I got the reports back from our ecologist last week, my jaw dropped."

A long-term plan to save Federal Way's forests is needed, Carrel said. Until that plan is drawn, Friends of the Hylebos and volunteers will embark upon a pilot project at one of the city's most affected parks — Dumas Bay Park, 30844 44th Ave. S.W.

Boeing is contributing $20,000 and King County's Wild Places in City Spaces is contributing $10,000 in grant funding toward the project.

"We're going to get out there and save some of those trees that are so valuable," Carrel said.

The 19.3-acre park is heavily invaded by English Ivy. As is the case in other local parks, the plant has covered the ground and crawled up the trees' trunks into the forest canopy. Invasive species, such as English Ivy and Himalayan blackberries, are dangerous to forests because they smother native species on the ground, snag valuable resources needed to keep existing trees alive, and prevent seedlings from taking root, Carrel said.

"It's a big problem," Carrel said. "It's an important problem for the community to face."

If the invasive species are left alone, they will overtake the forests, toppling trees and restricting new growth within a century, Carrel said. At Dumas Bay Park, 50-75 percent of the trees are consumed by English Ivy, he said.

"This is a forest that is in that downward spiral," Carrel said.

Carrel and the Friends will remove some of the ivy at Dumas Bay Park beginning in December. They will pull away the plant and clear 6-foot circles around the base of the invaded trees. This will hold off the ivy's harmful effects for about a year, Carrel said. Future action will be needed to keep the invasive species away.

Dumas Bay Park is home to just some of the city's urban forestland. Much of the city's forest land suffers from invasive species. Cooperation between the Friends, city, county, volunteers and others is needed to create a sustainable plan to save all the city's forestland, he said.

"We recognize our forests can't take care of themselves," Carrel said.

A long-term partnership to save the trees may look similar to the Green Seattle Partnership, a stewardship primarily between Seattle and the Cascade Land Conservancy. The partnership relies on city staff, advocacy groups, volunteers, businesses, non-profits and more to remove invasive species and restore the city's trees to a healthy condition. The organization was founded in 2004, and operates in accordance with a 20-year strategic plan.

Whatever Federal Way's plan may be, public education will serve a vital role, Carrel said. English Ivy is attractive and is used heavily in landscaping. Several residents do not realize its harmful effects on native species, Carrel said.

"The worst of the worst is English Ivy," he said. "It's basically strangling the tree."

Learn more

• To learn more about Green Seattle and removing invasive species, visit www.greenseattle.org.

• To volunteer with the Friends of the Hylebos Dumas Bay Park invasive species removal, contact Hillary Kleeb at (253) 874-2005 or streamteam@hylebos.org or contact Chris Carrel at (253) 874-2005 or chinook@hylebos.org.

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