Volunteers place bark around the base of a tree during a previous year’s Parks Appreciation Day in Federal Way. The city hosts the event every spring where residents help prepare local parks for summer. This year, Parks Appreciation Day is April 22. Photo courtesy city of Federal Way

Federal Way seeking volunteers for Parks Appreciation Day

Community members are invited to join other volunteers this Earth Day to help clean and spruce up four Federal Way parks during the city’s Parks Appreciation Day, from 9 a.m. to noon, April 22.

Federal Way is only one of many cities in the region hosting a Parks Appreciation Day, as part of a greater campaign planned in conjunction with Earth Day. This is the 12th year, however, the city has hosted such an event but under a different title. Federal Way Parks and Facilities Manager Jason Gerwen said the Church of the Latter-day Saints initially proposed the idea to the city as a way to give back, and the event has grown in popularity, with other congregations, local organizations, businesses and sports clubs also sending volunteers.

“We’ve had from as few as 125 volunteers up to around 500 people, and when you talk about volunteer hours, we’ve had from as little as 300 hours to 1,500 hours,” he said.

Each year, the goal is for a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time, Gerwen said.

While the city has 32 parks in Federal Way to care for, he said it became apparent early on that volunteers could make a greater impact when they were working at a few sites as opposed to spread out over a larger number of locations. The parks selected each year are determined based on need, Gerwen said.

This year, Celebration, Steel Lake, Saghalie and Alderbrook are the selected sites. The work at two of the parks — Celebration and Steel Lake — entails basic maintenance. At Steel Lake, volunteers will remove invasive plants, such as blackberry bushes and Scotch broom, and prune site lines into the park. At Celebration Park, along with invasive-weed removal, nature trails will be pruned back, drainage cleared and bark put into tree wells.

The projects at Alderbrook and Saghalie parks are more specific, however. The greatest priority at Alderbrook is improving and replacing damaged asphalt pathways, Gerwen said. One path that goes from Silverlake Elementary to Stock Pond is overgrown with trees and in so poor shape, that city officials opted to take out the asphalt and convert it back to a gravel pathway, Gerwen said.

At Saghalie, priorities are for volunteers to remove invasive weeds, plant trees, clean up a storm pond, place bark into tree wells and paint restrooms.

Gerwen said he likes to have at least 50 to 75 people working at a site.

“We generally have enough work planned where we know we’re not going to get all of it done,” Gerwen said, adding projects are prioritized, and 45 minutes before the event ends, staff and park commissioners assess each of the sites to determine what has been accomplished and what needs to be finished in the coming weeks.

“To go get three quarters to 90 percent of the projects done with volunteers and then to go out and do the last 10 percent is a huge relief for my park staff,” Gerwen said. “There’s no shortage of work.”

Gerwen said, so far, he has at least 165 volunteers pre-registered. While people are asked to pre-register to help at Saghalie and Alderbrook parks — so organizers can confirm enough volunteers will be on hand — residents can show up the day of the event at the other two sites.

Gerwen said Parks Appreciation Day really is a family event, and all ages are welcome to come do what they can or to just tag along.

While some tools and materials will be available at each of the park sites for volunteers to use, people are also encouraged to bring their own from home, Gerwen said. At the end of the morning, a lunch will be provided at each of the sites to cap off a successful day.

“It’s a substantial amount of work that gets done, and the community really has a hand in making our parks look good, which is a really neat aspect of it,” Gerwen said.

To pre-register for volunteer work, or for more information, contact Gerwen at 253-835-6962 or Jason.gerwen@cityoffederalway.com.

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