Vision: To develop the Five Acre Woods into an all-ages / all-access outdoor recreation area.
The City of Lake Forest Park proposes to purchase 5.6 acres of undeveloped property to preserve it as an open space and restoring the property to its native state, with walking trails and interpretive signage. The property is an old remnant forest and the largest undeveloped site in the City of Lake Forest Park. The property is composed of mature second growth forest, and includes steep slopes, a stream, riparian wetland, and hillside seep wetlands. Based on current best estimates, over ninety percent of the property is critical areas and their buffers. The stream is a tributary of Lyon Creek, a salmon spawning and rearing stream. The property is habitat for a variety of mammals such as coyotes, deer, raccoons, mountain beavers, and many species of birds and is part of a much needed wildlife corridor.
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) acquired the land for a reservoir site forty years ago, but used an alternative site. Having determined the property to be in excess, the City of Seattle must place it on the market. The City proposes to acquire the property to retain it for use as a conservation area and public park.
The area proposed for acquisition is land surplused by the City of Seattle Public Utilities. It is the last remaining undeveloped forest of this size in Lake Forest Park, 5.6 acres (outlined in red, NE ¼ of SW ¼ Section 03, Township 26N, Range 04E., W.M.).
Seattle Public Utilities purchased these two parcels for a potential reservoir site in 1975. Ultimately the reservoir was placed elsewhere and this 5.6 acres of mature second growth forest has sat untended and largely unnoticed for over 40 years. It contains steep slopes, a stream, riparian wetland, and hillside seep wetlands. The stream is too small to bear fish, but this and similar ones in adjacent ravines, are the source of the cool clean spring water and provides significant habitat.
Urban canopy is considered one of the best indicators of environmental health. The property contains large second growth trees and dense foliage that serve as a natural habitat to many species of vertebrates and invertebrates. Western Red Cedar, Big-leaf Maple, Douglas Fir, Madrone, Western White Pine, Spruce, and Vine Maple exist on this site. Tree sizes are generally 24-36 inches, and the canopy is nearly closed. Although the ground and tree trunks are heavily infested with English Ivy, there is a well-developed understory of native plants including Indian Plum, Huckleberry, Salmonberry, Salal, Sword Fern and Bracken Fern.
Keeping this site densely wooded will also mitigate the “Heat Island Effect” of nearby cities; typically the area temperature is 5 degrees cooler than Seattle and Edmonds. In addition, a parcel of forest this size can provide a significant amount of carbon sequestration according to studies investigating mitigation of climate change on local urban areas (McPherson et al. “Coastal Plain Community Tree Guide: Benefits, Costs and Strategic Planting. USDA. (2006).
We believe that the best use of this land is the preservation of the forest and gradual restoration of the understory and riparian zone, through a coalition of dedicated volunteers who are already committed to the project. The property is upstream from one of our elementary schools, and would be an excellent outdoor education resource. We propose to develop and implement a plan for public use of this park over the short-term, and sustain a long-term native plant restoration program.
Our vision is to develop the Five Acre Woods into an all-ages / all-access outdoor recreation area. We see upgrading the existing gravel roadside (where people park now) into an ADA-compliant parking area, the construction of trails with interpretive signage and wildlife viewing platforms, the construction of a “Tot Lot” play area for our youngest citizens, and preservation of the remains of the Leonard home, which was one of the first residences built in Lake Forest Park. The historic foundation will serve as a focal point for education about early logging practices, and changing attitudes toward nature over time.
This is an ideal site for a park, including both natural passive and active recreation elements. The site includes stream, wetland, steep slopes as well some flat areas, and an existing small gravel parking area along the street. Uses could include:
- Playground for small children
- Hiking loop trail to view (but avoid impact to) riparian area / wetlands.
- Educational signs informing the public about the forest and riparian areas
- Restoration and replanting of native NW Pacific plants and trees
- Historical/Cultural significance of Leonard Family Homestead and early LFP logging and settlers
- Environmental educational opportunity for area school children / outdoor classroom about the importance of trees, the life cycle of salmon, and the hydrology of wetlands and streams
- Community development through coordinated volunteer activities restoring native plants and implementing subsequent grants
The wetland is functioning well but the riparian zone is badly degraded with invasive plants. Even some of the older trees are in jeopardy from heavy English Ivy infestations. Invasive plant removal, modeled on our successful volunteers activities in Grace Cole Nature Park, is a part of long-term restoration plan
Partnerships and Funding
We have a well-established, broad based coalition of stewards with experience in just this kind of project, enthusiastically committed to working with the City for this park. LFPSF is eager to work with the city to organize volunteer work parties to remove ivy and other invasive vegetation from this site, and plant native trees where forest functions could be improved. This organization will continue to help maintain this new conservation area in the long term.
Tree planting parties, coordinated by the City’s Lake Forest Park Environmental Quality Commission and the LFP Tree Board typically draw substantial numbers of volunteers, and will be used to restore parts of the forest deemed in need. The City’s arborist has already begun working with LFPSF in surveying the trees of the property.
Other supportive partners include, among others: Lake Forest Park Stream Keepers, Adopt a Stream and the Audubon Society, Plant Amnesty, Seattle Coalition for Green Spaces, Bastyr University, and the elementary schools of Lake Forest Park. Additionally, a program at Shoreline High School will be aimed at helping senior students fulfill a 60-hour community service requirement on restoration of this site, and there is interest from other students from nearby schools and the Boy Scouts to contribute environmental restoration efforts.
The Stewardship Foundation and neighborhood supporters spear-headed grant writing for the City to acquire this 5.6 acres of forest currently owned by Seattle Public Utilities. It is the last remaining mature forest of this size in our watershed, and dangerously nearby to the some of the larger clearcutting/development activities this summer.
We are thrilled that the proposed park was recommended for Conservation Futures funding to aid in acquisition. Sadly the grant request to RCO (WA State Recreation & Conservation Office) was not ranked highly enough in a highly competitive grant review to be funded this year, unless more funding is made available.
We are not giving up! We are seeking other grant sources and private funding. We are hopeful we can fulfill the vision of a beautiful forested park with hiking trails accessible to all ages and abilities, and a play area for kids.
How you can help!
- Header: Wetland and Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) in the Five Acre Wood.
- Map showing part of Lake Forest Park. The Five Acre Wood is the area within the red box.
- Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) in Lake Forest Park. Pileated wood peckers are one of many species that depend on mature forests.