Dr. Jose Rizal Park sees major transformation

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 5:44 PM

SEATTLE -- Known as an entryway to "The Jungle," Dr. Jose Rizal Park has seen a dramatic transformation in the past few years, a turnaround that has led to an increase in beauty and a decrease in crime. 

Craig Thompson, forest steward for the park, began working on the cleanup project nine years ago. 

"It's been a whole lot of work that has been done here," he said. "Thousands of hours of volunteer work."

Before the project started, the park was covered in ivy tendrils and blackberry thickets, which provided cover for illegal activities, including a heroin gang, Thompson said. 

By clearing the brush, building a man-made trail and planting thousands of trees and plants, volunteers were able to reduce crime and improve the environment. 

In the process, they uncovered an orchard, once buried in 12 feet of blackberry bushes. The orchard's trees will likely produce about 1000 pounds of fruit this year, much of which will go to food banks. 

"We love it because we're all about making sure none of this fruit gets wasted," said James Rooney, co-owner of City Fruit, which helps reclaim urban orchards.

Jose Rizal Park is one of a few Seattle parks that will be filled with volunteers Friday as part of Volunteer In Parks Day, a project of the Seattle Parks Foundation.  Volunteers will plant trees and flowers, clean up litter, remove weeds and more.  KING 5 is a media sponsor. 

For more information about the event, which goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., go to the Seattle Parks Foundation's website.

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