Lex, Volunteer Interview

By Lex Voorhoeve

Going through all my old archives I realize that there are so many stories to tell—which is good, because I will have to seriously limit myself.  Numbers refer to numbered photos.


To give you a first overall impression of my involvement with Carkeek Park, I include a story I wrote when we, in 2010, had finished the last trail planned in the Trails Plan of 2000: the Fern Glen Trail, down from the ELC in the direction of the orchard.  

For me it all started in 1998, when I became member of the Advisory Council. In that body I initiated the Forest Committee, that later branched out into two committees, the Trails Committee and the Forest Committee. Real trail building started in 2000 (1, 9, 10, 11).  The trails system was a real work. It also resulted in starting the WEWOS—a group of volunteers working on weekdays. In addition to that we provided leadership for Saturday work parties (18, 19). Once park restoration became a city-wide program, called the Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) (2006?), we voluntarily placed our activities under the umbrella of the GSP.                                                       


Loren McElvain, graduate of the first Master Forester Class, (classes held in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2015 with myself and Brian Gay, Carkeek’s staff naturalist) became my parks buddy and together we roamed the forest but also constructed a Tree Guide for Carkeek Park, a digital document (13, 20 – 22). We also started our own nursery in the maintenance yard  (12)—a unicum in Seattle. Although working under the umbrella of GSP we were nevertheless a rather independent body, doing what we thought was most urgent. We had an excellent relationship with the park’s maintenance staff but were wary of too much oversight from “above.”


Between 2000 and 2012 a whole generation of grandchildren was introduced to the fun of a park:  Playground (16A),  Bubble Man (16), Sunsets (17), Art in the Park (15), Picnics on the North Meadow (4A), and the BIG ROCK (2). And always that fascinating aspect:  CHANGE (from 3 to 4). The little girl on the rock (2) is the same as the girl holding  the black/white dog of photo 4A.


Change is an ever-present trait of a Park, or nature in general. Sometimes is comes sudden and unexpected, like a big tree falling down, creating havoc but at the same time creating a light spot where new trees can grow. Sometimes is goes slow, planted trees growing or dying, new management, new volunteers, seasonal changes. Sometimes it is change on purpose, like pulling ivy and waiting to see what new stuff profits from the changed site conditions. Sometimes slow change makes you impatient—GET GOING!!! (to slowly growing Yew shrubs), or it takes you by surprise (after finding a tree you planted 5 years earlier and lost track of). So change is a central theme, and we are part of it, because we, WEWOS + STARS + Earthcorps + other groups, DO make a difference in Carkeek Park, for the better, I assume. Today, at the “Big Bridge”, a lady + off-leash dog addressed me, out of the blue: “I like the boy scouts bridge”.  So there!