A large greenbelt borders South Seattle College in West Seattle, separated from the back and east side of college buildings by a fence. The greenbelt is little known to students, faculty, and staff who take for granted the view of Mt. Rainier to the south foregrounded by the thin forest. The grinding sounds of port industries along the Duwamish Waterway below compete with a few birdsongs. Environmental Studies and Landscape Horticulture students use the greenbelt for field studies and fieldwork, but for some it was just a place to smoke.
In fact, the West Duwamish Greenbelt is the largest contiguous forest in Seattle, 500 acres of evergreen and hardwood trees, native plants from currant to Indian plum, streams, a pond with at least two ducks in season, moles, birds, bugs, and butterflies.
I taught Pacific Northwest History at South, which usually included a unit on Chief Seattle’s signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott–should he have signed? Part of the assignment for this unit was to visit a Duwamish site. The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center and a village site on the Duwamish River sit below the college at the foot of the greenbelt, but getting there was always a challenge. There was no connecting trail.
Since retiring from teaching, I have been active in the West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails group. The group advocates for reforestation and for the creation and maintenance of trails that would connect the college, schools, and neighborhoods at the top of Puget Ridge through the greenbelt to the Longhouse. Forest steward and greenbelt activist Craig Rankin and I were interviewed by Keith Bacon on an AllWays West Seattle podcast. Check here for “Forging Connections in the West Duwamish Greenbelt” if this is an interest for you. The first part is a funny street interview introduction to the little-known greenbelt.