by Jadenne Radoc Cabahug
In October 2022, the City of Seattle awarded $244,000 to seven Duwamish River community projects as part of the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund (DROF). Since 2014, the program has funded organizations to improve the quality of life and sustainability of the neighborhood. The Duwamish River was listed as one of the nation’s most toxic hazardous waste sites in 2001; Lower Duwamish Waterway (LDW) Superfonds website is a 5.5 mile long polluted area from South Park to Georgetown and requires a long term response due to the toxic chemicals that have polluted the river from years of industrialization.
“The goal isn’t just to undo decades of industrial pollution and environmental injustice in these neighborhoods – it’s to build a prosperous future for the communities that call them home,” wrote Sam Read, Director of communications from the Seattle Neighborhoods Department, in an email to emerald.
This year, Shared Spaces Foundation and the heron’s nest each received $40,000 to focus on environmental initiatives. The Shared Spaces Foundation was established in 2019 to provide resources to underserved communities in Seattle and rehabilitate the environment through education. They allocate all funds to ongoing community projects, land stewardship and repatriation.
Shared Spaces Foundation
Amanda Lee, president of the Shared Spaces Foundation, says the Duwamish River is in need of environmental restoration and rehabilitation as there is a high level of air, water and soil pollution. The soil quality, health and canopy of the Duwamish Greenbelt are deteriorating, and the forest and river need more maintenance.
“There are many needs [to] restore and maintain forested areas that act as a buffer for air and water quality around Sea-Tac Airport, all of West Seattle and the Duwamish River Valley,” said said Lee.
Lee says the grant funding will go to the Duwamish River Accessibility Programs, which are designed to continue monitoring the river, increase biodiversity through planting, provide education and allow the river to be accessible to communities. although it is a highly industrialized area.
One such program includes water safety trainings that enable people to perform restoration work on the water, such as cleaning up trash and litter. Funds will also be allocated for the provision of canoes, kayaks and other equipment to accomplish these on-water trainings and on-water tour guides to educate communities and organizations.
Lee says the foundation will create a river history program in partnership with the Duwamish Tribe, based on information from naturalist guides and Indigenous knowledge from the past 11,000 years. It will also include an overview of restoring the river to ensure a future for salmon and other wildlife habitats and a healthy shoreline.
“There was a lot of damage in a very short time. Throughout the development of the area that has moved Indigenous peoples onto reservations,” Lee said, “we see it in declining salmon populations, the health of our forests, the health of the waterway and the areas surrounding.
The heron’s nest
The Espaces Partagés Foundation is also the tax sponsor of the Nid du Héron. In addition to providing outdoor community facilities, the Heron’s Nest is a “landback” project for the Duwamish Tribe. According to Lee, the Heron’s Nest helps the tribe acquire land through financial means, but also “the physical labor required for land restoration, cost, sanitation, labor, [and] accessibility of facilities, helping to cultivate volunteerism[s] …rather than taking additional resources from native/indigenous individuals in manual labor.
Heron’s Nest board member Andrew Grueter says the grant money will be used to fund a community kitchen with cooking tools to make smoked salmon, cooked camas roots and other traditional native foods from the region.
In a typical month, Grueter says they hold an artists’ market and several other programs, including skill-sharing workshops and educational programs, ecological restoration days, forest maintenance days and food greenhouses, outdoor movies and musical performances. The Heron’s Nest runs its major proposals and potential projects through the Duwamish Tribal Council to ensure they have their approval.
The Heron’s Nest also has strong relationships with other organizations such as Seattle Tilt Alliancewho supported the project from the start with the restart of the greenhouse, and Seattle Global Shapers, who Grueter says were instrumental in securing the initial grant to pay for the 3.5 acres. Their members also attend events and coordinate meetings with board members and volunteers.
With the grant money, the Shared Spaces Foundation will create a new community partnership organization that will be developed and managed by community partners including Duwamish Tribal Services, Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC), Sea Potential, Duwamish Valley Sustainability Association ( DVSA), Puget Soundkeepers, Port of Seattle, Dirt Corps, Young Women Empowered, and more.
Lee says the foundation will primarily sponsor the start of this process, which will begin in January 2023, and development of the program will continue through April. From May through July, the Shared Spaces Foundation will provide paid public safety training to BIPOC communities, to help diversify the paddling community.
Funding from the grant will also go towards activities, training, cleanups and free tours for the public from May to October 2023, a community tool garden, a plastics recycling center and two volunteer coordinator positions.
The community tool garden will include tools for gardening and agriculture, but also power tools for woodworking, metalworking, auto work and home improvement. The community kitchen and tool garden are open to the public and members of the Duwamish tribe. The plastics recycling center will be used for educational demonstrations and recycling depot to recycle certain polymers commonly found in grocery packaging and river cleanups.
Agriculture and restoration projects will also receive a small portion of the DROF grant, but Grueter says funding coordinators are essential to keep ongoing projects running at full capacity.
Lee and Grueter agree that the need for Indigenous leadership and governance of environmental issues in the Seattle area is crucial and immediate to maintaining healthy ecosystems for future generations.
Jadenne Radoc Cabahug is a senior at the University of Washington with a major in Communications: Journalism and Public Interest and a double minor in International Studies and French. She began her journalism career at age 15 in Seattle through NPR’s RadioActive Youth Media program KUOW 94.9 FM, producing radio reports and podcasts. Since then, she has transitioned into print and online journalism, writing for local Seattle outlets like cross sectionthe International Examinerthe Daily and the latest international news factual.
📸 Featured Image: 2022 Duwamish River Paddling Program with Shared Spaces Foundation and Heron’s Nest. (Photo: Amanda Lee)
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