About the Friends of Harrison Ridge
The Harrison Ridge rises above Madison Valley, formerly a catchment basin for an ephemeral stream that long ago emptied into Union Bay. In the early 1900’s a trestle that carried Madison Street traffic over the stream was replaced by an earthen dam, ending valley drainage. Decades of flooding and mudslides followed. In the 1930’s city road paving continued in Madison Valley, the Works Progress Administration built a retaining wall along 32nd avenue and work began on a road across the top of the ridge. A large mudslide ended this project and subsequent geologic studies confirmed that the terrain was unstable. In the 1970’s a planned Model Cities low-income housing project for the site was also abandoned, and the ridge became the 6.3-acre Harrison Ridge Greenbelt.
Beginning in the early 1990’s a series of volunteer projects began to restore the greenbelt as a Pacific Northwest native forest ecosystem. In 1993 a group of residents, in collaboration with the Martin Luther King Elementary School and the Greater Madison Valley Community Council, received a Department of Neighborhoods grant. Money from the grant allowed volunteers to hire a landscape architect to develop plans for the restoration, employ neighborhood teens to clear out tons of accumulated junk and begin invasive plant removal, and finally to plant native species in the cleared areas. In 1995-96 native trees, shrubs, and ground covers were planted over a 1.5-acre portion of the greenbelt. Sadly, no development and restoration plans seemed to have survived this period.
In 2000 a renewed restoration effort saw additional areas cleared and more native species planted including a walking path through, what is now called “Sussman Way”, named for original pioneer of volunteer restoration of the greenbelt, Jerry Sussman.
Today, the restored area is rich with many young native evergreen trees, some of which are by now 25 years old, and a wide variety of native understory plants are thriving. On either end of the restored area are some tall, mature trees---a few older western hemlocks, some broadleaf maple, and a large stand of cottonwood.
Since the initial invasive removal and subsequent plantings, teams of volunteers, under the guidance of the *Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) and trained Forest Stewards, have continued restoration efforts, although with less intensity. Volunteers dig up blackberry, create ivy survival rings for native trees and shrubs, and, as in a recent project, mark the wide-spread holly for eventual herbicide treatment; they spread wood chips delivered by the Parks department; and in most years plant anywhere from 50 to 400 native trees and shrubs. However, so that future volunteer efforts will add to the creation of a sustainable native ecosystem, a long-term plan is needed.