DescriptionLocated in the neighborhood of Central Tacoma, Washington, Franklin Park serves its community well—there are numerous opportunities for recreation for children and adults, including a community garden. It has served its purpose for the elementary school and the numerous homeowners who live nearby since its opening in 1941. There is also space for wildlife, with an extensive natural buffer of trees and understory plants. Some of these species, like Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) and sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) are beneficial for all types of wildlife, but other types of plants, like English ivy, are so well-established that it prevents other native species from growing. This is where the Friends of Franklin Park come to the rescue.
On a warm and sunny late winter morning, chickadees and flickers are chattering while families and their pets are soaking up the sun nearby. Certified Habitat Steward™ Nori Kimura gathers the volunteer group for their monthly work party, where there are many tasks to be done. English ivy, Himalayan blackberry, and several species of laurel must be uprooted and removed from the slopes, young trees and shrubs need transplanting and replanting, and of course, there is always litter to be picked up as well. The Friends group, with the added help of local schools and businesses, works hard to maintain the natural beauty of Franklin Park, and every month they finish with a heaping pile of weeds to be taken away and native species put in their place.
Their recent success in volunteer recruitment and restoration has been possible under the direction and guidance of Nori, who became the lead Park Steward of the group at the end of 2015. Last fall, he decided to register for a Habitat Steward™ Training that took place nearby at Tahoma Audubon Society. Local environmental experts from organizations such as Pierce Conservation District presented their past and current restoration projects, sharing their stories of success, as well as challenges and solutions. “The variety of presenters and topics at the training allowed me to expand my knowledge, giving me the confidence to move forward,” says Nori, who plays a significant role in his community as a resident, an artist, a volunteer, and as a language and martial arts educator for youth and adults. Metro Parks Tacoma, who Nori volunteers with, referred him to the Federation’s Habitat Steward™ program as a means to gain experience and connect with like-minded networks.
When Nori is not wrestling with heaping piles of ivy, digging holes for new trees, or helping out at another park, he remains mindful of how his time can best be utilized for the benefit of wildlife and people alike. His art, which you can check out here, features both natural and built elements of Tacoma’s environment, is featured in local cafes, bookstores and gift shops, including a large mural at a local ramen restaurant.
Much of the wildlife in urban environments includes pollinators—birds, bats, and bees, for instance, which are small enough to go unnoticed by those who aren’t looking for them. Nori’s art illuminates these tiny creatures, while his work in habitat restoration helps to ensure that they will always have space to live in Tacoma. With so much to give to his community and to wildlife, Nori is indeed a superstar Habitat Steward™!
-Story contributed by the National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife program. A version of this story originally appeared on the NWF blog.