5 Acre Woods – Urban Forest - Natural School

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We Love 5 Acre Woods
Photo by Jerry Pickard
By Donna Hawkey

A little 5.6 acre of urban forest has remained untouched for forty years and the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation (LFPSF) is leading an effort to help acquire it.

The goal is to preserve “5 Acre Woods,” as it is lovingly referred to by residents, and to establish public trails within this nature gem.

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) acquired the land many years ago for a water reservoir site but never developed it for that purpose, so they intend to sell it; the property hasn’t been used by anyone for forty years - except the wildlife!

The 5 Acre Woods vision is for low impact trails and a small playground, but the entire forest is a natural school or laboratory for both children and adults, and a sanctuary for many wildlife species.

Tony Angell leading the May Event with 5 Acre Woods
Lead and LFPSF board member Natalie-Pascale Boisseau.
Photo by Jerry Pickard

The LFP Stewardship Foundation and “Friends of 5 Acre Woods” held a May educational event with a walk to the SPU property led by resident Tony Angell, master sculptor and past supervisor of environmental education in the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools.

“Kids glued to a computer screen are facing the possibility of atrophy of the muscles that are required for full vision, not to mention those large muscle groups that allow us to walk and run and do something with our eye to hand coordination that is beyond punching buttons,” said Angell. "We have never seen anything quite like these potential changes in our children.
“This is a perfect place," Angell continued, "for kids to develop and strengthen their senses – sight, touch, smell and auditory capacity. And here is a laboratory location to apply some of the classroom facts, figures and mechanisms for these measurements first hand. These sensory moments are pathways for discovery of what’s going on in our natural world and will be of singular use throughout our lives. The forest gives us all these free services!”

You can almost hear the birds singing
Photo by Jerry Pickard

This is undoubtedly a nesting place and corridor for many wildlife species since it has been undisturbed for so long. Hawks, eagles, owls, coyote, deer, mountain beavers and even long tailed weasels have been found on this site.

“Steep slopes, a stream, riparian wetland, and hillside seep wetlands all serves as a restorative nursery for the wildlife of our community. Other free forest services are the water purification and containment of run off, the CO2 absorption and noise abatement,” says Angell.

As a master artist and author, his home in Lake Forest Park, where he has lived for half a century, has served as a source of inspiration and type of outdoor studio for his work, so he has a passion for the city’s forest.

So far the LFP Stewardship Foundation has contributed to raising close to $300,000 in conservation grant funds and private donations to purchase 5 Acre Woods so that it can remain a City of Lake Forest permanent nature school and park.

Laura Swaim from Friends of 5 Acre Woods
discovering the giant old growth forest.
Photo by Miguel Esteban
The property is the largest undeveloped site remaining in Lake Forest Park. More grant applications, donations and other sources of funding are pending.

LFPSF’s current activities include continuing monthly walks to 5 Acre Woods to educate the community about its environmental and community value.

Some residents are holding their own house parties to assemble neighbors and discuss how more money can be raised and to bring about further awareness of the project.

And in the summer, there will be other activities such as block parties to continue the efforts.

Another strong community connection and support for 5 Acre Woods took place in 2015 when the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition (SGSC) decided to help facilitate efforts along with the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation.

Mary Fleck from SGSC said when she heard of this property and knew of the history and culture of Lake Forest Park and how it has valued its connection to nature, she knew it could be a win-win situation.

“And when residents, strong organizations, and local government work together like this, anything is possible,” she says.

Tony Angell said “we really don’t know what the full diversity of life is in this forest. Clearly not only an abundance of song birds and raptors but reptiles, amphibians, insects and many plants have yet to be inventoried. 
"There’s an old Joni Mitchell song I used to sing when I went out to schools to share stories of nature. There’s a wonderful line that sums up what we’re looking at and it says… ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.’”

5 Acre Woods property is located just north of where 40th Pl NE and 45th Pl NE intersect in Lake Forest Park.

The next two summer walk events are currently scheduled:
  • June 10th with Ben Pedigo, a birder who grew up in Lake Forest Park, will speak to his passion and knowledge of birds.
  • On July 8th Sarah Cooke, a wetland biologist, will discuss the benefit of wetlands.
  • The walks start at 10:30am from the Lake Forest Park Elementary School on Ballinger Way. See the 5 Acre Woods Facebook page for more information. 
Honey Bear Bakery provides complimentary pastries and coffee!
Seattle Green Space Coalition provides juice and fruits!
Come join the fun and learn!

If you want more information about the 5 Acre Woods project, see the projects tab on the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation website. LFPS is a 5013C non-profit and has been in existence for over 20 years.

Donna Hawkey, author of this article, is a 20-year resident of Lake Forest Park. Thank you to Tony Angell for his contributions.


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