What's happening with Ronald Bog Park? Blame it on Mr. Bean

Friday, September 6, 2019

Lush, green Ronald Bog park has been scraped
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

By Diane Hettrick

If you are one of the thousands of people who have driven by Ronald Bog in recent weeks, you may have been shocked at the appearance.

The whole north end of the Bog, at N 175th and Meridian, appears to be in site preparation for a major construction zone. Even the ponies are wearing hard hats.

Even the ponies are wearing hard hats
Photo by AT

What you are looking at, though, is a major wetland restoration of Ronald Bog Park. Sound Transit is creating wetlands at the north and east ends of the park and doing major clean up along the east side. It's a mitigation site for impacts to the unnamed, and mostly unnoticed wetlands which are primarily south of the Shoreline fire station on N 155th, running along the east side of the freeway.

The work at Ronald Bog is complicated by its history of human use.
The photo was probably taken closer to 1920 than 1930
Historically Ronald Bog was marshy peat formed by decaying plant matter, fed by small streams, and full of cranberries which were harvested by the native tribes that moved through the area and by early settlers.

Duwamish people from the permanent settlements beside Lake Washington, Lake Union and Salmon Bay, and other tribes visiting from Snohomish county, came to the bog to harvest the cranberries and other edible plants that grew there. (Shoreline Historical Museum)

1936 aerial view
The faint red lines show the current lot boundaries.
Photo courtesy King county

Over time bogs may build up so much peat that they dry out because they get elevated above the water table. Property owners, such as Paul Weller, might have diverted the streams. For whatever reason, in the 1936 aerial photo, the bog is dry.

Paul Weller acquired the property in 1936 and began peat mining. In the aerial photo you can clearly see the straight lines where the peat has been harvested. A succession of companies continued to remove the peat up into the early 1960s.

George Webster sits on his tractor in the middle of this photo.
The streets are slightly above his head and the lake is to the left
Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum

In 1949 George Webster acquired the north end of the bog, established the Plant Food Company, and continued the mining of the northern half of the bog. A different company mined the south end.

As they removed the peat, they got closer to the water table and the Bog started to fill with water again. A small feeder stream, unnamed, flows in a pipe under Meridian and into the northwest corner of the Bog. The daylighted North Branch of Thornton Creek still runs north-south on the east side of the Bog.

A resident named John, who was a child in the 1950s, remembers a barge in the middle of what was now a lake, still digging peat from the site.

In 1964 the peat mining was discontinued, and Darwin Bean acquired much of the bog property for his business, Marshall Tippey Landscaping. He began filling the north and east shores of the pond with the intention of building a small tract of homes there.

According to John, "The old dump was also to the south and it was the old school dump with old cars from the 30s, and lots of what now would be antiques. Lots for young kids (pre teen) to explore. There wasn’t any ecology then and when the freeway was built they buried the dump, the ponds, and streams much to our dismay."

So the whole area was basically a dump. Darwin Bean was finding fill material wherever he could and certainly would have welcomed debris from the I-5 construction right next to the Bog.

In 1965 a vigorous coalition of citizens, politicians, and press successfully lobbied the King county council to acquire the land and turn it into a park, which it did in 1970.

Now, Sound Transit has accepted the challenge of turning the park built on a dump back into a healthy wetland.

The concrete is being piled up for removal
Photo courtesy City of Shoreline

The land they are working on is full of chunks of concrete and sections of twisted pipe and whatever else Darwin Bean could find to fill up the pit left by peat removal.

On the land at the north end of the Bog, Sound Transit contractors are digging deep and removing concrete, pipe, and other debris.

The contractor reports that in addition to the concrete and metal, they removed a toilet, kitchen sink, automobile license plates from the 1950s, bricks, and asphalt chunks. They have excavated five feet and in some areas, as deep as nine feet in order to remove debris and build the wetlands.

Sandbags and a turbidity curtain protect the lake
Photo courtesy City of Shoreline

They are also working a few feet into the lake to remove the fill and debris. Temporary best management practices, such as sand bags and a turbidity curtain, are in place during the work to keep from disturbing the rest of the lake.

When they have finished excavating, they will backfill the land with compost and topsoil. Then they will create two separate wetland areas. The central area of the park will be kept clear so residents still have access to an improved trail system and a view of the lake.

Rotary picnic shelter
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

The Rotary shelter is in good shape and will be refurbished and remain in place. Shoreline Parks Director Eric Friedli wants to create some seating areas in the new park with possibly a picnic table under the shelter.

Trees had to be removed from the site in order to create the wetlands -- many because their roots were entwined in concrete and pipe and growing on the fill material.

The new wetlands will not be open to the public but will be designed so that people can see into them. They will help absorb and store floodwater in wet years – another way to help prevent flooding at the intersection of Meridian and N 175th.

The dotted green area on the map will be wetlands which will be boggy or completely under water, depending on the season and rainfall.

The darker green is the buffer area. It will protect the wetland and can also serve to absorb water in wet years.

2010 was a very wet year.
This is along Meridian
Photo by Janet Way

Taller trees will be planted in the northwest wetland, except where the view is being protected. A variety of native species of trees, shrubs and other types of plants will be planted in the wetland and the buffer.

Sound Transit hopes to reintroduce native plants which were there historically, such as Bog laurel and LavenderLabrador tea. LavenderLabrador tea is mentioned in several of the historical records as being native to the site but it has since died out.

The site will be monitored for over 10 years, to make sure the native plants thrive and that invasive plants, such as reed canarygrass and knotweeds, are removed and the wetlands are healthy.

Dick Decker and volunteers worked in the park for several years
removing invasive plants and planting several hundred native plants
Photo courtesy Dick Decker 2010

Work done over the years by volunteers to restore native plants was primarily in the far northwest section of the site and has not been impacted. (See 2011 article). However, the area is very overgrown now.

Photo by Steven H. Robinson

The popular arboretum remains intact and the large sculpture, The Kiss, has already been moved to a new position on an elevated area. The trail will be raised and leveled with gravel to ADA standards. It will be expanded around the sculpture to reach the Rotary shelter by the lake.

Interpretative signs will be added throughout the area.

The work is expected to be complete by this winter, although some planting may be done in the spring. Sound Transit will continue to monitor the site for up to 10 years.

If you want to do more research or want more specific information on the history of Ronald Bog, check in with the Shoreline Historical Museum at N 185th and Linden, where they have the references, maps, aerial photos, etc. and information on bog use back to Native Americans.

Thanks to John Gallagher, Karin Ertl, and Rebecca McAndrew of Sound Transit, Vicki Stiles of the Shoreline Historical Museum, and Shoreline Parks Director Eric Friedli for material in this article.


Louise Drive September 7, 2019 at 6:36 AM  

Excellent article. Thank you.

Unknown September 7, 2019 at 6:50 AM  

Wow, thank you for such a comprehensive article on an important topic! I had no idea there used to be cranberries in Shoreline. I look forward to seeing the restored wetlands.

Treehuggerfromshoreline September 7, 2019 at 10:24 AM  

Make more than one picnic table happen Shoreline Parks. Give us older people more than grass to sit on. We need benches and places to visit and picnic with family in exchange for this mammoth construction by Sound Transit. I want better representation of the environment justice for my community. We should have a park with the amenities our investment warrants. A clean bathroom, benches, picnic areas...not just imminent domain.

Ray Danger September 13, 2019 at 9:09 AM  

Thanks for the detailed history of the bog and its restoration. I hope that the turtles that make good use of the lake portion of the bog are getting by okay. Leave them a haul out log or two for the summer days, as my wife likes to count the turtles!

DKH September 13, 2019 at 12:14 PM  

Ray - they aren't doing anything to the lake other than removing the debris next to the shoreline where they are working. So your wife can still count turtles!

Unknown June 23, 2020 at 11:34 PM  

Often times mammoth or mastodon bones are found beneath the peat in the bogs. Sound Transit should keep and eye out for his as they continue excavation. Also, I hope there are plans to re-introduce native cranberry plants. David M. Buerge

Jack Edson Whisner,  August 10, 2021 at 4:50 PM  

I lived in Ridgecrest and walked past the bog to reach Cordell Hull Jr. High. Before I-5, I was among the kids who played in the woods, swamps, trails, and garbage dump downstream from Ronald Bog. I saved a pine sampling from the bulldozers and gave it my mother; it grew until 1991 when the new owners of our house cut it down.

Jack Edson Whisner,  August 10, 2021 at 4:54 PM  

I grew up in Ridgecrest and walked past Ronald Bog to reach Cordell Jr. High. I was among the kids who played in the swamps, woods, trails, and dump downstream of the bog. One winter, it froze and I walked on it with Maura Settles (now Goodwin).

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