Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz recently visited Burien to help celebrate some early successes of the Green Burien Partnership. During a media event at Hilltop Park, she was joined by Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon, Highline Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Scott Logan, and students who participated in the City’s afterschool Green Teens program, who all shared their experiences working together to enhance Burien’s parks and urban forest.
The program’s approach to fostering the next generation of environmental stewards, through partnership and inclusive practices, was praised as a model for other urban areas trying to grow and protect their urban forest.
“This is what happens when you empower people to make their communities more liveable, more sustainable, and healthier,” said Franz.
Hilltop Park Program Seen as Model for Inclusive Urban Forestry Programming
Hilltop Park sits in one of the most racially and culturally diverse areas of Burien with a high proportion of people living in poverty. The neighborhood has fewer trees than predominately white neighborhoods in Burien, and its proximity to SeaTac Airport causes neighbors to experience the effects of airplane noise and pollution more acutely. Many of the families in this neighborhood are even more vulnerable to that pollution, and broader climate change, because of underlying health disparities caused by historic and systemic disinvestment and discrimination.
Over the last few years, the City of Burien has worked with neighbors, community volunteers, and youth to transform the park into a place where local families can play and connect with nature. More than 60,000 square feet of blackberry and ivy plants have been removed and made way for more 500 new trees and shrubs.
This park’s transformation is happening through several local and innovative climate jobs programs, including one that is working with Highline Public Schools students, giving them the skills to work in the green jobs sector.
“This is one of many examples of local projects that Burien supports as part of our long-term commitment to sustainability and equity,” said Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon.
The City of Burien received funding from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Urban and Community Forestry grant program. They are encouraging other cities in South King County to apply for the funding.