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The Foundation and its partners at the UW and City of Seattle are delighted to announce that a restoration project in the Arboretum has been awarded the prestigious Founders Fund for 2021 by the Garden Club of America (GCA). The award of $30,000 will help us complete phase 2 of the Rhododendron Glen project: rehabilitating and replanting the glen’s deteriorated stream corridor.

According to the Garden Club’s press release, “the shovel-ready, collaborative project not only acts upon key GCA positions on Oceans and Clean Water for future generations, it also lends vital support to an ambitious local initiative that will be highlighted during 2022’s Olmsted 200 Celebration.”

The Rhododendron Glen Restoration Project began in 2019, thanks to a catalytic gift by Mary Ellen and Gordon Mulder. Phase 1 of the project included opening up the overgrown canopy, removing invasive plants, and extensive planting of new shrubs and woodland companions in the upper portion of the glen. It also included wetland and watercourse reconnaissance in the larger glen area, and the hiring of the Berger Partnership firm to develop the design for the restoration of the stream, which runs down through the glen and into Azalea Way Pond, connecting to Arboretum Creek and the larger watershed.

Phase 2 will begin later this year, as soon as the permitting process is complete. Not only will it include the restoration of the stream but also of the stream’s historic rock work and upper pond. Accessiblity to the stream will be improved for visitors with mobility issues, and opportunities for environmental education and experiential learning will be expanded for visitors of all ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities. A new viewing area along the stream up above Azalea Way Pond will provide a unique vantage point of Azalea Way and draw attention to the Olmsted heritage of the Arboretum’s iconic promenade just in time for the 200 birthday celebration of the Frederick Law Omsted in 2022.

From the press release:

“The Arboretum is committed to returning its entire watershed to a more natural and healthy condition. The Rhododendron Glen restoration serves as the pilot for this ambitious, multi-year endeavor….Grant funds will enhance bare-bones ecological improvements to the stream, with more extensive water-tolerant plantings, functional and aesthetic improvements in the bottom reach of the stream, and an accessible interpretive loop trail and viewpoint to engage visitors who encounter this magnetic place.”

“Rhododendron Glen improvements will showcase Seattle’s rich Olmsted heritage and its enduring relevance in the twenty-first century. Equally, this innovative project will demonstrate how plants can purify runoff and protect urban watersheds. This reclaimed, historic stream will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, to explore urban water ecology at an approachable scale and learn by example how stream restoration can benefit the most endangered and interdependent species in the Pacific Northwest, orca whales, and wild salmon. Stimulated by this project, GCA clubs across the country can explore similar opportunities to restore American waterways and safeguard our most precious finite resource—water.”

Our sincere thanks to the GCA for this recognition—and to the Seattle Garden Club, which has a long and rich history of involvement with the Arboretum, and nominated the Rhododendron Glen project for the award. Thanks also to the Tacoma Garden Club, which seconded the nomination.