WWU students partner with the community to preserve the Sehome Hill Arboretum

Earth Day work party draws about 170 people from WWU, city of Bellingham and the Whatcom Million Trees Project.

A small patch of land near the intersection of High and Billy Frank Jr. streets now hosts a new mini forest planted through a technique called the Miyawaki Method, which creates a dense and mature forest using native trees and locally available soil amendments.

Western Washington University students and community members teamed up to plant the mini forest and remove invasive plants from the Sehome Hill Arboretum April 22 to celebrate Earth Day.

WWU student Madi Fassiotto places a sapling into its new home during the Earth Day reforestation project in the Sehome Arboretum.

WWU’s Learning Environment Action Discovery (LEAD) program, the Whatcom Million Trees Project and the City of Bellingham collaborated to organize the volunteers, find saplings to plant in the lot and pull invasive plants from the site.

Brandon McWilliams, a graduate student in environmental studies and co-director of the LEAD program, said about 170 people attended the work party, and was pleased that the community came together to complete the project and plant hundreds of trees.

“There’s a lot of moving parts with a big project like this," McWilliams said. “But it’s really cool to have resources like that. People have been really generous with their time.”

Students and volunteers dug holes and placed saplings. Then, mulch — made to simulate the natural floor cover of mature forests — was set over the plants, allowing them to retain moisture and grow faster.

"People have been really generous with their time."

Brandon McWilliams

Co-director, Learning Environment Action Discovery Program

Event volunteers were enthusiastic to be there helping their community and combatting climate change.

“I love being outside and connecting with people who really care about the environment," said Audrey Patton, a WWU student who volunteered at the event.

The end of the event was marked with thank-yous from Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood and Hannah Lewis, author of “The Mini-Forest Revolution,” a book about the Miyawaki method.

Lewis said the event was a great way to bring people together to connect with the natural ecosystem, and that the new mini forest would help with habitat creation, storm water management, and flood protection.

McWilliams said similar work parties happen every week and that he was proud of the work of the community to give back to the earth.

“At the end of the day, we got a bunch of trees in the ground,” said LEAD's McWilliams.

More information about the projects and how to volunteer for them can be found at the LEAD website.