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Volunteers get dirty in defense of woods overlooking West Bay

Matt Thompson and his daughter, Claire Thompson, 8, pull invasive English ivy from a trail through West Bay Woods in west Olympia on Saturday.
Matt Thompson and his daughter, Claire Thompson, 8, pull invasive English ivy from a trail through West Bay Woods in west Olympia on Saturday. toverman@theolympian.com

Eleven-year-old Sam Thompson took a step back to wrestle a 4-foot-long English ivy root from the ground on the edge of West Bay Woods on Olympia’s west side.

“It’s a big one,” he shouted to his sister, Claire, 8, who stood downhill with an ivy root nearly as tall as her in her hand.

The brother and sister were among half a dozen volunteers who worked Saturday morning to remove ivy and blackberry vines from a trail near Hays Avenue Northwest, a twisting path that leads through the woods to West Bay Drive. Farther in, swaths are still covered in ivy, but where the land has been cleared, ferns and native plants flourish.

“The bones of it, the ecosystem structure is really good. Life comes rambling back when you take the top off,” said Daniel Einstein, president of the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation, which owns some of the 20-acre West Bay Woods.

The rest is owned by the city and private landowners.

Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation has spent about $600,000 since 2014 buying parcels of the woods for conservation. It wants to buy more, Einstein said, but this is waterfront property that gets more expensive each year.

Volunteers come once a month to pull ivy and clear trails. In the fall, Einstein’s group plans to plant native vegetation and install a rain garden, which is a series of basins with plants and other organic material that stormwater flows through to slow the flow and filter the water before it reaches Puget Sound.

“It’s a good thing because we’re just upland from the most contaminated shoreline in Thurston County,” Einstein said.

These woods were one of the first to be clear-cut in the state, he said. Today they are home to a great blue heron colony, to foxes and mountain beavers, various birds and insects, and 100-year-old trees that volunteers have stripped of ivy.

The city, meanwhile, is working on plans to restore the shoreline along nearby West Bay Park, with a path that could one day connect downtown to the West Bay Woods.

“It’s really important for us to bring people in here and that they see the value of the woods,” Einstein said.

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869

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