Come for the Park, Stay for the People

Person standing on beach.
Dhira Brown serves as a park steward at Seahurst Park. Credit: City of Burien

The City of Burien relies on community volunteers to help with maintaining and stewarding the natural beauty in our parks. The Burien Park Steward Program is one way to get involved. A park steward may do any of the following: organize work parties to restore areas of a park by replacing invasive plants with native plants, picking up litter, assisting with grant writing, educating the community, or creating an art installation or performance. Park stewards can also help monitor areas of our park system to help identify problems and proactive solutions.

“We don’t have enough staff to be everywhere and we rely on the park stewards to help us be an extra set of eyes and hands in our parks,” says Gabbi Gonzales, recreation coordinator for the City of Burien and manager of the Park Stewards Program. “We are grateful for our park stewards!”

If this sounds like too much for you right now, we can customize a plan. Some stewards focus only on picking up litter. Every little bit helps!

City staff help park stewards by offering a training program, helping them develop a stewardship plan, and helping get the word out about work parties. Anybody can be a park steward! If you would like to learn more, please contact parksinfo@burienwa.gov.

Dhira Brown: Profile of a Seahurst Park Steward

Dhira Brown has been a Seahurst Park steward since early 2019. After moving to the Gregory Heights neighborhood four years ago, she wanted to find a way to meet people in her new community, as well as help protect her local environment. Brown worked for many years as a restoration ecologist for People for Puget Sound and EarthCorps. She now runs her own business as a life coach and facilitator.

Why did you decide to become a park steward?

“Becoming a park steward was like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. When I worked as restoration ecologist, I worked in communities I didn’t live in. I was excited to do restoration work where I actually live.”

What’s been your favorite part of the experience?

“One of my biggest joys is being out in nature. I love plants, soil, and everything about being in nature. I love the exercise and the feeling of giving back to the earth. But I also love the people. It was a way to be outside and with the people in my community. Even after just two events, I immediately met new people and got connected to other community efforts.”

What would you tell others interested in becoming a park steward?

“I would say to people interested in becoming a park steward—come for the park, but stay for the people. You get that immediate satisfaction of seeing a patch of blackberries cleared and a new native plant in its place. Then you get that more long-term satisfaction of coming back to the same spot and seeing three years later that tree you planted is now as tall as you!

Even during the pandemic, you can form a little pod of people to care for your local park. In a short amount of time, you can remove invasives and plant something new. It gives you the opportunity to be outside and be in nature instead of at home, feeling like everything is canceled. Along with city staff, some of the more experienced stewards will be happy to help you get started.”

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