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Even parks can use a green makeover

The meandering stream that spills through Finch Arboretum in west Spokane has been getting a face lift.

New trees and shrubs have been planted alongside the Garden Springs Creek to provide more shade at the same time that invasive and non-native plants are being removed.

The idea is to improve habitat and create a more pleasing landscape.

“We are hoping to improve habitat for frogs, fish and other critters,” said Steve Nittolo, horticulture supervisor for the Spokane Parks Department.

“In my mind, it’s a big improvement appearance-wise from what was here before.”

Long stretches of the creek had been left exposed to full sun, which Nittolo wants to fill with shade trees to keep water temperatures down, a move that will benefit aquatic life.

Lawn mowing next to the waterway has been stopped to let grass get taller next to the creek.

The work began last summer with a $6,300 grant, and will continue this year with the planting of more new trees along the creek.

Nittolo said he would like to establish a long-range master plan for additional restoration in future years such as a new landscape design for a small pond near the Woodland Center.

The grant from the state Department of Natural Resources paid for 43 new trees, including bald cypress, tulip trees, sweet gum, sassafras, witch hazel and river birch.

Three bald cypresses – each a different cultivar – should eventually grow to become impressive specimens, Nittolo said.

Native plants such as vine maple, alder and aspen are also being added to the creek banks.

City workers have been growing a dozen alders that were purchased as seedlings and allowed to mature inside a greenhouse at Manito Park to plant at the creek.

A mortared basalt-rock dam, built to create the pond, was cleaned of invasive yellow-flag iris. A temporary culvert was used to keep sediment from spreading during the iris removal last year. More iris clumps will be treated with herbicide this year, Nittolo said.

Clumps of Norway maples that started naturally as seedlings were also removed to make room for the additional trees. Large willows were also taken out.

Additional groups of Norway maples and willows will be removed and replaced as the newer plantings gain size.

Nittolo said that in coming years he hopes to turn his attention to the creek downstream from the arboretum, which is overgrown with non-native plants. He said removal of undesirable vegetation and replacement with native species could be done with volunteers.

Any future master planning for the creek would be taken to the public for comment and ideas, he said.

All of the work was done under guidance from the state Department of Ecology, Nittolo said.


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