Magnuson Community Center Resource Conservation Landscape

"Before": erosion, compaction, and exposed roots
Approx. 65 years ago, the sloped landscape beds directly in front of the community center building were planted with lawn grass and a few trees and shrubs.  Compaction and increasing shade over the years caused most of the grass to die, which resulted in an ever-increasing amount of storm water runoff and soil erosion on the slopes, carried into catch basins that drain into the Magnuson Wetlands Complex and eventually Lake Washington.  Besides being unhealthy and unsightly, this landscape was wasting two very valuable resources- soil and water – and having a negative affect on local water quality.    The new landscape plan was designed by Magnuson Nature Programs director Emily Bishton, to fulfill 5 main goals:

“Before”: erosion, compaction, and exposed roots throughout the Magnuson Community Center landscape beds

  1. To restore the soil’s ability to infiltrate all the rain that falls into the landscape beds, and to absorb storm water runoff from the adjacent sidewalks and stairs.
  2. To use native plants, rock, and other soil-retaining features to prevent erosion from washing away the soil on the slopes, thereby helping preserving water quality in the Magnuson Wetlands and Lake Washington.
  3. To provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for the resident and migratory birds that inhabit the Magnuson Park Historic District.
  4. To inform and educate the public with a backyard-size demonstration of how to create an attractive, low-maintenance, low-water-use landscape on sloped ground, and on a scale that can be used as a model for home gardeners.
  5. To enhance the beauty of the Magnuson Community Center landscape in a way that will be sustainable over the long-term by volunteers and Seattle Parks grounds crew staff.


Partners and Funding:

The Resource Conservation Landscape design, materials and plants, and installation coordination was funded by a grant from the King Conservation District, and the drip irrigation system supplies were funded by a grant from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods.  All of the soil-building, installation of hundreds of native plants, and the drip irrigation system was done by volunteers from Seattle Works,  King Co. Master Gardeners, Washington Native Plant Society, Univ. of WA Beta Alpha Psi and Environmental Science Program, and others, guided by landscape designer Emily Bishton.  Take a look at the dramatic transformation that has taken place!

Sheet-mulching what’s left of the lawn grass in fall 2011, to build healthy soil for spring 2012 installation of native plants. All plants used have erosion-controlling root systems, provide wildlife habitat, and are low-water-use once established, such as Low Oregon Grape (below).

Volunteers installed a drip irrigation system throughout the landscape to conserve water while getting plants off to a healthy start


Sword Fern, another native plant used because of its erosion-controlling root system, the shelter it provides for ground-feeding birds, and its low-water-use once established.

These bottom 3 photos are what the landscape looked like in the fall of 2015, a little over 2 years after being planted! This landscape, and the Bird-friendly Landscape are now under the care of the Seattle Parks/Magnuson grounds crew.