Community members plant and restore local green spaces on MLK Jr. Day

The Green Cities Partnership hosted 15 events with hundreds of volunteers throughout the region

Some of the volunteers at MLK Day at Thornton A. Sullivan Park in Everett. They picked up more than 50 pounds of trash.

Since 2007, I’ve spent MLK Day serving my community in any capacity than I can. I’ve helped restore trails with the Washington Trails Association. I’ve helped clean up a Boys and Girls club. I’ve painted walls at a women’s shelter.

This year, I wanted to join our Green Cities Partnership to learn more about their restoration efforts—and to get some work done.

On Jan. 16, the Green Cities Partnership hosted 15 events throughout the region. Hundreds of volunteers helped plant more than 500 trees, plants and shrubs. I went to two different locations in Everett where I saw groups of people ranging in age from grade school students to retirees.

At Thornton A. Sullivan Park, I met local forest steward Lou Rector, 75. He’s been to every Green Everett Partnership volunteer event in the past 15 months. Lou reminisced about how much time he’s spent in open spaces over the years and how he wants to do his part to make sure others can enjoy their local parks.

It’s important to give back, Rector said about why he volunteered on MLK Day for the second year in a row. He pointed out how he liked seeing younger volunteers who were unplugged from their cellphones and reconnecting with nature.

“Having them help one another…is refreshing,” he said.

Kenneth Clarke, 18, is an honor student at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek. He said it’s important to serve on MLK day because Dr. King’s life was all about service. “Helping nature is a passion of mine. Helping the environment is helping the community,” he said. Clarke plans to go to the University of Washington and study political science. He hopes to go into politics.

While Clarke spent hours removing invasive species, Nolan Martin was working with 10 of his young volunteers picking up trash and spread mulch. The civil rights leader fought for equality and equity, his students agreed. “MLK Day is another day to remember the progress we’ve made,” Martin said. “It’s a day to acknowledge where we’ve been and how far we have to go.”

I spent three hours working alongside people of different racial backgrounds and creeds and for that amount of time, we came together for a common peaceful purpose. In a lot of ways, it feels like Dr. King’s dream was, in part, realized.

Photo by Dre Anderson
Some of the volunteers who participated in the MLK Day at South Everett Forest Preserve. They planted more than 35 willows and collected more than 80 pounds of trash.


The Green Everett Partnership is a partnership between Forterra and the city of Everett that strives to improve the health of Everett’s forested parks and natural areas relying on volunteer work. It is one of nine regional cities in the Green Cities network.