Discovery Park is one of the treasures of Seattle. Overlooking Puget Sound, this retired army fort is being converted to a sanctuary for wildlife and a place for Seattleites to get to know nature through personal experience.
Upkeep and maintenance does not happen by itself. Fortunately, the park staff has a robust volunteer program. Recently REI teamed up with the park to clear seven acres which had become overrun with invasive ivy.
REI has its own volunteer program. On a sunny February Saturday they showed up in mass ready to battle the vines. It was quite an impressive sight as this army deployed and got down to work. Anyone who has encountered ivy in their yard or garden knows that the vine's tenacious roots must be thoroughly plucked out of the ground or the ivy will just grow back.
I have spent many years visiting Discovery Park but have never been to this ivy infested area. It is hidden off the main trails in a corner of the park that few people visit. So why do we care if ivy grows there?
It turns out that this section of woods is prime habitat for mountain beavers and piliated woodpeckers. Ivy ruins the habitat for these animals, so eradicating this non-native plant benefits the ecosystem of the park.
Mountain Beavers are considered to be the world's most primitive living rodent species. They are not really beavers, but are so named because they gnaw bark and cut off limbs in a manner similar to true beavers. They live in moist forests, on ferny slopes, and are occasionally found in damp ravines in urban areas.
Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America (with the exception of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which probably no longer lives within the borders of the United States). They are crow-sized and black, with bright red pointed crests, the red more extensive on the crests of males.
Any forest type (broadleaved, coniferous, or mixed) can sustain Pileated Woodpeckers as long as there are trees large enough for roosting and nesting. Pileated Woodpeckers are often associated with mature and old-growth forests but can breed in younger forests if they contain some large trees. In western Washington, they typically roost in western hemlock and western red cedar.