Owner: Seattle Parks & Recreation
At the headwaters of Longfellow Creek, is an ancient wetland bog acts as a water filter for the storm water run-off which supplies the bog and creek. It’s one of the few urban bogs we have in the greater Seattle area and supports the 3.5-mile long creek that flows through the West Seattle before entering in the Duwamish River.
The creek system drains a 2,000-acre watershed and is one of the few year round free-flowing creeks in Seattle. As the drainage basin for sixty surrounding acres, Roxhill Bog collects sediments and pollutants from rain and storm water run off. Plants absorb some pollutants while the spongy peat soil helps filter sediments, essential for providing healthy water quality. Longfellow Creek is one of Seattle’s few salmon spawning creeks.
Longfellow Creek Restoration at Roxhill Bog Project
Roxhill Bog, the headwaters of Longfellow Creek, is a critical part of the ecological health of this struggling, urban watershed, a primary tributary of the Duwamish River and home to underserved communities with the highest levels of diversity. This project will improve the ecological health of the watershed and specifically the bog wetland, help unify its fragmented communities, support equitable education, provide a safe environment which promotes healthy lifestyles, engage civic leadership, and build a structure for the community to engage resources currently not available.
Roxhill Bog is an important indicator of the environmental and community health of the Longfellow Creek Watershed – what happens at this urban headwater wetland bog impacts the health of all three miles of Longfellow Creek. Roxhill Bog cleans and cools stormwater from surrounding development and provides the diverse communities of Southwest Seattle and White Center with a little slice of nature in their own backyards. However, the bog is dying. Since 2000, drying has reduced the bog’s ability to clean stormwater and created unsafe conditions for residents. This project will bring Roxhill Bog back to life, unifying fragmented communities by restoring ecologic function, providing educational and recreational opportunities, and increasing safety in one of the community’s most loved natural areas.
Throughout its history, the bog provided a safe place for residents to connect with nature and each other across cultures and social-economic levels; exercising, learning, engaging, and promoting environmental stewardship with the communities of Delridge, White Center, Highland Park, Westwood, Arbor Heights and Roxhill making it a vibrant hub of the community.
History: Roxhill Bog is the last remaining peat bog in Seattle of 26 and is ancient remnant of a larger peat fen which started forming 10,000 years ago in this 2,685-acre watershed which once supported large wetland complexes that served as a sponge to filter and cool the waters of Longfellow Creek before they emptied into the Duwamish River. A century of urbanization has extracted the sensitive peat soils and paved and built over critical habitat. Roxhill Bog is the last remaining section of this historic and important ecosystem. Despite fundamental land use changes, Longfellow Creek is still the lifeblood of the diverse communities of Delridge, Highland Park, Arbor Heights, White Center and Roxhill. Every year salmon still return to the creek but in diminished numbers due to pollution levels in the creek and the remaining wetland areas offer some of the most biodiverse habitat within the City of Seattle.
During the last two decades, the local community has improved the health of Longfellow Creek and the bog through daylighting, additional restoration and replanting projects. While these efforts successfully uncovered the Roxhill Bog wetland complex, they did not restore natural hydrology to the system. A study by the City of Seattle and field monitoring by the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council (WWRHAH) confirmed that Roxhill Bog groundwater levels are draining rapidly along the northeast corner of the wetland through gravel pipe bedding and inflow into Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) stormwater and sewer lines. In the summer of 2017, the bog became so dry that it caught fire requiring emergency action from the local fire department, causing further damage to an already vulnerable headwaters system. It is now dominated by thick invasive vegetation which creates an environment safety issues due to undesirable social behavior. Drying has also caused delicate peat soils to constrict and erode leading the landscape to subside, creating steep unsafe conditions along the pathways and roads. If soils are not re-saturated, their fragile structure will erode to point beyond repair and which they can never support native wetlands again. We are at a critical tipping point to save the bog.
Project Team: The Roxhill Wetland Partnership includes local organizations and agencies working in the Longfellow Creek sub-basin. The Technical Advisory Committee is made up of members of the community, Duwamish Alive Coalition, Seattle Parks (Parks) Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), King County, and American Rivers to ensure that the best scientific information and local resources are being utilized and that proposed designs align with the technical standards of each organization. Consultants, Natural Systems Design and MIG l SVR, specialists in urban wetland and stream restoration, has conducted the 2020 hydrology study of the park’s bog wetland area. This project was initiated by community members which play a key role in the development of restoring the bog to support safe and engaging use of it. Community Engagement Committee includes Duwamish Alive Coalition, Delridge Neighborhood Development Assn, and Roxhill Champions, all organizations active in the communities which Roxhill Park supports.
Environmental: The outcomes for the restoration of Roxhill Bog will return it to a healthy wetland ecosystem by improving water retention within the bog area, reduce flashiness in creek stream flows, re-saturate peat soils to stop erosion and degradation, use green stormwater infrastructure to reduce and clean stormwater runoff, and restore native wetland plants and wildlife that was once abundant.
Educational: To provide a valuable outdoor learning space for students from local public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities which provides a safe and healthy natural area with hands on, experiential real-world learning that fosters problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration, and critical thinking skills to meet current and future challenges. Learning about their community’s natural area also fosters stewardship and place making and the sharing of information within families and other residents. As students become more engaged with the complexity of nature, gaining a deeper interest in science, there is a potential to foster a continuation of STEM education and career pathways.
Community: Provide communities with a safe and healthy natural area to recreate, commune with nature and learn about wetland ecosystems, green stormwater infrastructure, Longfellow Creek, along with other learning experiences. It will also provide a nucleus for the community to develop social networks which cross the cultures, languages, and generations to connect with each other. Communities which have a strong social network, are able to foster relationships which build trust and reciprocity among community members allowing them to advocate for the community and build stewardship which increases the overall wellbeing not only of members but of the community as a whole.
The bog was supplied by 2 main tributaries before the development of the area. With much of the area as wetland and bog, as far east as 16th Ave SW, even up the hills.
As the area became home to more settlers, the land was cleared for farming. In the 1930s this area held productive produce and dairy farms One of the primary farms was owned by the Kodama family, Japanese farmers forced to relocate to internment camps during World War II.
The 1960s with the commercial and residential development of the area saw the wetland and bog donated to the Seattle Parks which created a traditional park by draining of it. It was recognized in the 1990s the need to restore the wetland and bog, not only from regaining the effectiveness of the Longfellow Creek’s headwaters in its system but to also address ball fields which were saturated most of the year with water. Efforts in the early 2000’s were to restore the natural area, making it a functional bog again. It still has hydrology challenges with low water flow to support the bog’s eco-system.
Walking The bog has wide, flat paths through out it providing easy access for people of all abilities.