Green Kirkland Stewards and Green Kirkland Partnership paid tribute to “volunteer extraordinaire” Dave Ramsay at Juanita Bay Park on March 16, recognizing his tremendous efforts to restore the community’s forested parkland.
Ramsay, who served as Kirkland’s city manager from 1998 to 2010 and helped found the Green Kirkland Partnership in 2005, went on to volunteer more than 1,050 recorded hours in seven parks over 13 years.
Before retiring, Ramsay had a 36-year career in local government, and also served for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone. He recently moved from Kirkland to Seattle, and will soon start working in Ravenna Park, after spending his Friday mornings restoring open space in Juanita Bay with the same group since 2009.
Ramsay’s Friday work group hosted a gathering to wish him well and honor his “inspiring legacy of visionary public service accomplishments.” In honor of the group’s mission to remove the six- to eight-foot walls of blackberry bushes, which occurred over six years, Ramsay was gifted with a blackberry root mounted on a plaque, along with blackberry tea, jam and snacks, and new gloves, goggles and other equipment.
Ramsay said he was “surprised and humbled” by the recognition. He said he enjoyed the “blackberry therapy” — which at times was “like hand-to-hand combat” — and the company over the years of work in Kirkland’s parks.
Ramsay said his main goal was to “give Mother Nature a helping hand.” He first noticed a problem with Kirkland’s forested parkland during a tour of Juanita Bay Park with council members while he was city manager.
“It was a lightbulb moment,” he said. “Until then, we thought we had done a good job with open space because we had acquired and preserved it. But we had to maintain it too…Given the city’s budget, there was only so much we could do. And that’s where the volunteers came in.”
Ramsay, with parks and community services director Jennifer Schroder and Forterra trustee Nona Ganz worked with Forterra (then Cascade Land Conservancy) to establish the Green Kirkland Partnership. For starting this program, Ramsay will receive the city’s first Founder’s Award at its annual volunteer dinner at Peter Kirk Community Center on April 12.
The partnership has been successful. By the end of 2017, it had 96 acres in restoration in 18 parks, 48,000 native plants installed and a total of 90,000 volunteer hours with a value of more than $2 million. Partnership supervisor Sharon Rodman said that the volunteers, especially the Green Stewards, are the “heart” of the program. A steward training program is coming up on March 24.
“He came up with the idea at his desk in City Hall and since then he has done a tremendous amount of work on the ground and in the ground,” Ganz said about Ramsay. “Thank you for not moving to Seattle sooner, before all the work was done.”