Volunteers to turn Lummi Island gravel mine into a forest
March 16, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
An old gravel mine on Lummi Island will be filled with trees and turned into a forest, thanks to help from volunteers and a yearslong planning effort from the Lummi Island Heritage Trust.
This weekend, volunteers will plant more than 800 trees and shrubs on the gravel mine floor, located on Lummi Mountain. From 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 18–19, volunteers will plant hundreds of trees and shrubs in the barren mine.
“We are creating a forest from scratch,” Scott Josiah, chair of the trust's board, said in an announcement. “We're trying to emulate how nature would do things, designing a habitat that will provide diversity and beauty.”
Josiah said volunteers will inoculate tree seedlings with microorganisms already found in the mine and organisms normally found in a forest to help them survive the first few years after planting.
Planting the forest in the old mine will be a challenge, as the soil on the ground will not be as supportive of a forest’s complex root system at first.
“It’s still mine soil, so we don’t know what will happen with this,” said Susan Hutton, the executive director of the trust. “It’s an experiment, and we’re really hopeful that this works out, but we’re committed to making it work, so we’ll keep at it.”
In 2013, the mining company that possessed the property declared bankruptcy, and in 2015, the trust purchased the quarry. Over the last eight years, the trust has worked alongside other nonprofit partners to restore more than 500 feet of shoreline and prepare the quarry, removing creosote docks and dilapidated machinery.
The reclaimed quarry is part of the Aiston Preserve, a 105-acre property secured by the trust. Though the preserve is not yet open to the public, it protects more than 4,000 feet of shoreline, pocket beaches, eelgrass meadows and forested uplands.
“Where we’ve been restoring the mine has been an incredible project, and has taken years to get everything organized and permitted and to raise the funds to do it,” Hutton said. “The trust bought it and has been working with all kinds of state agencies and nonprofit partners to rehabilitate the mine, and part of the work in revegetating the mine floor is just trying to restore the natural systems that were in place before they were so disrupted by mining activities.
The preserve, which will open to the public in July this year, lies adjacent to another 120-acre property of the trust, and is part of a 400-acre wildlife corridor on Lummi Island.