Rescue Mission landscaping project begins | Local News

In the first phase of an expected 15-year project, the Wenatchee Rescue Mission is embarking on a two-year landscape renovation funded by a $ 8,089 grant from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program.

The main priorities for the first phase are the removal of invasive species such as the sky tree and the Siberian elm, the planting of native species and the stabilization of the slope above the sleeping house.

In the long term, executives and volunteers in the project plan that the location will become tiny houses, hiking trails, native plants, bird-friendly landscaping and spaces for people to relax and reflect.

“I imagine this is a quiet place with trees, bushes and benches for the boys to sit on,” said Mike Shull, treasurer of the WRM board of directors. “Teach them that they can sit and think and set goals and move on and live tremendously productive lives. ”

The mission currently houses around 40 men, half of its capacity. About 80% of them are over 50 years old, said Scott Johnson, WRM executive director. The pandemic has slowed operations, but the mission is now reopening the services and expanding the reach of people affected by homelessness.

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Alex Baker and Courtney Carveth with Baker’s Tree Service in Wenatchee felled a tree on Friday that they felled on the Wenatchee Rescue Mission property, the lodge behind them.

The Mission, formerly known as the Hospitality House, is located between South Wenatchee Avenue and South Mission Street near Lincoln Park and has been a men’s haven since the early 1990s.

“We are for these guys, and most of them will tell you that their life wouldn’t exist without this place,” Johnson said. “For me it’s a community thing, we can’t do it without the donations, without the volunteers, it doesn’t work without the community. It really needs a village. “

The main focus of the first phase is on removing invasive species and replacing them with native ones. Siberian elms and the Tree of Heaven create extensive problems. Because of their huge root systems, the trees must be treated with herbicides to remove them and they harbor pests like spotted lantern flies that can attack fruit trees.

The DNR grant is only the beginning of the project funding. In addition, WRM is dependent on donations and voluntary efforts.

The grant will support the removal of two to four large Siberian elms or sky trees, as well as the planting of 20 to 24 large trees and 10 to 20 small trees. The remainder of the first phase, including removing many more invasive trees and planting native shrubs, is covered by volunteer time and grants from WRM.

According to Betsy Dudash, a volunteer landscape consultant, many people in the area are unfamiliar with native species and she wants to change that.

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“You drive around Wenatchee, there are almost no native plants in any landscape. It’s heartbreaking, ”said Dudash. “My whole focus in design is on native plants, and this is an untapped market because people want to know. And once they understand the ecology of the relationship between the native plant species and the insects, birds and other animals that evolved with them, they say, ‘OK, wait a minute.’ “

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Alex Baker of Wenatchee’s Baker’s Tree Service fell a tree on a property owned by the Wenatchee Rescue Mission in South Wenatchee on Friday.

The process for the project began in early 2020 when Dudash and volunteer project coordinator Rick Edwards visited the site to evaluate how it could be renovated.

Edwards invited specialists he knew to provide feedback on the project – arborists, geologists, botanists, master gardeners, fire departments, and Audubon members. Dudash and Edwards will use the information gathered to create a long-term master plan for the entire property – based on the wishes and needs of the WRM Board of Directors – which they will submit to the city for approval.

Finally, Johnson said he wanted the mission to create permanent supportive housing of around 30 houses on a large lot, and introduce something like a skills village where people use their existing skills to support one another.

“It’s like trying to curb a runaway horse,” Shull said of Johnson and his plans for the mission. “It goes 90 miles an hour and I said most people here in the valley drive 40.”

Giving back to the community is an important factor in Johnson’s plans for the mission. He said he would love to see the mission launch a glass recycling program where residents grind the glass into sand and resell it to people for their gardens. It would preoccupy people with homelessness and help the environment, he said.

“One thing about nonprofits is facing the facts that we are takers and I don’t like that, I want to be a giver,” said Johnson. “So we get the homeless off the street, that’s my job, that’s not what we give to the community. So how do we give something back? Part of it is that I’ve already asked our boys what are you doing? return? You sit here every day, what do you give back to your community? ”

While there is still much work to be done before the mission can bring in the tiny houses – 12 to 16 of them made from shipping containers – Johnson hopes it will do so within two years. More is in the works and should soon be part of a master plan.

“When I said we were the best hidden secret, I don’t want to be a hidden secret of this area, I want to be a familiar place to come to when you just want to relax, I want to attract people off the street, and I want to get people to come in, ”said Johnson. “All we ask is that you don’t drink, don’t use drugs, just sit down and relax, you are fine.”

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