Aviation student Gina O’Kelley strives for Habitat Restoration at Mathison Park

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Aviation High School student Gina O’Kelley approached the Burien Parks & Recreation Department last summer with a proposal to complete her senior project at a local Burien park, and now she’s doing it at Mathison Park.

Gina’s project goal is to improve the ecology in a portion of the park.

“The ecology of local parks is intriguing to me because they are so closely impacted by human interaction,” Gina said. “It also matters to me that these green spaces continue to be available to future generations.”

Gina started in early September by visiting Mathison Park with Adopt-a-Park Coordinator Lisa Aumann, and set about defining an area, about 2,500 square feet, to remove invasive plants and re-vegetate with native plants. In September, she gathered school volunteers and coordinated another 40 community volunteers to grub out over 50 cubic yards Himalayan blackberry and English Ivy. Additionally, Gina worked with parks staff on removing some of the Holly and Laurel stands. In March, Gina acquired a $400 donation of plants from native plant nursery Tadpole Haven (http://tadpolehaven.com/) to place throughout the park.

Ms Aumann was very impressed.

“Gina has been incredibly motivated and self-directed during this project and has done a great job recruiting support from her family, friends and other Aviation High students over the several months she has worked on the project,” Lisa said. “Clearly the park and park users will benefit from her hard work on this project.”

As her senior project presentation is nearing Gina added:

“I am also hoping for this project to act as a catalyst for future work in the park, such as a similar senior project in the area adjacent to mine.”

Burien staff would like the word to spread about park restoration and attract other high school seniors interested in working on vegetation improvements in Burien’s park sites.

“This is a unique opportunity for high school seniors to take on a project that not only has a valuable learning component but also gives back to a local neighborhood by improving a park that can be enjoyed by the community,” Aumann added.

Interested seniors can contact Lisa at [email protected] if they are interested in proposing a senior project.

Here are some photos showing Gina’s work, courtesy Burien Parks:




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3 Responses to “Aviation student Gina O’Kelley strives for Habitat Restoration at Mathison Park”
  1. kex says:

    Gina, thank you for all that you do!

  2. J says:

    That’s awesome! Next up: making a safer crosswalk?

  3. Sandy S says:

    All attempts to retain and restore the original character of the Burien Parks is very much appreciated by our family. Having lived in the area since the early 1950’s we have witnessed how much the Burien area has changed from a gentle rural area where the feed store and post office were the center of town, to what it has become today. In those early days we rode horses most everywhere from Three Tree Point to Angle Lake and Normandy Park to White Center. Of course the roads were for cars, but there was much less traffic than there is now. There were many opportunities to see birds and wildlife along the way. We would often rest or picnic at open spaces and beach sites. As we lived very near the site that is now Mathison Park it is especially appreciated that it should be a place to remember that time and it’s original character.

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