Three years ago you couldn’t see the fruit trees nestled at the bottom of a hill just west of the old Amazon headquarters on north Beacon Hill. Looking down, it was blackberries and brambles. This neglected piece of Dr. Jose Rizal Park caught the eye of Craig Thompson, who was working with the Green Seattle Partnership and others to remove invasives from the adjoining woods. Craig turned his attention to the apples.
This October, three years later, the orchard produced 500 pounds of apples of several varieties. Neighbors and stewards picked 300 pounds for a cider pressing to benefit the Rainier Valley Pre-school. Don Ricks, who has been working on heritage orchards in several Seattle parks, says that the Dr. Jose Rizal Park orchard has turned around faster than any he has seen.
In recognition of Craig’s leadership in turning an unsightly bramble patch into a productive orchard, he has been selected to receive a 2012 Denny Award by the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Christopher Williams. Denny Awards recognize individuals who provide ‘leadership in enhancing and preserving parks. . . ‘ and demonstrate ‘ . . significant personal commitment of time and effort . . . ‘. Craig will be honored at a free dinner, open to the public, at Langston Hughes Community Center on Nov 29 (6 – 8 pm.)
As one of City Fruit’s orchard steward leads, Craig attended workshops on fruit tree care and recruited a team of stewards dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal Park. His reach into the greater community is extensive: Craig brought large workparties of Filipino-American students, Earthcorps, Safeco and Fred Hutchinson volunteers, and students from Seattle Pacific, and he has collaborated closely with Parks Department staff to clear, prune, mulch, fence and harvest the orchard.