Come and get it.
Come and get it. King Conservation District

Seattle’s light rail expansion can’t come fast enough, not just because it’ll get us where we’re going more effectively than cars, but because the trains are bringing trees with them.

That’s thanks to an initiative known as Trees for Rail, a joint effort by Sound Transit, the town of Shoreline, and the King Conservation District. They’ve approved 250 properties for totally free installation and care of hundreds of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers along the Lynnwood Link Extension, creating a lush green canopy along the east side of the forthcoming rail.

Only properties that have been pre-approved are eligible for the new plants, and nearly all of them are low-density single-family homes with driveways — the sort of thing that ought to be knocked down and replaced with dense housing that can actually take advantage of proximity to transit. But until that happens, at least they’ll get some nice foliage to look at.

And if your property isn’t on the list, don’t worry: You can still mail the King Conservation District a bag of dirt to look at. No, really, that’s another free service they offer.

After a brief pause in their soil testing program, KCD is once again offering up to five free tests for any resident who wants to know if their land is healthy for plants. Just dig up two cups of dirt and mail it in; they’ll test for nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, and so on. Don’t send it over the weekend, because then it’ll just sit at the post office for a few days; the soil must be fresh. What kind of person sends old dirt in the mail?

You’ll need to know your soil health if you want strong healthy plants — and as luck would have it, KCR is also preparing for their annual native plant sale. Though the plants are distributed in the spring, orders should be placed well in advance, so mark your calendar for November when they’re expected to go on sale. (You can also pop by their community fair around February, though pickings might be a bit slimmer.)

Why is the King Conservation District doing all this? Well, for one thing, they really want you to have cool plants. While the Trees for Rail program is one of their most expansive efforts, aiming to get hundreds of trees in the ground over the next few years, KCD is constantly working to improve regional water, soil, and forests.

But the Trees for Rail program has another purpose, which is to buffer existing properties against the anticipated noise of light rail construction and operation. Sound Transit is also building a lengthy noise wall along the length of the new track, and sites for new trees were identified based on “where on-site planting of landscape screening buffers is limited.”

But wait — isn’t the new rail alignment directly adjacent to an existing highway? And won’t the new rail be far cleaner, quieter, and safer than the constant pollution and din of I-5?

Yes, yes of course it will. Mitigation for the harm of the freeway should be available to more than just the few hundred homes close to the new Sound Transit line. WSDOT should be paying for everyone within a mile of the freeway to get free trees for life.

But they're not, because we’re all so used to highways that it’s easy to forget just how deadly they are. Oh well! Enjoy your new trees, lucky neighbors!