Lisa on her final day of hiking the entire 12 mile long Green River Gorge

Lisa on her final day of hiking the entire 12 mile long Green River Gorge

As a photographer, adventurer, conservationist, and community member I’ve spent 20+ years preserving land in the Middle Green River watershed and advocating for the Green River Gorge.  My passion for the outdoors, adventure, and subsequent community activism came from growing up in the Pacific Northwest with parents who were avid backpackers and hikers.  My first adventures were sitting in a kid pack on my dad’s back as we hiked through mountain meadows or on ocean beaches in Washington State.  As I grew older I donned my first red backpack and from then on I’ve never stopped exploring.

That love of exploration and discovery has led me to be an advocate for important conservation areas in southeast King County.  I have spearheaded and supported efforts to preserve thousands of acres of land in the Middle Green River watershed.   I've worked with diverse partners such as Washington State Parks, King County, Fortera, Trust for Public Land, local nonprofits, private landowners, recreation groups, local cities and community members.  

In 1996, as a result of my exploration, I discovered a forgotten forest between Covington and Maple Valley.  This led to spearheading a community effort to create a park and a regional trail connection between the two communities.  It was my first project and we were successful in saving 83 acres of mature forest.  Later we added land and it is now a 120 acre natural area with trails and two branches of Jenkin’s creek.  

A few years later I realized that there were few voices in southeast King County advocating for protection of our last wild places. I worked with other local and regional conservationists to found the Middle Green River Coalition, bringing together different interests to help promote conservation, protection of the environment, and creation trails and parks.

In 2005 I joined the King County Conservation Futures Citizen’s Oversight Committee (CFT for short) as an advocate for the Green River Watershed and as part of a team of dedicated community members facilitating the acquisition of natural areas, salmon habitat, Puget Sound near shore habitat, parks, and trails.  I continue to serve on this committee.

In 2008 Middle Green River Coalition received a grant from the National Parks Rivers and Trails program.  We set out to research a management structure for the Green River Gorge and from that drafted a document called the Green River Gorge Greenway Council.  A concept to help organize the different land owners along the Green River Gorge to effectively conserve, advocate, and manage both private and public ownership through representation of the different stakeholders in the Greenway.  An effort that today still remains unfinished but hopefully, in the future, will be realized.

In 2010 I was finally able to expand the board of directors of Middle Green River Coalition to a working board made up of nine members.  In 2013, after thirteen years, I resigned leaving the board to the next generation of advocates.  It has since continued with a focus on land restoration and partnerships and is now called Green River Coalition.

Stepping back from running a board of directors allowed me to return my focus to the Green River Gorge.  I'm working to continue advocacy work and creating a documentary on the conservation history, the people connected to the river, and the river itself.  

In 2016, as part of this documentary I hiked the entire Green River Gorge.  I am the first documented person to do so. Hiking the gorge was a challenge.  Sometimes I was hiking down existing trails. Sometimes bush whacking through thick forest cover or boulder hopping down the river at low water.  Sometimes swimming through deep green pools between cliff edges.  An amazing adventure and story in itself.  From that expedition I’ve put together a traveling photo and video exhibition to bring the Green River Gorge to communities all along the Green-Duwamish river. 

Lisa hiking along the upper Green River Gorge

Lisa hiking along the upper Green River Gorge

The confluence of the conservation history and the personal stories will bring together a powerful story for the river. For me it will close a very important chapter in my life and hopefully, lead to others to continue to build on all of our legacies.

        Lisa Parsons