Keeping South Lake Union pristine

Bundled-up with the mercury dipping into the mid-40s, Queen Anne’s Sean Walters and Capitol Hill’s Helen Harris were hard at work on an early January morning in their donated kayaks, plucking plastic bags, Styrofoam cups and other castaway rubbish from the pebbled shores of South Lake Union.

The volunteers were among a group of four regulars from the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance that meet rain or shine every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the NorthWest Outdoor Center (2100 Westlake Ave. N., Suite 1) to paddle the shores of Seattle’s 500-acre urban lake, filling 5-pound yellow trash bags with the unwanted flotsam.

For Harris, a native New Englander and lifelong paddler, doing her part to keep the South Lake Union shoreline unpolluted is as important as just getting on the water and having fun in the dead of winter.

“I love the water, and I like clean water that we can enjoy,” said Harris, who expected the group would fill eight 5-pound bags during its two-hour shift navigating the lake’s hard-to-reach shallows, narrow spaces between moored yachts and public beaches.

And the effort was a success, said Puget Soundkeeper stewardship coordinator Kathryn Davis, who was guiding the two-kayak outing. 

“That’s a pretty good haul for today,” she said. “We’re having fun.” 

To learn more about how you can make a difference in the South Lake Union neighborhood, attend the South Lake Union Community Council’s next meeting, on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Museum of History & Industry (860 Terry Ave. N.).

Or to get on the water right away and help keep South Lake Union’s shores pristine, visit


MIKE McQUAID is a board member of the South Lake Union Community Council and a Queen Anne resident.