MARYSVILLE — Less than a dozen volunteers from the Adopt A Stream Foundation and the Bethlehem Lutheran Church managed to plant several hundred trees and shrubs along 900 feet of Allen Creek on March 23 in about half the time of the four-hour window that they’d set aside for that work, but according to members of both groups, plenty of work lies ahead for the area in the months and years to come.
“Pacific Topsoil provided us with the animal-friendly mulch,” said Brooke Clement, an ecologist with Adopt A Stream. “It’s basically wood chips, since these plants don’t need any extra nutrients to thrive outdoors. This first time we were out here, we used about 15 cubic yards. This time, it was about 25.”
“Allen Creek was once a very productive salmon stream,” Adopt A Stream Director Tom Murdoch said. “Unfortunately, over the years, a lot of the native stream-side vegetation that prevents soil erosion and provides shade that keeps water temperatures cool has been replaced by lawns in residential areas and, in many agricultural areas, cattle and horses have been allowed to eat the riparian zone.”
John Natterstad, a member of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, explained that the Allen Creek area adjacent to the church had been left to the church by the families who had owned the property.
“We want to keep it in its natural state,” said Natterstad, who recalled how stream restoration efforts had actually begun about a decade ago, but had been delayed by funding grants falling through in the meantime. “We’d really like it to serve as an environmental education site for children. We’ve already got an Eagle Scout project that plans to install a kiosk at the main gate, to show visitors what sorts of salmon and vegetation they can expect to see.”
Thanks to support from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Adopt A Stream has been providing landowners next to Allen Creek with ecological checkups for their stretches of the creek, as well as prescriptions for corrective action when problems are discovered.
Last year, Adopt A Stream discovered that the riparian zone next to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church had been eaten by horses grazing next to the stream. With the assistance of the Snohomish Conservation District, Adopt A Stream and volunteers from the church installed a 900-foot-long fence to keep horses between 50-100 feet away from the creek, and began to plant new stream-side vegetation over four acres. March 23 saw them complete the planned restoration of the first two acres.
“The more plants we have, the more it benefits both the fish and the stream,” said Walter Rung, the Adopt A Stream ecologist who supervised the day’s labors. “These waters empty out into Ebey Slough, the Qwuloolt Estuary and Puget Sound as a whole. Especially as the tide gates are removed, we expect to see a lot more salmon in this area within the next 10 years.”