Water Tenders elects new officers, renews mission
by Wendy Walsh
Water Tenders recently elected its first new president since its founding in 1989: Heather Poe replaced Ellouise Pritchett, the original founder of the activist group. Other officers are Terry Lavender, vice president; Nancy Stafford, secretary; and Gwenn Maxfield, treasurer.
The group evolved from a long history of citizen activism in Bear Creek Valley. Originally, people came together to protect Bear Creek Valley streams and wetlands, which they felt were being destroyed by development.
In 1968, a proposed sewer lagoon on Bear Creek that would serve a development at what is now Lake of the Woods became a catalyst. Citizen groups throughout Bear Creek Valley united to fight the plan, which they contended would have destroyed the salmon run in the stream systems. The citizens convinced the county, and the planned sewer lagoon was halted.
The original citizens organization, called the Bear Creek Valley Association, consisted of many neighborhood groups. With new awareness of the importance of stream systems, county government began to support input from citizens who wanted to revitalize streams and wetlands.
In the 1970s and '80s, activists regrouped and new names surfaced. During a particularly heated battle around land use, Ellouise Pritchett named her group the "Like Hell You Will" committee. The name got the county's attention, and the citizens of Bear Creek were acknowledged to be a potent force.
The Surface Water Management division began to work with citizens groups throughout the county to protect streams and wetlands. Grants were given for stream restoration, and funding for educational programs helped property owners steward their land to prevent damage. Results throughout the county showed a halt to stream damage and an increase in fish population.
Many other citizens groups were formed to restore streams to their natural condition: among them the Thornton Creek Alliance, the Soos Creek Citizens Committee, Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project (Pipers Creek), Ravenna Creek Alliance, and the Save Lake Sammamish group. Thanks to the support of the King County Department of Natural Resources, this list has expanded to neighborhood groups on almost every stream system in King County.
Although Water Tenders created its new name in 1989, its mission, say its members, remains constant: to care about the wetlands and streams in Bear Creek Valley and to network with other groups thorughout King County. Activities focus on education, field trips, proactive protection, monitoring projects, and celebrations.
Heather Poe, the incoming president, has been the editor of the Water Tenders quarterly newsletter, The Spawning Ground. This publication is available free to all interested residents of Bear Creek Valley, where the watershed motto is: "We All Live Downstream."
New members are always welcome. For information, call 788-9092 or 788-4434.