Northwest NEWS

November 18, 2002

Features

Learning all the way to the streambanks

pots.jpg Photo by Bronwyn Wilson/Staff Photo
   Fourth grader Cameron Bates and his grandfather Fred Bates worked together planting native trees and shrubs at Little Bear Creek.
   By Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Writer
   At 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 14, a large group of fourth graders wearing jeans, sweatshirts and black rubber boots stand in a huddle. The students of Lynnwood Intermediate quietly listen to instructions at the wooded Little Bear Creek site near Northeast 205th in Woodinville. They have traveled here to plant trees and shrubs. Soon after hearing the instructions, they scatter into purposeful direction; some marking off assigned planting areas with yellow string and others unloading shovels from the back of a pickup. With shovel handles taller than they are, they begin digging holes and plopping young trees in the ground. They work with skilled focus, placing Pacific ninebark, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, and Western hemlock into freshly dug holes. Nearby, the whooshing sound of Little Bear Creek can be heard, spilling and flowing over the newly constructed step-channeled bed installed last summer to improve fish passage.
   One student stops to look into the creek. Suddenly, he points and calls out in animated excitement, "There's a salmon by the log. There! There! By the log." Several students drop their planting duties to rush toward the creek for their own view of the salmon sighting.
   Teacher Mary Magill says that her class, along with teacher Cheryl Arford's class, has participated in salmon restoration projects for the past four years. Not only will the two classes plant the trees at Little Bear Creek, but also they'll return in the spring to assess the success of each plant. They'll check to see if their plants lived or died. Magill says the project helps her students become anchored in their community. "If kids are grounded in their place and community, they're more likely to become better decision makers later on," she says. The planting project teaches the students about the place they live in.
   The children pluck salmonberry, snowberry, sword ferns and vine maples from black plastic pots and deposit the trees and shrubbery snugly in the ground. The native plants add a splash of green to the open creek side spaces that were disturbed by the recent construction. "We're trying to mimic what's already on site," says Karen Wood-McGuiness, water quality steward for Snohomish County. She explains that the children's participation in the project stems from a program called 'Salmon and Plants for Kids.' Sponsored by Saltwater Anglers of Mukilteo, the program funds various school projects designed to teach students the value of healthy streambanks while affording them an opportunity to have fun in the process.
   Surface Water Management of Snohomish County provides the schools with the habitat restoration projects, such as the one at Little Bear Creek and Northeast 205th. As steward for Little Bear Creek, Snohomish County works with citizen groups to raise awareness of watershed issues. "We do a lot of work with kids from all over. This project was selected because we need assistance in planting," says Wood-McGuiness. "The [students] will follow up in the spring and measure the success of the plants. It's a great teaching experience for them." She adds that the Little Bear Creek Protective Association will finish out the planting. "They'll assist us by planting live stakes-which is a different way of planting trees, like willows, that self root." Also, the City of Woodinville donated many of the trees planted at the site, such as bigleaf maples and red osier-dogwoods. The trees, salvaged from construction sites, were potted and transported by city volunteers.
   Fourth grader Cameron Bates packs dirt around his newly planted Western hemlock. About two-feet high, it looks like a mini-Christmas tree ready for tiny ornaments and lights. However, the new little tree has a greater purpose than decoration, as it will help provide bank stabilization as well as jump-start the cycle of nature. Yosh Monzaki, Surface Water Engineer for the City of Woodinville, explains, "Conifers attract bugs, small vertebrates and birds. The bugs fall into the water and the trees grow and then fall into the water also. It creates a more natural habitat throughout the corridor." Downed woody materials offer an excellent place for wildlife to nest, rest, preen and perch. According to Jake Jacobson, watershed steward for Snohomish County and the author of the grants that made the project possible, the Little Bear Creek area teems with small wildlife including bats and owls. The project, he says, connects students to a study of the area's species and plants.
   The project began last summer with the installation of four log weirs built in staircase-like fashion so that returning salmon could maneuver the creek with more ease at the Northeast 205th culvert. The City of Woodinville partnered with Snohomish County Public Works to step-channel the creek. "The fish are able to make it through that area now as the jump heights have decreased," says Monzaki, adding that three Chinook were recently spotted at the site. "They were all a pretty good size, approximately three feet long."
   Funded by the King County Conservation District and King County Waterworks 2000 Block Grant, the project leads the way for future habitat enhancement projects in Woodinville. Monzaki names one the City looking at. "We're looking at the 132nd Ave. Northeast crossing," he says. "There are three culverts there that we're hoping to remove in the future."
   For information, call Monzaki at (425) 489-2700, Ext. 2294.