There’s a peacefulness looking out over the wetlands from the shared campus of Cascadia Community College and the University of Washington, Bothell (see page 9 for photo).
Where water once stood, now grow willows, cottonwoods, western red cedar, Douglas fir, red alders and sitka spruce trees. The restored ecosystem serves as home to ducks, falcons, osprey, gold finch and bald eagles. Even an owl is sometimes seen. A great blue heron flies overhead, winging its way to its nest of chicks — probably headed for the heronry behind the Kenmore Park ‘n Ride.
Geologic history of the mid-1800s, shows that on this spot, there were channels, lakes and depressions where North Creek flowed into Squawk Slough, now the Sammamish River. Muck, peat, marsh and lake sediments, volcanic ash and flood plain alluvium formed the floodplain soil.
This wetland area, more recently farmland owned by Bothell’s Truly family, has become one of the biggest floodplain restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest, made possible through Washington state grants under former Gov. Gary Locke. The vast, 60-acre area provides a living environmental lab for research by UWB and Cascadia students, while the ecosystem gradually develops over the next decades. The National Wildlife Federation gave this project high honors, and Forbes Magazine lists this campus among the top-10 green college campuses.
Aaron Burgy, a UW environmental-science student, chops canary weed grass, an invasive plant species, which chokes the waterways of this restored wetlands. Wetlands gardener Gabe Barnes calls to Aaron to join us on a tour that takes us to a boardwalk where we observe plant life, view North Creek and hear stories of the restoration project.
“There’s shade on the creek this year,” says Gabe. “Making for two seasons of good salmon runs.”
In the stream swims kokanee, chinook and sockeye salmon, along with cutthroat trout and carp. A non-native turtle can be spotted, perhaps an escapee from someone’s home.
“There’s also a lake,” says Gabe.
“A resident beaver bottlenecks the water, making a lake.”
Gabe and Aaron paint a funny picture noting, “North Creek comes from a parking lot in the Everett Mall.” Somehow, that kills the bucolic moment.
Signs are posted on the boardwalk describing North Creek and its evolution. A channel was recreated using original logging maps, survey charts and soil samples as reference. Logs have been installed to control stream-bank erosion.
Sadly, many of the student artwork dotted along the nearby walking and biking trail, has been vandalized. The painting of the Canada goose remains.
“I did one on salmon,” says Aaron, “but someone took it.”
The floodplain restoration project began in 1998 and takes about 30 years until the site functions as a self-sustaining ecosystem. Thanks to the hard work and committed effort of people like Gabe and Aaron, this will happen.
For information or to set up a tour, contact Physical Plant Services at (425) 352-5466.
Suzanne G. Beyer is a Bothell resident.