ARLINGTON – Local elementary school students were invited to help landscape the Stillaguamish Tribe’s new Pilchuck Park recently, as part of their studies in salmon stewardship.
Franchesca Perez, the tribe’s education and outreach biologist, visited 16 fifth-grade classes throughout the academic year, to teach them about salmon, habitat, water quality and other environmental lessons. In addition to the Pilchuck Park field trip, the tribe’s elementary school education program includes visits to the Harvey Creek Hatchery and estuarine habitat in Iverson Park.
“Today is your chance to be stewards of the land,” Perez told a group from Presidents Elementary School in Arlington. The students planted native species such as black twinberry, western redcedar and alder, and learned to identify the different plants. They also learned how previous land use harmed the fish and wildlife habitat.
“Streams like to move,” Perez told the students. “They’re like snakes. Over time they like to go back and forth. We’re helping Pilchuck Creek move back and forth again.”
Three years ago, the tribe purchased the land near the creek’s confluence with the Stillaguamish River. Previous landowners had tried to use it for pasture, but because it’s a wetland, it didn’t drain well.
“The land near Pilchuck Creek is very sacred to the Stillaguamish Tribe,” said Shawn Yanity, the tribe’s fisheries manager. “It was one of the oldest native villages in the state of Washington.”
The tribe has restored the habitat by building logjams and creating ponds.
Earlier in the day, natural resources staff seined one of the new ponds and discovered a variety of creatures that had moved in, including a few yearling coho salmon, red-legged frogs, salamanders and a variety of birdlife.
“We didn’t know how soon this pond would start to have life again,” Perez said.
Once Pilchuck Park is complete, it will be open to the public, featuring trails, an observation deck over the pond and interpretive signs.
“The tribe is really happy to bring the public onto tribal land in this capacity,” Yanity said. “Working together and engaging the community in a positive way helps protect the natural resources that belong to everyone.”
Pilchuck Park work party 11 a.m – 1 p.m. Thursday, April 22
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Stillaguamish Tribe is hosting a tree planting and public viewing of Lower Pilchuck Park beginning at 11 a.m. April 22. Shovels will be provided and technical experts onsite to answer questions about use of the land, native plants, and salmon habitat.
Directions: Exit 210, head west, take first right onto Old Hwy 99. Planting site is about 1/2 mile on left, just after the bridge. Park on shoulder. Limited parking, please carpool.