The Environmental Advocate: A hidden jewel among the cattails — the Edmonds Marsh
Whether you live in the “bowl area” of Edmonds or in the neighborhoods just above known as the “rim,” you must at one time or another have heard about the Edmonds Marsh. Edmonds has a precious commodity, as this estuary is one of the very few still in existence within urbanized areas along Puget Sound.
As you can see from the time lapse photography here, the Edmonds Marsh was once quite larger and occupied nearly 40 acres downtown. Today, the Edmonds Marsh is at 22 1/2 acres and owned by the City of Edmonds. The Port of Edmonds-owned property — the Harbor Square business complex — sits next to this precious place, which hosts 225 species of birds during the course of a year.
Feeling curious to check this place out? Head on over to the Harbor Square area and locate the interpretative walkway and 300 feet of boardwalk for your viewing pleasure.
Recently, I interviewed a few local folks who are very involved with the history and the future of the Edmonds Marsh. I learned from Sally Lider, City of Edmonds environmental coordinator, that the City of Edmonds obtained the Edmonds Marsh as a quit claim deed from Unocal — hence its former name, the Union Oil Marsh, on Nov. 17, 1981. Rich Lindsay, the City of Edmonds parks manager, explained to me that the walkway and interpretative signage have all been funded over the years by various grants, the Port of Edmonds and Unocal (now called Chevron).
Lindsay went on to tell me that over the years various groups have been involved in clean-ups and invasive plant removals within the Marsh including the Faith Community Church and People for Puget Sound (PFPS) volunteers. “While the City of Edmonds Parks Department crews clean walkways along the Marsh twice a month and trim the vegetation that grows into the pathways and boardwalks there is still volunteer work and restoration that needs to be done,” Lindsay explained.
Most of the restoration issues mainly involve invasive weeds living within our Marsh, including Purple Loosestrife, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed, Lindsay stated. This is where Keeley O’Connell, our local resident and restoration team lead for People for Puget Sound comes in. O’Connell, a restoration ecologist for PFPS, was first contracted in 2008 through the Maureen Norberry Foundation. This foundation, which is headed by Maureen Norberry (a PFPS member at the time), was concerned about the Edmonds Marsh possibly being affected by the planned Edmonds Crossing Project. (Edmonds Crossing, which would have involved relocating the Edmonds ferry terminal south of the existing site, is currently on hold.)
The foundation paid PFPS to do a study that would look at social perceptions of the Marsh and the possible impact that ferry traffic would have on it. The study results included a conceptual design of restorative actions that the City of Edmonds could take such as a better boardwalk system to better connect residents to the Marsh. O’Connell involved her Sound Stewards program to work with the City to transform the landscape around the Marsh to better support wildlife habitat needs.
O’Connell and a few other Edmonds residents formed a “Friends of the Edmonds Marsh” group in 2009. The group’s mission is to expand and restore functional estuarine habitat within the Edmonds Marsh and protect the remaining wildlife habitat by engaging the community to preserve, steward and enjoy this natural asset. To learn more about the Friends of the Edmonds Marsh’s vision, goals and rational, visit their Facebook page.
“There is still more work to be done around the Marsh and vegetative buffers to be built,” said O’Connell, who credits the work of local resident Sean Madden, a concerned citizen who took it upon himself to research all the vegetation existing within the Edmonds Marsh and its local wildlife. Madden designed a planting plan that would benefit wildlife and native vegetation needs within the Marsh. O’Connell also mentioned that without the sincere partnership of the City of Edmonds Parks Department, whose crews tirelessly pick up the many bags of plant debris and even large metal objects found within the Marsh, this restoration project couldn’t happen.
O’Connell recently applied for and received a “Restore America’s Estuaries” grant through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which she has already started to use create two upcoming stream side landowners workshops in May 2012 for residents who live on Shell, Willow or Shelbarger creeks, which flow into the Edmonds Marsh.
Thanks to O’Connell’s organization, People for Puget Sound, and their new Eco-Techs Internship Program, the Edmonds Marsh has a team of folks monitoring its current heron colony for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2012-2013.
Stay tuned for part two of this series, where we look into what restoration efforts are happening today at the Edmonds Marsh and what the new development at Harbor Square and the Port has planned for the Marsh.
Laura Spehar is a Montessori teacher and environmental educator, and was named Edmonds’ Citizen of the Year in 2011. She is a WSU Master Gardener, Beach Watcher and Carbon Master, and holds certifications in wildlife habitat and native plant stewardships. Spehar serves on the Snohomish Conservation District’s Advisory Board, Pilchuck Audubon Society Board, Friends of the Edmonds Library Board, and the City of Edmonds Mayor’s Climate Action Committee Board and Tree Board. She was awarded the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Service Award in 2010. Spehar lives in Edmonds with her husband Paul and their two dogs Goldie and Happy on two acres of well-loved and protected wetland/stream side habitat.