Recent tree vandalism near Shell Creek impacts critical salmon habitat

Many of the vandalized trees were left partially blocking the flow of water in Shell Creek. (Photos courtesy Chris Walton)

Edmonds police are investigating after vandals cut trees and shrubs near the Shell Creek riparian area adjacent to Edmonds’ Holy Rosary Church Tuesday night.

This section of Shell Creek is one of the areas targeted by the Edmonds Stream Team as part of its effort to restore salmon habitat by both planting native plant species along the streambank and releasing young fish as part of the effort restore local runs. Salmon hatch boxes were placed in this section of Shell Creek just last month.

Owned by Holy Rosary Church, the property offers visitors a natural green space with trails, a bench. and the constant sound of flowing water. “It’s a nice, peaceful area,” remarked Holy Rosary Deacon Craig Lundquist. “This kind of damage is heartbreaking.”

The thin cuts suggested that they were made by a battery-operated Sawzall-type tool.

According to fisheries biologist Joe Scordino, advisor to the Edmonds Stream Team, the damage appears to have been targeted to two non-native invasive plant species, Cherry Laurel (Prunus lauroceracus) and English Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Both these plants are densely foliated and tend to out-compete native species by blocking sunlight and absorbing water. While no explanation of the vandalism has been offered, this has led some to speculate that the damage might have been part of an ill-informed effort to create growing space for native species. The cuts are quite thin (see photo with ruler inserted to demonstrate) suggesting that they might have been made by a battery-powered Sawzall-type tool

“But this vandalism is doing more harm than good,” explained Scordino. “Removing these plants exposes the soil underneath to erosion from winter rains and hence damages the delicate riparian ecosystem and significantly increases silting of the stream; bad news for the salmon. While many of the cut trees fell into the stream, thankfully no salmon hatch boxes were damaged.”

The cutting left many stumps, which will need to be removed and much soil exposed to rain and erosion. As the root systems die, the soil they helped stabilize will become subject to additional erosion, which will add more silt to the stream and degrade fish habitat.

Because the vandalism occurred on church property, Holy Rosary officials contacted Edmonds police. According to police spokesperson Sgt. Josh McClure, an officer was dispatched to the scene “but there is no current suspect information.”

— By Larry Vogel

  1. I hope the branches from the felled trees/bushes will be used as mulch (probaby cut a little smaller). There are many shade loving natives which could be planted to prevent erosion such as native bush redtwig dogwood and salal, an evergreen low growing shrub. There are many other possibilities to prevent erosion.

    1. Our restoration plan for this site had plantings of shade tolerant plants and there were native plants including dogwoods, snowberry, willow, and Sitka spruce getting established in bare areas near the creek. Unfortunately, some of the senseless laurel cuttings landed on top of the native plants that community volunteers toiled to plant and maintain at this site. Very depressing.

      I also noticed yesterday that a large, beautiful camellia bush located upland of the creek was also cut at its base – what a travesty. I sure hope the vandals are caught and punished.

  2. Maybe this was someone trying out a new Christmas present thinking they were doing a good deed? One of those “little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing” sort of events.

  3. Joe’s comment about the camellia confirms it was some idiot or idiots with no good intentions. Too bad there wasn’t a wildlife camera on them. Or should I say “lowlife” camera?

  4. There has also been vandalism during the last two summers to the rose garden near the church entrance. Not serious damage, but occasional indiscriminate slashing of plants, with cuttings just left on the ground. (Not someone coveting the flowers for personal use. ) Hard to understand.

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