The Edmonds Marsh Volunteer Restoration Project concluded its work for this year in restoring freshwater connections into the marsh and estuary to promote the fresh/salt water mixing necessary for a fully functional estuary and providing an open channel for future return of spawning salmon.
This all-volunteer project to restore freshwater circulation and reestablish the Shellabarger Creek channel commenced in the summer of 2021 to complement the initiation in 2020 of year-round salt water flows into the marsh. Prior to 2020, tidal flows into the marsh in the fall and winter were prevented by a tide gate that has since been secured by the City of Edmonds Public Works Department in an open position to allow unobstructed tidal exchange necessary for a functional estuary.
Similar to past years, community members rallied to the call for help in restoring the Edmonds Marsh. This included over 60 volunteers, ranging from high school/college students to senior citizens, donating their time over 22 days from July to September. This was the third year of a four-year “Adopt-A-Highway” landscaping agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation to restore freshwater flows along Highway 104 into the body of the Edmonds Marsh.
The prior year’s volunteer work involved removing chain-link fencing on both sides of Highway 104 and finding the creek channel that had been overgrown by an “invasion” over the years of an invasive plant — bittersweet nightshade — whose vines formed a thicket that blocked flows and growth of native cattails and grew up alder trees, killing them.
This year’s restoration work focused on continuing to reestablish the Shellabarger Creek channel on the west side of Highway 104 and into the body of the marsh. As volunteers worked into the marsh this year, they discovered the nightshade invasion was much worse than expected, with large areas devoid of native cattails and enveloped with nightshade. Further, portions of the reopened channel that had been cleared of nightshade last year had to be cleared of new growth coming from these dense mats of nightshade. Nonetheless, volunteers worked through sticky mud and water and prevailed in removing the dense growth in over 400 feet of creek channel in the eastern portion of the Edmonds Marsh. Unfortunately, volunteers weren’t able to open the freshwater flows into the middle section of the marsh due to an unexpected new challenge — beavers — and chest-deep water held back by beaver dams that created unworkable conditions for volunteers.
To prevent the invasive nightshade from again taking over the Shellabarger Creek channel on the west side of Highway 104, volunteers not only removed additional nightshade from the channel, but prevented new growth by covering the stream banks with over 150 cubic yards of wood chips donated by arborists through the online Chip Drop system. The new, park-like setting created by volunteers is evident in the “after” photo of the west side of Highway 104 (just north of the pedestrian signal).
The local knowledge and dedication of community volunteers has been a critical factor in the success of this project. There were no textbooks or guidance manuals to refer to on how to work in a muddy wetland enmeshed with nightshade vines. Volunteers had to collaborate and learn as we progressed on how to be effective. The use of wood-pallet walkways, bridges and work platforms to deal with difficult mud and water conditions was conceived by the volunteers. Volunteers also collaborated with wetland experts on controlling invasives, thus leading to the use of wood chips to prevent nightshade regrowth.
When asked why she participated, frequent volunteer Dianna Maish said: “the satisfaction of being able to make a small contribution to our valued estuary through a well-planned effort to make a difference with the fruits of our labor very visible. Fellow volunteers only enhance the experience, all working to give their utmost, an unbeatable esprit de corps!” Another frequent volunteer, Heather Marks, said: “It’s been pure joy working with this dedicated group of volunteers restoring the marsh and seeing the resulting cleared stream flowing again.”
The all-volunteer work has been complemented with donations from both of Edmonds Rotary Clubs and the Olympic Fly Fishers Club. The donations allowed purchase of tools and various-sized chest-waders so volunteers could work in the deep mud and water. Double DD Meats in Mountlake Terrace donated wood pallets this year that were essential for transversing and working in the wetland.
Next year’s volunteer work, which should begin in the spring, will be planned this winter in consultation with wetland habitat and wildlife experts. The Tulalip Tribe’s beaver management experts did a site visit to evaluate the beaver dam situation and agreed to help community volunteers in planning how to “work around” the beavers when the volunteer restoration project starts again next year.
The community volunteers (in alphabetical order by first name) who participated in this years’ effort are: Allison Doak, Amelie Mederios, Belinda Hughes, Bernie Zavala, Beth Fleming, Bill Alexander, Bob Mooney, Bob Seidensticker, Bobbie Laue, Buck Steward, Chris Walton, Clinton Wright, Dave Teitzel, Diane Buckshnis, Dianna Maish, Durive Croake, Eric Norenberg, Erin Francisco, Gary Ocher, Gayla Shoemaker, Glen Fuerstneau, Heather Marks, Jacob Volpe, Jane O’Dell, Joe Scordino, John Brock, Jonathan Scordino, Kathleen Sears, Kathy Jones, Ken Schultz, Laszlo Rosman, Leah Stangohr, Lennox Norenberg, Lorraine Monroe, Mackey Guenther, Mara Yenter, Marjie Fields, Mark Bailey, Mark Grosz, Martha Badzik, Marty Jones, Max Johnson-Freire, Mikayla Monroe, Mike Rosen, Nancy Johnson, Nancy Scordino, Nathan Zeon, Noal Leonetti, Ollie Higdon, Rachel Reitz, Sally Jo Sebring, Scot Simpson, Selena Bolotin, Sophia Woeck, Tanya Randall, Teresa Schultz, Tom Hafford, Tom Kane, Valerie Rosman, Vance Ekrem, Vivian Olson, Walt Thompson, Waylisha Grey and Will Chen.
— Submitted by Joe Scordino