Sedro-Woolley, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group launch park project

August 12, 2018

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — East of Sedro-Woolley’s dog park and fewer than 1,000 feet from the Skagit River sits about 12 acres of unused city-owned land — much of it overrun by blackberry brambles.

Through a first-time partnership, the city and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group have plans to transform 7 acres into an extension of the dog park and neighboring Riverfront Park.

“The city is excited about it ... Any time we can use partnerships to improve public property at little or no cost with a public benefit, it’s a great thing,” Sedro-Woolley Parks & Recreation Operations Supervisor Nathan Salseina said.

With grant funding from the state Department of Ecology and the environment-focused Rose Foundation, the city and Skagit Fisheries will remove invasive plants, including Himalayan blackberry and English ivy.

They’ll then plant native trees and shrubs along an unnamed stream and pond. They also plan to build a loop trail and install interpretive signs.

The project, which is expected to cost about $60,000, received $25,000 from the Rose Foundation and is earmarked in a larger water quality grants package from Ecology for various projects in Skagit County.

The project received grant funding from Ecology because the stream, which is a tributary to the Skagit River, is polluted, according to federal Clean Water Act standards.

“Our biggest focus is on water quality in the stream because it connects directly with the river,” Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group riparian restoration coordinator Kelsey Taylor said.

Improving water quality in the stream will have a positive impact on the river and salmon, and it will ultimately contribute to the health of the watershed, she said.

The project will also create a new park space for walking, watching wildlife and learning about the environment, Salseina said.

The property has sat unused for years due to its location in the floodplain.

“We’re happy to see something happening with this property because it’s been sitting here since 1999,” Salseina said.

Several homes once lined a road on that same land, and some of the largest trees still standing on the property mark the yards where they were planted in the not-so-distant past.

“It reminds me of the ‘I am Legend’ movie ... like this is what would happen if people just left or disappeared,” Salseina said while walking through part of the property.

The city and Skagit Fisheries plan to plant about 5,000 trees, berry bushes and flowering plants and build a short horseshoe-shaped trail meandering alongside the pond and stream.

“The idea is to make it like a day-use area where people can walk, with interpretive signage and picnic tables. That’s really the only thing we can do with it since it’s in the floodplain,” Salseina said.

They don’t plan to do that work alone. The project will rely on volunteers and community groups lending a hand, including local schools and youth groups.

Work began this summer to mow down blackberry, making more of the property visible. Trail building is expected to begin in spring 2019, followed by planting in 2019 and 2020.

When complete, the new park space will be a community asset and an educational tool for programs such as Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group’s Junior Stream Stewards.

“We’re looking at this as being a great place for students to look at riparian habitat, water quality and salmon,” Taylor said.

“This is a public park, so this is a place students will be able to come back to and say ‘I planted that tree,’” she said. “Over time this will become more of a forested park and I think it’s something that the community will be really proud of.”

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