Category Archives: Stewardship

Where are the Whidbey Watershed Stewards Working?

WWS_Map_Smallest

As of September 2015, Whidbey Watershed Stewards is the proud steward for six Whidbey Island properties. Please read below for a more detailed description of the long-term goals, activities, and locations of each site: 

The Lower Maxwelton Roadside Property

This small parcel of land is in the lower valley of Maxwelton Creek, lying to the east of Maxwelton Road and just west of what had been the creek’s main channel. Sloping from the county roadside down to what was once a tidal marshland, the site provides a good vantage point for views of the lower valley and its seasonal flows of wildlife.
 
Acquired by private gift in 1996 from Joseph Miller [ to Chums of Maxwelton ]. Whidbey Watershed Stewards hosts restoration events in attempt to return the vegetation to its most biologically stable state. 
Lower Maxwelton Roadside Property

The Lower Maxwelton Roadside Property

Old Clinton Creek

This property was purchased by the Old Clinton Creek non-profit organization for $5,000 in 1994. Whidbey Watershed Stewards acquired the property from OCC upon its dissolution in 2010. 
Old Clinton Creek, made up mostly of nearby residents, bought this irregular parcel in 1994. It holds a rare year ‘round stream, hidden at the bottom of a brushy ravine. The 19th century estuary at the stream’s mouth was completely eliminated by residential shoreline development, 
as our current parcel’s boundaries were drawn by the placement of other lots around it  — both along the flatter ground below and along the upper edge of the creek’s ravine. An excerpt from OCC’s 501(c)(3) application in fall 1995 further describes the property: 
 
The property purchased by the association early in 1995 had been surrounded in recent years by expanding development around the town of Clinton, Washington. In contrast to the adjacent area, it retains natural vegetative cover and is a rich environment for native species diversity. It contains a small stream flowing into Puget Sound, an associated wetland, and the slopes on either side of the stream. The initial impetus for the association’s formation was the fact that this property had been placed on the commercial real estate market, and appeared to be in danger of losing its natural character through subsequent development or cutting of the mature trees along its edge.
It is the belief of the association’s Board that the action of preserving ecological function in sensitive and environmentally rich areas is of inherent value …
Old Clinton Creek Property

Old Clinton Creek Property

Freeland Wetland Preserve

The Freeland Wetland Preserve is an open space of approximately 45 acres located east of Freeland, WA near Newman, Double Bluff, and Scott Roads. In 2014, the Friends of Freeland, a local non-profit, donated this area to the Whidbey Watershed Stewards with the intention of conserving the area forever as open space for public education and passive recreational enjoyment.  The area consists almost exclusively of wetlands, providing a natural habitat for plants and wildlife.

Native species of wetland and riparian plants dominate the property. The Whidbey Watershed Stewards intend to protect the diverse native plant community from competition by invasive species through specific removal of these invasive species. No removal of native species or intentional alteration of the hydrology of the site is to occur. This area serves as an important habitat for bird, mammal, and amphibian species.

Whidbey Watershed Stewards maintains The Freeland Wetland Preserve property as public open space and conservation property. No alterations to the site will occur with the exception of those intended to protect public safety (dangerous tree removal), or restoration activities (invasive plant removal, replanting).

Freeland Wetland Preserve

Freeland Wetland Preserve

Freeland Wetland Preserve Entrance from Newman Road

Freeland Wetland Preserve Entrance from Newman Road

Robinson Beach

In April 2013, Whidbey Watershed  Stewards adopted the Frank D. Robinson Beach Park off Mutiny Bay Rd (on Robinson Rd). Our first goal was to remove all the noxious weeds and plant, encourage native plants to “retake” the park. In the first year we removed most the large Scot’s Broom and immediately saw many of the natural plant life reestablishing its claim to the beach. Recently, we planted some shore pines and are continuing to remove undesirable plant-life as it appears. Volunteer work for the beach park occurs every couple of months. E-mail rick.baker@whidbeywatersheds.org if you want to get the notices.

Robinson Beach

Robinson Beach

The Outdoor Classroom

Since the opening of the Outdoor Classroom in 1997, Whidbey Watershed Stewards has presented a steady program of K-5 lessons in spring and fall sessions. Each lesson is aligned with grade level learning objectives and is developed and guided by our staff. We have grown and adapted our lessons over the years, and continue to improve and meet the needs of teachers and students.

The self-guided trail at the Outdoor Classroom site is open to the public year-round. We only ask that you respect the nature preserve and not disturb the wildlife and plants. Please have your dog on a leash while you walk, and pick up poop. The trail and boardwalk platforms are wheelchair accessible. A brochure at the information kiosk explains the viewpoints and the watershed system. Comments can be left in the kiosk mailbox.

Outdoor Classroom-2 Outdoor Classroom -3Outdoor Classroom

Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve

Smith and Minor Islands (S&M) lie a few miles off the western shore of Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor. The Islands exist within the 36,300 acres of tidelands and seafloor habitat of the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve which are managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Aquatic reserves are zones of the seas and coasts where wildlife is protected from damage and disturbance and are widely promoted as a means of fostering biodiversity, achieving more natural population structures and managing exploited fish populations. DNR has establishing aquatic reserves throughout the state to protect important native ecosystems. It is an effort to promote the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of state-owned aquatic lands that are of special educational, scientific, or environmental interest. As part of this effort DNR created the Aquatic Reserve Citizen Science Program which consists of partnerships between non-profit organizations like Whidbey Watershed Stewards and DNR at each of the seven Reserves. Lots of opportunities to do research, outreach, work side-by-side with researchers. If you’re interested e-mail rick.baker@whidbeywatersheds.org to get the notices.

A research quadrant.

A research quadrant.

Smith & Minor-4

Smith & Minor-3

Thank You to Native Plant Stewards!

Whidbey Watershed Stewards (WWS) wants to send a huge thank you to the Native Plant Stewards of Whidbey Island for donating native plants. Whidbey Watershed Stewards owns or manages several properties where we are trying to reduce and or remove invasive plant species such as scotch broom, black berry, English ivy, and replace them with native plant species that will provide better habitat for wildlife. The Native Plant Steward’s donation will help us in that endeavor!

Whidbey Watershed Stewards will be holding regular stewardship days where we will be
removing invasive plants. If you are interested in helping, let us know and we will contact you about volunteering.

New Research this Spring at Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve

Click here to hear about Rick’s Excellent Kelp Harvesting Adventure!

New/More/Better Adventures Coming to Smith and Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve

The subject of our last 3 committee meetings of 2015 revolved around analysis and presentation of our data from this last year and planning where to direct our efforts in 2016. Sam Payne, AmeriCorps volunteer for the DNR, gave a great presentation of the data we collected last summer measuring kelp growth and the affect of harvesting on the habitat. We also looked at data we collected on harvester activities and behaviors. Linda Rhodes, from Island MRC, gave us an update on the bull kelp survey that the MRC conducted last summer using kayaks and GPSs. We were curious about this project because we are looking for possible ways these two data sets might overlap and complement each other. We are planning on continuing our kelp harvesting research next summer.
We also discussed next steps to implement the disturbance survey which will monitor the human uses of the shores of the Reserve. This study will examine the interactions people are having with wildlife starting in winter and continuing through the summer. Volunteers will monitor beaches for 30 minutes and record activities they observe on a field card and subsequently upload the data onto a database. The monitoring is intended to provide a baseline for the types and amount of uses in and adjacent the reserve as well as describing the variety of disturbances to wildlife and to detect patterns. Acquired baseline information will be used for development of the Reserve. If you are interested in volunteering, send me, Rick Baker an e-mail at rick.baker@whidbeywatersheds.org.
All the data collection sheets, instructions and information about the survey is on the WWS webpage (whidbeywatersheds.org), click on “Citizen Science, S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve”. We will be scheduling training and rolling all this out in January. The committee is formulating its vision for the Reserve, future citizen science projects and next year’s outreach effort, lots of exciting new developments. See you next month!
Below is a working list of the committee’s goals for next year. If you would like to participate contact rick.baker@whidbeywatersheds.org

Educational Outreach

  • Create Educational Display for Outreach, Include S&M Jeopardy Game
  • Develop, Design, Install Interpretive Signs
  • Brochure about Smith & Minor – Update Existing Brochure, Print More
  • Community Aquatic Reserve Watch – Engage Locals, Home Owners Above Reserve, Inform  
  •      About AR, Enlist Participation.

Citizen Science

  • Kelp Monitoring And Public Outreach to Harvesters – Revise, Next Spring
  • Disturbance Monitoring – Collect Data – Interactions Between Public & Wildlife.

Public Events

  • Penn Cove Mussel Festival – Public Outreach
  • Penn Cove Water Festival – Public Outreach

 Smith and Minor (S&M) Islands lie a few miles off the western shore of Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor and are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a National Wildlife Refuge. The Islands lie within the 36,300 acres of tidelands and seafloor habitat of the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve which are managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Being the largest kelp forest in the Puget Sound, much of the kelp lies west of S&M Islands accessible only by boat and is not harvested. To the east of S&M Islands, within the tidelands and along the west side of Whidbey Island are significant kelp beds which are harvested recreationally. The management plan for the Reserve states that there are over 300 species of algae and that the kelp beds are one of the most important aquatic habitats protected in the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve. In addition, the habitat is home to many spawning fish and invertebrates, such as surf smelt making it prime habitat for juvenile salmon. It has the only ground nesting bald eagle site, and has the only nesting tufted puffins in Puget Sound.

Smith-Minor-Aquatic-Reserve       Aquatic reserves are zones of the seas and coasts where wildlife is protected from damage and disturbance and are widely promoted as a means of protecting biodiversity, achieving more natural population structures and managing exploited fish populations. As steward of 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, the DNR has and is establishing aquatic reserves throughout the state to protect important native ecosystems. It is an effort to promote the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of state-owned aquatic lands that are of special educational, scientific, or environmental interest. As part of this effort DNR created the Aquatic Reserve Community Science Program which consists of partnerships between non-profit organizations like Whidbey Watershed Stewards and DNR at each of the Reserves. At present the seven Reserves are at Cherry Point, Fidalgo Bay, Cypress Island, Smith and Minor Island, Protection Island, Maury Island and Nisqually Reach.

       At S&M Aquatic Reserve all kelp harvesting occurs in 1-2 feet of water, in the spring months by recreational harvesters at minus tides (-2 and lower). Harvesters must have a shellfish/seaweed license, and the regulations for harvesting are specified on their license and posted on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) webpage. Over the years the numbers of people harvesting during the spring months has increased. Casual comments from other beach goers, beach combers suggest that maybe the kelp is not always harvested sustainably which could be contributing to the degradation of the overall habitat. The scientific community weighs in that little research has ever been done on the effect of kelp harvesting on this critical habitat.

         Whidbey Watershed Stewards is facilitating a Community Science effort with support from DNR and the scientific expertise, technical support of Island County Marine Resource Committee (MRC). Two research strands will be developed and applied to this project. First, we will be gathering data on the amount of harvestable kelp within the Reserve, its abundance and rate of growth through the summer. We will also attempt to assess the amount of kelp being removed by harvesters during this time period. Second, we will be collecting social data, observing harvesting methods, general knowledge of sustainable harvesting practices. It is our hope that our presence there conducting research, gathering data will lead to us providing information on the importance of sustainable harvesting to participants in an non-threatening way.

If this sounds interesting and you would like to get involved, please contact Rick Baker at: rick.baker@whidbeywatersheds.org.

By Rick Baker

Beach Monitoring Training April 13th – 11am

We will be doing a project to monitor human use and possible disturbances of birdlife along the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve this spring. Come for a short and fun explanation of the project, then get out to sit on the beach and document usage.

Meeting at Ebey’s Landing at 11am – let’s hope for a nice weather while we’re at it!

Beach Monitoring Training April 9th at 5:30pm

We will be doing a project to monitor human use and possible disturbances of birdlife along the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve this spring and summer. Come for a short and fun explanation of the project, then get out to sit on the beach and document usage. You can see a full description under Stewardship and “Aquatic Reserve Watch”

Meeting at Ebey’s Landing at 5:30 – let’s hope for a nice sunset while we’re at it!

Freeland Wetland April 5 9am-12noon

Come help us get our newest South Whidbey Park ready for the public! We are working with Friends of Freeland, and hosting an Earth and Ocean Day event at the wetland, followed by the annual Peace Picture taking at Bayview.

We need to finish work around the new sign kiosk, the parking area planting and trail work. Please come with hand tools – rakes, shovels and loppers are all useful! We’ll be there from 9-12 and can’t wait to show you around the property and get it spiffed up!

Join us Restoring the Dalzell Wetland

Greetings all!

Join Whidbey Watershed Stewards restoring the Dalzell Wetland at the head of Glendale Creek. We’ve been working to restore the wetland hydrology on this site, and now it’s ready to plant! We’ve got plants and stakes ready to install, and we need your help! Join us on Friday, March 7 and Saturday the 15!

We’ll be on the site from 10AM to 3PM, please come when you can! Bring a shovel, warm clothes, boots for wet and uneven ground and work gloves. We’ll provide the rest.

Directions: The land is on the corner of Cattron Rd. and Cultus Bay Rd. There is no house, just an open field that you can see from the road. Heading South from Hwy 525 on Cultus Bay Rd. it will be on your left, just before the intersection of French Rd. Park either along Cattron, or Cultus Bay and you will easily see our white welcome tent.