Orca Recovery Day event draws 100 people for a nature walk and ballinger park scavenger hunt

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Participants gather around a pond on Saturday’s Nature Walk at Ballinger Park for Killer Whale Recovery Day. (Photos by Nathan Blackwell)

Participants in a local Killer Whale Recovery Day event gathered for a nature walk in Ballinger Park in Mountlake Terrace on October 16. Participants learned about native and local invasive plants, how to create habitat for birds, and why this type of conservation work benefits Puget Sound and can also help the resident killer whale populations in the southern region.

Saturday’s event was sponsored by the Snohomish Conservation District, the Washington State Conservation Commission and the City of Mountlake Terrace. This was the fourth annual Killer Whale Recovery Day and was the first to be held at Mountlake Terrace.

Kari Quaas, conservation district community engagement project manager, said the annual event “started because of Tahlequah, the mother orca who carried her young dead for about 80 days about four years ago. , and we wanted to do something “. It originally started with the Pierce Conservation District and has since grown to include events held at locations along the West Coast stretching from California to British Columbia.

Many attendees indicated that they were happy that it had not rained during the event which drew around 100 people from across the region to Ballinger Park. Participants included a mix of children, adults, families and even a few dogs on a leash.

Snohomish Conservation District Executive Director Linda Lyshall said: “It’s a very good turnout for the event and I think it’s because it’s a beautiful place and Mountlake Terrace is just a great partner. “

Staff from the conservation district served as tour guides during the nature walk. They have reported areas, species and features of interest in the north end of Ballinger Park.

Snohomish Conservation District Youth Education Coordinator Mikaela Montanari Legarsky assists participants during the scavenger hunt.

Activities included performing water quality tests and a scavenger hunt to spot species such as Bigleaf Maple, Evergreen Pine Cone, Cat’s Tails, Great Blue Heron, Duck , mushrooms, Himalayan blackberries, western red cedars, reed canarygrass, Pacific willow, mosses, fish and amphibians.

Several people present said that the large red mushrooms with white spots and also owl vomit under a tree were particularly memorable.

Elsie Waters, 7, said seeing these mushrooms was her favorite part of the event because “I never believed they could grow so big!”

Kyla Denney-Devries, 7, who wore a plush orca hat, said she was able to find most of the items listed for the scavenger hunt. She loved seeing ducks and agreed with Waters that giant red mushrooms were her favorite too.

Waters and Denney-Devries had also recently discovered killer whales during a focused lesson at school and said it was helpful to see local actions and actual applications related to this knowledge.

Elsie Waters said seeing these mushrooms was her favorite part of the event because “I never believed they could grow so big!”

The conservation district provided documentation on native species and their importance. A printout of various actions that can be taken at home to help killer whale populations, including planting and maintaining native trees, installing a rain garden to capture and filter pollution, use garden products and non-toxic household cleaners, proper disposal of animal waste and litter. , safely dispose of medications rather than dumping them in a sewer, wash vehicles in a car wash, fix vehicle leaks, and regularly check that their tires are properly aligned, rotated and inflated.

“It’s good when people can be aware of their surroundings and see what native plants and invasive plants are, and what species share this land with us,” Quaas said. “Everything we do on earth affects water – everything flows to a body of water – and that’s where our orca is. Typically inland you have the streams and creeks that support chinook salmon, which is a killer whale’s favorite food.

Participants answered questions about salmon and saw how water quality testing is done.

Saturday’s event served to educate people about local ecosystems, wildlife, water and how they are all interconnected with the health of killer whales and their populations.

“Without this support on earth, they don’t survive,” Quaas added. “And as we have grown, the human species, we have taken back a lot of native trees and native areas / natural lands and to get them back requires restoration projects.”

An upcoming restoration project is planned at Ballinger Park to create new native plant and animal habitats. This is a joint project between the city of Mountlake Terrace and the US Army Corps of Engineers which is expected to cost $ 5.4 million. The city has received grants from the state of Washington and its estimated cost share for the project is approximately $ 875,000 which will be funded from the city’s stormwater budget.

Plans call for Hall Creek, which runs through the park, to run along a more naturally curving canal before emptying into Ballinger Lake. Removal of invasive plant species and additional wetland improvements are planned throughout Ballinger Park, along with improved walking trails and a walking section. The start of work is scheduled for 2023.

Lyshall noted that the “project they’re planning to do here is really cool. Restoring streams is an important step in restoring our habitat and restoring salmon.

Everett residents Kathleen Bradley and David Sanchez Cuesta were happy to bring home some native plants. Bradley said she regularly attends the Conservation District’s annual plant sale so she can grow native species and then give them to people. “I love native plants and wish we could get more of these green spaces and everything they do here (at Ballinger Park) is so beautiful,” she added.

Bradley said she also really enjoyed learning more about how to identify invasive plant species.

The first 60 households that registered before Saturday’s event were able to reserve a native plant to take home, and households with children in Grades 3-4 were able to reserve a home-based salmon lesson package.

Susan Kuhn, who has lived across from Ballinger Park for 25 years, chose a salal plant to take home, where she planned to be planted near a Douglas fir. Kuhn said she found Saturday’s event very informative. “I learned a lot about native birds and plants and how essential it is,” she said. “I heard about our owls, which I didn’t know lived here, and others about our trees, our vegetation here.

“I loved that they were interested in establishing more native plants here and protecting the environment,” she added. “It’s more than just a playground available to us, but that there is real protection of our natural environment and I love that. “

Mountlake Terrace resident Faith Gray, who also lives across the street from the park, said she was intrigued to learn more about her trees and how they can communicate with each other using a network including soil fungi. “It’s just amazing,” she said.

Participants line up to bring native plants home.

Several Mountlake Terrace City Council members attended Saturday’s event, including Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright and council members Laura Sonmore and Steve Woodard.

Mountlake Terrace Stormwater Program Manager Laura Reed said she was pleased with the turnout. “It was really exciting to see the enthusiasm people have for the park and for the practices to protect killer whales and to learn more about native plants. It definitely exceeded my expectations, ”she said, adding that the event was“ a resounding success for me ”.

Lyshall said many people may not be aware that the Snohomish Conservation District provides a variety of free technical services and resources to residents of Snohomish County, including by phone or in person. “We’re just here to help conserve natural resources, that’s our thing.”

Conservation district staff also encouraged parents and teachers to contact the agency about its free educational programs that can provide home or classroom instruction.

More information on the Snohomish Conservation District, including its programs, services and educational resources, can be found here.

Additional information on Orca Recovery Day and the Puget Sound Conservation Districts can be found here.

– By Nathan Blackwell


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