(Photo by Dennis Hinton)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog Editor
Every fall, volunteers watch Fauntleroy Creek signs of coho salmon swimming home to spawn.
The stream is one of the few in town where salmon still return.
(“Wally”, a 2016 Fauntleroy Creek Coho photographed by Mark Ahlness)
It’s hospitable again thanks to the helping hands of the man decades ago, volunteers who trained the Fauntleroy Watershed Council.
As they celebrate the council’s 20th anniversary, the dedicated volunteers at the heart of the group now hope to welcome more neighbors into the fold – whether for one-off events or recurring attendance. There’s a lot to do – today, for example, volunteers were clearing the logs from the mouth of the stream (top photo), so returning breeders didn’t face a “road obstacle. “.
And earlier this month, we attended their last bi-monthly meeting, a laid-back celebration combined with updates and business. Participants gathered on the patio of the house of longtime volunteers (and neighbors of the creek) Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland.
A highlight was the presentation of two very young volunteers – sisters Estela and Vivian Martin, Arbor Heights Elementary students who recently studied dog droppings in the watershed along the trails of Fauntleroy Park, through which a large part of the stream passes. We reported on their work in May.
(BMS photo from May)
At the meeting, they presented the results of six monthly surveys along the trail. April was the worst for people who didn’t pick up their dogs – 17 places. The monthly average was 11. The sisters were also engaged in education, through the temporary placement of small signs in the park; they reported that half of the people they saw had their dogs off leash. Their findings also incorporated basic research – the oft-cited statistic that Seattle has more dogs than children; the theory that some people added dogs to their families due to pandemic isolation.
Their presentation also offered suggestions for the Watershed Council to communicate and connect more effectively with the community – such as website updates, perhaps park signage that promotes the website and volunteering, and in a fusion of those ideas, bringing in a digital media volunteer. Plus, get more kids involved!
Vivian and Estela received enthusiastic applause at the end of their presentation. They weren’t the first to study dog droppings in the park. . “This is an ongoing issue for the council, which incorporated girls’ work in the last report:
The young volunteers received certificates honoring their contributions. Volunteering might not make you rich, but it can give you great appreciation – and knowing that you’re helping something that can’t speak for itself – in this case, the brook salmon. Anything in the park can drain into the creek, a council member noted. Peggy Cummings.
As the creek runs through a park, the work of volunteers intersects with that of municipal agencies, including Seattle Parks, whose Carole Boulanger was present. They told him about a persistent drainage problem near the Cambridge Street entrance. Plans to address this are progressing slowly, Baker said. Discussions focused on how to warn park visitors that the trail in this area is a bit “rough” and whether signage might be a good idea.
Stewardship of the stream can also mean advocating for its interests in other areas. Pickens is on the Community advisory group for the Fauntleroy ferry terminal replacement project, “look at the stream”, since its mouth is just south of the wharf. Not only does she keep an eye on the scope of the project, but also on the construction plans, since the runoff from the site would flow into the coastal habitat. Improving drainage in the completed project would be a boon, she added, as the vehicles’ contribution to toxic runoff is so damaging to fish (as recent research on tire dust has shown).
Upstream from the ferry dock, they also look after a pocket garden at Fauntleroy School. A now closed school would maintain it, Cummings said. The garden “struggles but continues”, needs mulch and fences.
Another activity: filling the park brochure holders.
And then a discussion of what is at the heart of this report: The quest for new volunteers. It is difficult to get commitments, observed Dennis hinton. But they’re optimistic that the opportunities will resonate with people looking for a meaningful way to get involved, whether it’s a one-time event or a recurring involvement. It’s also a challenge for other watershed groups around the city, Pickens noted. There is a specific time in life when volunteering makes the most sense, suggested Cummings – somewhere between the “too busy with my family” and “too old to keep doing this” years.
Then again, they’ve had volunteers of all ages – Vivian and Estela, for example – so they’re open to help from anyone and everyone.
As the afternoon shadows moved across the patio, the meeting ended. Pickens has promised us a list of ways you can get involved – and here it is:
The Fauntleroy Watershed Council is always looking for energy and new ideas, whether for a one-off project or for a while. Contact us via fauntleroywatershed.org to explore volunteering for any of these tasks:
-Clean the kiosks and brochure holders at the Barton and 97th entrances to Fauntleroy Park and update the photos.
-Work with the city’s Tree Ambassadors program to create a tree walk showcasing interesting / important trees in Fauntleroy Park.
-Plan, create and install laminated orientation signage at key locations in Fauntleroy Park.
-Help with salmon releases at Fauntleroy Park (May).
-Be a guide for the open house at the fish ladder during the spawning season (Oct./Nov.).
-Join the watershed council to plan and coordinate activities; meets only five times / year.
(Also – salmon watchers, starting October 16; contact Pickens directly at [email protected] if you are interested.)
You are also welcome to attend Fauntleroy Watershed Council meetings – the next one tentatively set for November 11, probably online. (And the work of the council is funded by donations, which can be made here.)
If you’ve never been to Fauntleroy Creek and want to take a peek before wondering if you want to help, there are a few places to take a look – enter Fauntleroy Park from the Barton entrance, or go to the lookout just south of the SW director’s end at Upper Fauntleroy Way, across the street and upstream from the ferry dock.