From a pile of refuse to wildlife habitat
Jetty Island is a wildlife conservation area filled with plants, animals and insects. That's amazing considering it got its start as a pile of sand, rocks and refuse.
It all started in 1892 when Henry Hewitt Jr. wanted to create a freshwater harbor at the mouth of the Snohomish River, said Everett historian David Dilgard. To do that, a dike was built to pool the riverwater, hoping that would discourage saltwater borers from damaging wooden hull ships.
The venture didn't go well.
First a financial panic the following year put the project on hold. The Army Corps of Engineers took up the project four years later. There wasn't enough money to do the project right and engineers underestimated the sheer amount of sediment continually dumped by the river.
Over the next several decades, the dikes would be built, breached and rebuilt. Meanwhile, all that sludge dropped off by the Snohomish was being pumped and piled just off the waterfront -- the beginnings of Jetty Island.
The Port of Everett took over in 1929. Planners for the city of Everett and the Port continued to draw and redraw plans for the jetty well into the 1970s. They wanted industry.
The people of Everett wanted a park. The Kiwanis Club built a sun shelter in 1965 and tried launching a ferry to and from Jetty Island. That idea had to be abandoned -- too much river sediment clogged the route to the island. It's now dredged on a regular basis.
By the 1980s, the Port was working with community groups on a plan to use clean sediment to build a protective berm and extend Jetty Island.
Today, Jetty Island is a wildlife conservation area and a sandy oasis an estimated 40,000 people enjoy each summer. Sediment is still used to replenish and reinforce it.
Everett's chief naturalist Kraig Hansen estimates the island is home to dozens of plant and animal species as well as various animals that are transient. The black-tailed deer, for instant, will swim far to graze on the island's salt-laden grasses.
Most of the plants and animals have found their way to the island on their own, with the exception of some still small shore pines planted by an environmental group and wild strawberries planted on the south end.
Some plants, such as invasive Scotch broom, threaten to bully out other species.
Anyone with a boat can visit Jetty Island but the city of Everett runs a free ferry to Jetty Island from July to Labor Day.
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