By Kristi OHarran, Herald Columnist
There are many, many ways to support wildlife in Edmonds.
Laura Spehar, 40, is involved with every single project.
We won’t be able to list all of her activities or accomplishments for habitat, critters, birds, the shoreline, forests, gardens and streams. You need a book to detail her lifestyle and community service efforts.
Suffice it to say she’s a master gardener, beach watcher, habitat steward and friend of Perrinville Creek; serves on a frogs and toads foundation board; works for a wildlife habitat and sustainability project; belongs to a museum guild; and volunteers at an animal shelter, city park, the Lion’s club and Edmonds Public Works Department.
Spehar received the 2010 National Wildlife Federation Conservationist of the Year award, was appointed to the Edmonds Mayor’s Climate Action Team and was nominated for the People for Puget Sound’s Magnuson Award.
Born and raised on a farm outside of St. Louis, she has a degree in early childhood education and a master’s in environmental education. She is a certified Montessori teacher, and she teaches part time.
She lives with her husband, Paul Spehar, and canines Happy and Goldie Dog.
“Paul and I met and lived for a long time in Anacortes,” she said “I was originally part of the Fidalgo Wildlife Habitat Community Project steering team.”
The couple found an old llama farm in Edmonds near the Perrinville post office three years ago. There were 2 acres clogged with blackberry bushes. It could have looked like a mess to some folks, but the Spehars peered under the prickly foliage.
They’ve carved out a 2-acre wetland and posted informative signs for visitors who follow a path with a fairyland theme. People stroll through a forest, by a pond with a pair of mallards, down to a stream, past a chicken coop and a worm compost bin.
Laura Spehar said the couple’s aim is to get off the grid, meaning they will become self-sufficient on their land. They have homes for mason bees, birds and bats.
Susie Schaefer, vice president of Pilchuck Audubon Society, said Edmonds hasn’t been the same since Laura Spehar moved to town.
“She immediately started organizing all sorts of people getting Edmonds certified as a Wildlife Habitat Community,” Schaefer said. “In just two years she actually led a wide and varied group to successful certification. In the meantime she has established herself here not only as the leader of those committed to protecting wildlife but as also as a person committed to Edmonds.”
Spehar helped raise money for the library. She is a key person with Friends of the Edmonds Marsh.
“Laura is always there on the spot organizing a group to stencil storm drains all over the city, setting up car pools so people can more easily attend meetings and events, meeting with Adopt-a-Stream about Perrinville Creek, talking with the local garden club,” she said. “The list of organizations she works with is endless.”
She is not just on boards and steering committees, Schaefer said, she does the actual work that needs to be done.
“Laura is a leader who always takes time to talk to people and make them feel important. None of us can keep up with Laura— especially on the days when I receive 14 e-mails from her all about different things.”
Her passion is evident on a tour of Spehar’s acreage. She can’t take two steps without explaining what visitors are seeing. She talks about why trees fall, where coyotes sleep, the importance of salmon habitat, what critters eat, mountain berries, why we need native plants, gardening for butterflies and how great it is every summer to welcome dragonflies.
How excited can a person be about skunk cabbage?
“I am an educator and a citizen scientist,” Spehar said. “My role in life is to educate the community.”
She’ll be doing just that at the grand opening of the Willow Creek Wildlife Habitat and Native Plant Demonstration Garden from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday next to the fish hatchery at 95 Pine St. in Edmonds.
Find a ribbon cutting, tours and experts who will answer questions. The garden, designed by Nancy Moore and a team of volunteers, demonstrates how native plants can support wildlife. Leaders hope to inspire others to rebuild wildlife corridors in the high density areas of Edmonds.
The grand opening follows more than a year’s work, which started with volunteers removing blackberry, ivy and other invasive plants from the Willow Creek site. The garden was funded by the Hubbard Family Foundation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Native Plant Society.
Spehar writes grants to fund such projects.
“We are very fortunate that she and Paul live here in Edmonds,” Schaefer said. “We hope they will stay a long time.”
Laura Spehar doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. She has blackberries to chop, water to test, natives to plant, herons to monitor, Styrofoam to ban, Birdfest and a pea patch to organize and work to do on a tree ordinance board in town.
“I’m passionate,” Spehar said. “Somebody’s got to be.”
Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The grand opening of the Willow Creek Wildlife Habitat and Native Plant Demonstration Garden is planned from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, next to the fish hatchery at 95 Pine St. in Edmonds.
Five residential gardens, including a condo garden, also will be open for self-guided tours from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in conjunction with the event, sponsored by the Pilchuck Audubon Society. Tour maps will be available at the demonstration garden.
Go to www.pilchuckaudubon.org for more information.