EVERETT— For nearly three years now, Marian Hanson has been slogging through knee-deep mud puddles, tromping through thick underbrush and making her way over slick, downed logs.
Of late, Larry Gearheard has been out there with her.
On a recent gray, soaking-wet day, the two were leading a group of sailors from the USS Nimitz through the same muck, near North Creek in Everett.
The volunteer group’s mission: to clear a path for an interpretive boardwalk trail near the Adopt a Stream headquarters at the south end of McCollum Park.
Hanson started volunteering two years ago with the non-profit stream restoration and education group, documenting the plants and animals in the wooded wetland area. It wound up becoming the thesis for her master’s degree in landscape architecture.
“It was so much fun I just stuck with it,” Hanson said.
Hanson, 56, of Lynnwood, returned to school at age 49 to earn her master’s degree from the University of Washington-Bothell.
Gearheard, of Bothell, has been volunteering with the group for about a year, doing handyman jobs around the group’s Stream Center. Recently, he’s been using his chain saw to clear downed logs and dead trees from the boardwalk path.
At 66, Gearheard is retired but still has a lot of energy, he said. He runs, hikes and climbs mountains and believes in Adopt a Stream’s cause.
“I want to see the natural streams in this area be taken care of and not just be like an L.A.-area strip mall,” he said.
Gearheard volunteered at Adopt a Stream because he’s drawn to “any efforts where I sense the people involved are being honest and heartfelt.”
The group has many valuable volunteers, director Tom Murdoch said, but Hanson and Gearheard have stood out because of the long hours they’ve put in.
“They just go out and do it,” he said.
Before he retired, Gearheard ran Baker Industries, which did pollution control at fueling sites. Earlier, he was the plant manager at Ace Tank of Tukwila, which built double- and triple-hulled fuel tanks.
He’s put his mechanical knowledge and experience to use at Adopt a Stream. He built a structure to support a “green,” growing rooftop as part of the group’s trout stream exhibit.
“He (Murdoch) had been quoted a lot of money and I did it for virtually nothing,” Gearheard said.
Now, he’s planning to build some steel shutters for the plexiglass viewing window at the stream exhibit. This will include drilling bolts into concrete.
“I’m just going to do it for the cost of the metal,” Gearheard said.
Hanson works part-time with her husband “flipping” houses and doing some landscape design, but working in the woods is her first love.
Adopt a Stream for years has been planning the $500,000 boardwalk project and is hoping to get it built this year. The trail, complete with educational signs, would loop about a half-mile through the woods east of North Creek and around the wetland area. The group leases the land from Snohomish County.
Hanson estimates she’s taken 15,000 photos on the site.
“It’s one of those projects that gets under your skin and you can’t let go of it until it’s done,” Hanson said.
Most of the money has been raised but much work remains. About 20 sailors from Naval Station Everett have pitched in but more volunteers are welcome.
The work is slow because the group is trying to preserve as many plants as possible— digging them up and replanting them off the boardwalk path as opposed to discarding them. Plants include sedges, ferns and skunk cabbage.
It takes about 20 minutes to slog to the end of the trail, so on a recent day Hanson brought a bag of granola bars with her to feed the group.
In addition to his work with the chain saw, Gearheard led a group of sailors in cleaning up a former transient camp and hauling out the garbage.
“I could not get this done if it weren’t for them,” Murdoch said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Adopt a Stream or its boardwalk project, visit www.streamkeeper.org or call 425-316-8592.