Pearl Jam’s gift to the Stilly

ARLINGTON — The email came out of the blue in February.

It was from Pearl Jam rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, and he had a question for Arlington’s natural resources manager Bill Blake.

Could Pearl Jam donate money to Arlington for use in planting native trees along the Stillaguamish River?

Blake fired back a quick reply: “Yes, please.”

As part of Arlington’s Arbor Day celebration today, volunteers are set to plant more than 500 native shrubs and trees in the city’s new Country Charm Recreation and Conservation Area, the former Graafstra dairy farm.

To the tune of $8,000, the members of the Seattle-based, internationally acclaimed band bought the native plants to help offset the pollution Pearl Jam members figure they produce when the group goes on tour.

Pearl Jam, which is celebrating its 20th year, donated $210,000 in 2010 to the Cascade Land Conservancy to plant 33 acres of native trees throughout the Puget Sound area.

About seven weeks ago, Gossard wrote to Blake asking if Pearl Jam could help out in Arlington.

“Every tour we do a carbon offset to mitigate the thousands of tons of carbon we release with our planes, trucks and cars. We thought maybe Arlington might be a great city to partner with to do our next one,” Gossard wrote to Blake. “We pay for trees to be planted, hopefully restoring wetlands and critical areas. Any thoughts?”

Where Gossard got the idea for donating trees to Arlington, Blake doesn’t know, except that he picked up from Gossard that the guitarist likes the Stilly.

During March, Gossard and Blake continued to correspond by email.

“We worked it out that they needed to help plant about 4.6 acres of trees to mitigate for their 2011 summer and fall tour carbon footprint,” Blake said. “With the help of the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force, trees will be planted this spring and again in the fall.”

Other groups helping to plant trees, establish a public garden area, improve access for kayakers, put in an off-leash dog area and build a campground at the park include the Arlington Rotary Club, Boy Scouts, church groups, William’s Pipeline Co., Don Tillman, Snohomish County and the state.

More volunteers are needed today to plant Pearl Jam’s trees, Blake said. The Arbor Day planting is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the conservation area, 604 E. Gilman, along the river.

The city and the task force plan to supply training, tools, snacks and beverages. People need to wear boots and gloves and bring rain gear and extra food if they need it.

The plants will improve river conditions for salmon and protect the new park from flooding effects, Blake said. The river was once home to more than 20,000 chinook salmon, said John Newberry of the fisheries enhancement task force, and the hope is that a good fish habitat will help build the population up again.

A grand opening at Country Charm is planned for the summer.

Blake, a member of the Stillaguamish Watershed Council, also is working with Gossard and Pat Stevenson of the Stillaguamish Tribe on a council project to preserve about 1,000 acres of forest land in the upper Stillaguamish watershed.

“We would like to preserve the land to go to a 150-year forest harvest rotation instead of the normal 40- to 50-year rotation,” Blake said. “This should help with … impacts on climate change, reduce flooding, improve wildlife habitat and secure some level of sustainable forestry jobs and products we’ll all depend on 150 years into the future.”

Gossard has been participating in ecological and philanthropic efforts for many years. He and his family live in Seattle, where he grew up.

“I offered to take Stone and his family on a float trip down the Stilly this summer,” Blake said. “Arlington is very fortunate to have Pearl Jam offering their assistance. I hope that someday they can come play some songs down at Country Charm and the citizens will figure out a way to show their appreciation.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

To help

Arlington Arbor Day tree planting event: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Country Charm Conservation and Recreation Area, 604 E. Gilman, Arlington. Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force, 425-252-6686.

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