Edmonds Marsh future muddled by buffers, birds and tide gates

One of the few remaining urban saltwater marshes in the state is getting a lot of attention lately.

The Edmonds Marsh, one of the few remaining urban saltwater marshes in the state, is getting a lot of attention these days. The Edmonds City Council is contracting for an environmental study of the marsh that will establish a baseline of ecological conditions in and around the marsh.

One of the biggest issues is the size of a buffer to protect the marsh. The council has voted for one size of buffer, but the mayor has pushed back for another that’s smaller. Developers are lobbying to build closer to the marsh, bringing erosion and pollution into the picture.

Complicating the saltwater-freshwater issue is how often the tide gates are open to allow in saltwater. Now they’re closed for several months a year, stopping the saltwater from flushing out of the marsh.

The group Save Our Marsh is trying to prevent any more degradation to the remainder of the marsh — 22.5 acres — and restore its functions as a saltwater estuary directly connected to Puget Sound, providing juvenile rearing habitat for migrating salmon.

And Pilchuck Audubon Society has started a long-term study on how birds use the resources of a recovering salt marsh, training volunteer “bird spies” to gather information, said Cindy Easterson, president of the society.

More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in Edmonds Marsh.

“It’s a fabulous spot,” Easterson said. “But the numbers don’t tell us which birds are dependent on the marsh for some of their natural history.”

Several people have been trained to assess bird use in the half of the marsh to which they have access.

“There’s a lot of contention over that piece of property,” she said.

The volunteers do a 15-minute survey, which focuses on bird behaviors, such as breeding, foraging or taking refuge. So far there are no major surprises, but they did find a breeding black-throated gray warbler.

“That’s exciting because that’s one of the issues about the marsh; what exists here and how that would be affected by development.”

More volunteers may be trained in October. If you’re interested, contact Easterson at president@pilchuckaudubon.org. If you’d like to tag along with a trained surveyor and help spot for birds and their behaviors, let her know.

“This is one of those surveys where more eyes are better. I’m comfortable with two or three people doing the survey because there’s so much to look at and sort out who is doing what.”

The Edmonds Marsh Interpretive Walkway includes over 300 feet of boardwalk, 1,700 feet of asphalt walkway, and four interpretive stations featuring history, habitat and wildlife. It is located just south of Harbor Square at Dayton Street.

Click away. Washington Trails Association is holding its annual Northwest Exposure photography contests celebrating exploring Washington’s trails. Entries are accepted until Oct. 19. The categories are trailscapes, hikers in action, camp life, trail family, and flora and fauna. Go to www.wta.org for more information.

Goat wars. The public comment period on proposed mountain-goat-removal alternative plans for Olympic National Park has been extended to Oct. 10. The alternatives, and how to comment, can be viewed at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymgoat.

Fewer goats would reduce or eliminate environmental impacts from the non-native animals, and reduce potential public safety issues. The main question is how to remove them and, if taken alive, where to re-locate them.

Freebies. The 2018 Washington State Parks 12 free admission days start with Jan. 1 and ends Nov. 23. They are: Jan. 1, First Day Hikes; Monday, Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; March 19, State Parks’ 105th Birthday; April 14, Spring free day; April 22, Earth Day; June 2, National Trails Day; June 9, National Get Outdoors Day; June 10, Free Fishing Day; Aug. 25, National Park Service Birthday; Sept. 29, National Public Lands Day; Nov. 11, Veterans Day; Nov. 23, Autumn free day.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or songandword@rockisland.com.

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