Explore a wetland, without getting wet, at Northwest Stream Center

  • By Jessi Loerch Herald Writer
  • Friday, October 16, 2015 3:54pm
  • LifeEverett

Details matter at the Northwest Stream Center.

During the process of building a raised boardwalk that winds through a wetland, crews drilled countless holes in the recycled-plastic lumber boards. For each hole, a little twirl of plastic lumber came out. Those pieces were carefully collected and saved and, along with the other, larger scrap pieces, were all sent back to the manufacturer to be turned into more plastic lumber.

That level of care is evident throughout the creation of the Adopt A Stream Foundation’s Northwest Stream Center, a partnership with Snohomish County Parks. The elevated boardwalk through a 20-acre wetland will be a star attraction at the center when it opens next year.

Once the trail is ready to go, the Northwest Stream Center will be open to the public six days a week. Currently, it’s open for special events only. The center is located at the back of McCollum Park in Everett.

When the boardwalk opens, admission will be limited to 30 people each half hour, probably on a reservation system. Limiting the number of visitors ensures guests will have the best experience and not get crowded together on the trail.

Guests will begin the tour at a small building where they will check-in and pay. The building is a Modern-Shed, an eco-friendly designed building. It’s set up on concrete pillars to minimize impact to the soil and it has a living roof to absorb rainwater — and look cool.

After the entrance, visitors walk past a large tank with 4-by-8-foot viewing windows. The tank has freshwater mussels, cutthroat trout and crawfish, along with other species. Visitors will also be able to see the streambed itself and get an understanding of what spawning habitat looks like. Interpretive signs will help people understand how the ecosystem of a stream works.

The trail, which will be wheelchair-accessible, then winds for about half a mile through about 20 acres of wetland.

Back in 1993, the area included a parking lot. The Adopt a Stream Foundation removed the parking lot and rejuvenated the area. It wasn’t an easy process. What is now a wet meadow, for instance, used to be covered in four to five feet of nightshade that had to be pulled out by hand.

Now, it showcases four of the five scientific classifications of wetlands, said Tom Murdoch, executive director. The area is also home to many native species of both plants and animals including ducks, raptors, deer, coyotes and more.

“We like to think that Mother Nature would be happy with what she sees here,” Murdoch said.

Walking along the boardwalk offers a fascinating view into a wetland, something that’s usually difficult to get, unless you like standing knee-to-waist-deep in water and mud.

Various species of ferns line the trail, fungus cover some logs and birds sing from the trees above. From this spot, it’s hard to believe that I-5 is so close, about half a mile to the west.

Murdoch hopes that, once the center is open to the public, it will draw people from all over the region to get an intimate look at a wetland and learn about how to be good stewards of nearby waterways.

“We want people to take advantage of coming here so they can get a very thorough introduction to the interconnection between forest, wetlands, streams, fish, wildlife and people,” Murdoch said. “We want you to really learn.”

Upcoming events

Volunteers needed: The Adopt A Stream Foundation is planting several hundred trees and shrubs near Catherine Creek in Lake Stevens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 24. If you’re interested in volunteering, call 425-316-8592 or email Marla Koberstein at marlak@streamkeeper.org.

Volunteers should dress for the weather, including shoes appropriate for wet ground. Snacks will be provided but bring a lunch if you’re staying for the full time.

Over time, the vegetation will shade the water and help keep it cool, which salmon prefer, and the roots will help stabilize the stream bank.

Lagoon creatures: Learn about the fascinating feeding habits of dragonfly larvae during a presentation at the Northwest Stream Center, in McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett. After the presentation, watch the 1950s classic movie “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Reservations required. Call 425-316-8592. Tickets are $5, $3 for Adopt A Stream members.

Wolverines: Learn about the wily wolverine from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Northwest Stream Center. Keith Aubry, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service will talk about the wolverines and his work researching them. Reservations required. Call 425-316-8592. Tickets are $7, $5 for Adopt A Stream members.

Beavers: Get a good look at the world of beavers with a film that shows their day to day life. The film is at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Northwest Stream Center. After the show, Tom Murdoch will answer questions about beavers’ habits and habitats. Free, but reservations required by calling 425-316-8592.

Trees: Get a living tree for the holiday season from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the NW Stream Center. After the holidays, you can plant the tree or bring it back and NW Stream Center staff or volunteers will plant it near a local salmon stream. Call 425-316-8592 with questions.

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