Streams of conscience: Adopt-a-Stream has helped rehabilitate habitats since 1981

  • By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 21, 2008 1:44pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Months ago, Leonard Goodisman looked out at his yard and realized it needed some work.

A creek running through the property in Bothell was collapsing in on itself, and thorny weeds such as Himalayan blackberry were taking hold after a steer he once owned had grazed down his plants.

“It was a lot more than I could handle by myself,” he said.

Through a federal program he was connected to the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, an Everett-based nonprofit group that attempts to bring land back to a more natural state.

Now that the foundation has finished work on his property, it intends to tackle similar projects in Marysville and on Whidbey Island. On March 28 and 29, the foundation hopes to improve land along a tributary in the Quil Ceda watershed. Also on March 29, it will team up with volunteers to plant native species near a fish culvert on Whidbey Island.

The projects suit the foundation, which began in 1981 as a county program that aimed to build public awareness about the importance of some 3,000 miles of creeks, streams and rivers in Snohomish County.

Since breaking off from the county in 1985, the foundation has expanded its horizons. Today, it also strengthens creek banks, opens migratory channels for salmon and removes invasive species — plants such as the Himalayan blackberry that are not native to the state.

The group sometimes works in public parks, but most of its efforts focus on private land. People such as Goodisman get in touch with the foundation, and if a property falls in line with the foundation’s goals, Adopt-a-Stream may try to revitalize the land.

While the foundation also identifies projects on its own, sometimes word-of-mouth helps it concentrate on a particular stretch of water, as one neighbor relays a positive experience to another.

“Hopefully it’s sort of a domino effect,” Tom Hardy, a foundation ecologist, said.

Hardy, a six-year employee of the foundation, enjoys his job. Returning to a location after a few years, he may see twigs he planted standing three feet tall, or know salmon can live and breed in a stream again.

Granted, pulling out prickly weeds isn’t a joy.

“It’s a little more dirty work, not as much fun,” he said.

That task — site prep, he called it — is usually handled by the foundation itself.

“But then usually the volunteers come in and do the planting,” Hardy said. “Oftentimes we mulch around the plants as well. That helps keep the weeds down and the moisture around the plants.”

That foundation’s efforts were on full display in Goodisman’s back yard.

After partnering with the Snohomish Conservation District, the Adopt-A-Stream crew planted dogwood and willow trees along Swamp Creek, which babbles through Goodisman’s property. The trees’ fast-growing root systems could slow erosion on the creek bank.

About 70 schoolchildren helped get roughly 400 plants in the ground. Blue tree collars now protect the little sprouts.

Goodisman said he was pleased with the job, noting that the foundation is good at mobilizing a volunteer force, even if it is schoolchildren.

“It’s little things like that, that make it a success, instead of an unpleasant experience,” Goodisman said.

Reporter Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455 or e-mail

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