Building’s demolition could yield better fish habitat for Mill Creek

MILL CREEK — An old building that once housed a well-known restaurant in Mill Creek may be torn down, allowing the restoration of a wetland along a stream used by trout and salmon.

The 51-year-old building, once home to Larry’s Smokehouse, could be demolished sometime next summer. The building, which has stood empty for years, is in poor condition and has become a target for vandalism, Mill Creek community development director Bill Trimm said.

Near the base of the building runs Mill Creek, a tributary to North Creek that is home to cutthroat trout and also serves as spawning ground for silver salmon.

The building’s owner is working toward an agreement with the city of Mill Creek and the nonprofit Adopt-a-Stream Foundation to have the building demolished. Once restored by Adopt-a-Stream, the property would be transferred to the city as open space.

“It’s a win-win for all, and the biggest winner of all will be Mill Creek — not the city, the stream,” said Tom Murdock, executive director of Adopt-a-Stream.

For the smokehouse to be torn down as planned, the conservation foundation may need to find grant money to cover the demolition costs. At this point, the Mill Creek City Council has not expressed interest in covering those costs, city manager Tim Burns said.

The project will likely have to wait until next summer. The presence of salmon in Mill Creek prevents construction along the stream between mid-October and mid-June.

“I think this project will be attractive enough that we will be able to get some grant sources to pay for the removal of the structure,” Murdock said.

The landowner only wants to go through with the agreement if the city leaves the land as open space, Murdock said.

City officials say they have no plans to develop the parcel. It’s too small to be made into a park anyway, Trimm said.

“We would just look at it as restored and enhanced stream,” he said.

The city recently paid for a report examining possible environmental hazards posed by the old building. None was found, according to the report.

As it stands, the old building is neither hurting nor helping surrounding wetlands. However, getting rid of the building would definitely be a benefit for the creek, Murdock said.

In place of the building, Adopt-a-Stream could plant new trees and vegetation that would improve the habitat for fish, as well as help provide safer passage for animals moving along the bank, Murdock said.

“The building is causing an impairment to the stream system because it’s taking away space from the riparian zone,” he said.

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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