EVERETT – The Frasher family’s back yard looks different now.
North Creek still flows there, but the rock walls that lined either side are gone. So is the footbridge to the far bank, where Nancy and Randy Frasher grew green beans and tomatoes near their sitting area.
It was a pretty place for people, but not so good for fish.
The Adopt-A-Stream Foundation spent this week restoring the creek to a more natural state.
“She was nice enough to let us tear out her manicured back yard and restore it,” said John Gabu, a senior technician for the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation. “It looks small and dinky, but it’s kind of a model for other projects.”
The foundation works to preserve stream and wetland systems in Washington.
The stretch of North Creek running through the Frashers’ back yard is part of a watershed known to support native cutthroat trout and coho salmon.
When the Frashers moved into their Silver Lake-area home, the creek was already squeezed between rock walls. At only 8 feet apart, that created an alley of fast-moving water.
The ground was slumping along the creek banks, dumping sediment and cutting off oxygen in the water.
The creek was unsuitable habitat for fish and the aquatic bugs they eat, said ecologist Jennifer Jones.
Last week, the rock walls were turned into rock piles at the Frashers’ driveway. An excavator took the place of the footbridge that used to lead to the gardens.
The rushing creek has slowed to a peaceful meander, its banks stretched further apart.
To slow the water down even more, crews plan to place logs into the water upstream. That should create pools for fish.
Native plants such as vine maple, nootka rose and salmonberry will be planted to help stabilize the bank and provide shade, Jones said.
Plants also form the foundation for a stream because they provide food for bugs and shade on the water, Jones said.
Nancy Frasher said she ran into members of the foundation while working as marketing director for Mary’s Towing.
She mentioned that North Creek flowed through her back yard. The foundation members asked to visit her home.
“To my surprise, they said my creek was in terrible shape,” Frasher said
The decision to trade backyard beauty for a healthy stretch of creek came from her love of the environment.
“It’s just going to be so much better for the fish,” she said. “Maybe one day my grandson will be able to come up here and fish.”
Giving up a landscaped lawn for the sake of a healthy local creek isn’t a choice many Everett homeowners have to make.
The headwaters of the North Creek watershed share their home with the parking lot of Everett Mall. From there, the creek flows south to Bothell, where it empties into the Sammamish River. The Sammamish flows into Lake Washington.
High levels of fecal coliform bacteria make North Creek unsafe for swimming or wading. Leaking septic tanks and pet waste are both sources of the bacteria, which causes sickness in humans.
The bacteria and low levels of oxygen earned the watershed a place on the Washington state Department of Ecology’s list of troubled waters.
Foundation director Tom Murdoch said Adopt-A-Stream tries to show people solutions.,
“What we’re trying to do is show people there are ways to turn things around,” he said. “We’re taking action.”