Snohomish wetland could become a major attraction for bird watchers

SNOHOMISH — Bill Fulton described the morning as “magical.”

He was walking the trail by the wastewater treatment plant, just west of Highway 9.

Fulton could see the wetlands from the trail, which was the reason he was here.

Fulton, 65, made several stops to take pictures of mallards, the Snohomish River and even a heron perched on a branch at the top of a tree.

A Snohomish resident, business owner and nature enthusiast, Fulton enjoys walking the mile-long trail every time he can, as he did last Friday. He hopes his efforts to make the trail better known will attract others to enjoy the wildlife.

And with more visitors, the city could also benefit from tourism to the area that is about a mile from downtown.

The idea to popularize the trail came after Fulton visited a bird sanctuary in Oregon last October. He thought the 24 acres of wetlands in Snohomish could become an attraction for bird watchers.

“This is perfect,” Fulton said.

He contacted the city and also the Pilchuck Audubon Society that owns four acres of wetlands next to the treatment plant.

Fulton, a former city councilman, met with them on Oct. 24, to discuss working together to promote and improve the wildlife viewing area.

“That was the only meeting I have attended in 20 years of public service where everybody was on the same page,” Fulton said.

Everybody is eager with the idea, which still is in its early stage. It is unknown how much it would cost to make the improvements needed.

Benches, signs, an additional trail and surveys may be needed. There’s also discussion on how to increase public access, since people need to walk along the Snohomish River to get to the trail.

To answer all of these questions, the Snohomish City Council approved forming an advisory committee that will work on a master plan. This committee would be comprised of about seven members representing city staff, the Audubon Society and the community.

All work is likely to be on the city-owned area. That’s why the city needs to authorize any potential change.

“There are a lot of things to consider,” said Ann Stanton, the city’s project manager.

Some of the unknowns are what it will cost, and whether owners of the other 20 acres of wetlands want to be involved.

At this time, the city has not allocated any funds. It is unclear what purchases are needed or who will pay for them. Funding sources would come through grants or donations, Stanton said.

“We are proposing to do this at the minimal expense, but it will take staff time,” Stanton said.

Other nature trails popular with bird-watchers include Jetty Island, Spencer Island and the Index cliff, Pilchuck Audubon board member Kathleen Snyder said.

The aim is to make the Snohomish trail similar to the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary, located in west Everett, but on a smaller scale, Snyder said.

The area is no secret either. The Pilchuck Audubon has organized trips to the area in the past and has listed about 130 different bird species in the area. The Snohomish Chamber of Commerce has put it as a tourist destination for the past 12 years, but it has never highlighted it, manager Pam Osborne said.

Alejandro Dominguez:425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

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