Residents embrace planting project along Meeker and Clarks creeks

Ecology: Native shrubs, trees provided for free create shading along streams and watersheds

of the HeraldDecember 11, 2013 

Property owners along Clarks and Meeker creeks have an advantage to plant native shrubs and trees and help the renewal of the waterways.

Puyallup’s Streamside Planting Program, funded with a grant from the state Department of Ecology, provides one-on-one design coordination between residents and professional services from the Pierce Conservation District.

After native shrubs and trees are selected, the conservation district can help property owners plant them and deliver and spread mulch. The shrubs and trees are valued at $250; the city provides them for free.

“The response has been impressive with over 10 streamside property owners on Clarks Creek and Meeker Creek contacting the city to plant private streamside areas,” said Chris Beale, an associate city planner. “The city previously tried a similar program in years past with minimal response. City staff feels there has been a shift in perception in recent years based on the city’s leadership in the issue of riparian restoration. More streamside property owners better understand the importance of providing shade over their local waterways to improve water quality and provide habitat for salmon.”

The plants are part of an effort to shade Clarks and Meeker creeks, and Beale expects that will reduce the growth of invasive elodea over time.

“Citizens participating in the city’s volunteer planting events learn about the benefits of planting native trees and shrubs along local waterways, and that outreach and education has been key to the success of public education on the issue and, in turn, the success of the private property program,” Beale said.

Melissa Buckingham, the director of water quality improvement at the Pierce Conservation District, said her team offers technical assistance to help property owners decide which plant should go in which place.

“We help them with identifying an appropriate view corridor, in addition to providing a healthy riparian corridor,” Buckingham said.

Beale and Buckingham meet with property owners to identify a balance between preserving the view of the creek and providing appropriate shading.

“Some people have gardens in their backyard and so they need solar access for their gardens,” Beale said. “We ask them what portions of the creek do they like to see. For viewing corridors, we plant lower-lying shrubs. We go as far as walking through their homes to understand where the views are from their kitchen.”

Jeff and Sue Kindle, who live along Clarks Creek, were one of a handful of property owners who responded to Puyallup’s mailed brochure about the program.

“The reason why I responded is, my concern is I’m losing creek frontage every year,” Jeff Kindle said. “There is so much water going through that creek. I’m interested in anything that I can do to preserve creek frontage with the right kind of vegetation.”

City staff members and the Pierce Conservation District visited the Kindles’ home to establish a plan.

“My project will be done in the spring,” Jeff said. “We’ll be doing rain barrels as well to divert water runoff.”

The Kindles live on 90 feet of creekside property.

“The other thing that is nice, in my situation, is that my neighbors on either side of me are on this project as well,” Jeff said. “Between the three of us, we’re doing about 300 feet of creekside frontage.”

To learn more

For more information about the Streamside Planting Program, or to learn how to participate, call Joy Rodriguez at 253-841-5549 or email jrodriguez@ci.puyallup.wa.us.

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