From A Parking Lot To Wetlands -- Adopt-A-Stream To Celebrate Restoration Of County Park Area

EVERETT - A cool breeze ripples the green, algae-covered water while wild grasses, standing nearly 2 feet tall, lightly dance. In the midst, large cedar and vine-maple trees gently sway, and the chattering of birds helps mask the swish of distant traffic.

Two years ago, this peaceful haven in the southern end of McCollum County Park was a large crushed-gravel parking lot. It was transformed last summer by the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, which used a $295,000 state grant to hire displaced forest workers to remove the gravel and restore the wetlands.

Adopt-A-Stream, a nonprofit environmental-education group, plans to celebrate this successful restoration with a "Birth of a Wetland" party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the park, between Mill Creek and Everett on 128th Street Southeast. The gathering will include tours of the restored wetlands and streams, food, beverages and entertainment by a Tulalip Tribes drum group.

Honorary deeds for 1 square foot of the restored wetlands will also be sold at the party. The $25 tax-deductible donations will help raise money for the foundation's new regional headquarters, which is to be built next to the wetland.

Groundbreaking is scheduled next month for the 5,000-square-foot Northwest Stream Center, expected to open this fall.

Along with administrative offices, the center will include a large theater and meeting room, a resource library, a laboratory and several stream- and wetland-ecology exhibits.

"The stream center could be a common meeting place for groups like tribes, government bodies, schools and special-interest groups," said Tim Northern, an Adopt-A-Stream environmental educator.

An interpretive boardwalk will be built near the center, and visitors will be able to observe wildlife habitats in an adjacent forested wetland area, Northern said.

Most of the money for the center has been raised through government, business and private grants. Enough has been raised to construct the center but not enough to furnish it, Northern said. About $360,000 has been raised toward the group's $2.5 million goal to complete the headquarters and wetlands project.

The foundation's long-term goal is to have every stream in the U.S. adopted by elementary schools, civic clubs and other groups.

By adopting a stream, volunteers commit to care for and monitor the stream, and restore it if necessary. Restoration activities include revegetating stream banks and building steps in stream beds, which help slow the stream's speed and create pools where young salmon and trout can flourish.

The Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, developed in 1981 by Snohomish County Planning Department officials, was created to draw attention to the county's 3,000 miles of creeks, streams and rivers with hopes of restoring waterways damaged by development or natural erosion.

Adopt-A-Stream's executive director, Thomas Murdoch, recommended that program funds be granted to schools and community groups interested in taking care of their own watersheds. In 15 years, his local program has become a national foundation and has helped reclaim more than 5,000 streams.

Adopt-A-Stream provides field training for groups who are interested in restoring waterways. They also conduct assemblies in schools and publish environmental education materials.

At McCollum County Park, workers dug three large holes, which quickly filled with ground water and became ponds. Several stumps and large tree branches placed in the new wetlands have re-created a natural setting and provide a home for wildlife. Instead of parked cars, the area now hosts tadpoles, water bugs and a mallard family.

A variety of critters, including a great blue heron and a couple of red tail hawks frequently visit adjacent forested wetlands, Northern said.

"The growth has been phenomenal," he said. "It's a great demonstration that if you provide the habitat, the creatures will come." ----------------------------------------------------------------- Information

For more information about the celebration or fund-raiser, call the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation at (206) 316-8592.