New habitat area on North Creek is moving ahead

EVERETT - Snohomish County is close to securing the first link of what conservationists envision becoming a habitat corridor running the length of North Creek.

The County Council yesterday authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to purchase a conservation easement of 3.17 acres south of McCollum County Park near the city of Mill Creek. The property is owned by Christopher and Vicki Town.

With the $20,800 purchase, the county would gain access to the property, though the Towns would retain property rights. But other than occasional monitoring and possible habitat enhancement, the county will preserve the North Creek Greenway as a watershed.

"We want to make sure salmon are in North Creek 30 years from now and beyond," said Tom Murdoch, executive director of the Everett-based Adopt-A-Stream Foundation.

The nonprofit Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, in conjunction with the county, began the greenway project in 1998. The long-term goal is to preserve land on both banks of the creek to protect salmon and wildlife habitat. The 30-square-mile watershed drains into Lake Washington and is a corridor for chinook, silver, sockeye and steelhead salmon as well as cutthroat trout.

The project would preserve about 147 acres of land between McCollum and Thrasher's Corner parks. A thriving salmon habitat is between those parks, Murdoch explained.

The Town easement is the first secured in the watershed. It covers the back yard of the Town property, or three of the Towns' five acres on both sides of North Creek.

Murdoch said he has talked with other property owners along the creek about donating their property or selling conservation easements.

The easements do not grant general-public access to the stream but ensure that the land will be preserved. Because the property owners retain rights to the land, they would have access as long as they do nothing to damage the habitat.

With the Town property nearly secure, other property owners along North Creek will be more easily convinced of the value of preserving the land, Murdoch said.

The North Creek Greenway effort is financed by $200,000 from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Fund and $378,000 from the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation, a state agency.

The program could also be the basis of restoration efforts elsewhere, Murdoch said.