Many years ago, the Windy Pete addition to Andy's Wildlife Park was a cow pasture. The cows turned the creek into a marsh, with devastating effects on the salmon habitat. Following the removal of the cattle, the channel was restored to allow salmon to return to their spawning grounds further up the creek.
This ultimately led to the stream being overrun by invasive plants, resulting in such overgrowth that you couldn’t see the stream and made it almost impossible for fish to migrate. Fish migration was also blocked by undersized culverts that were located under Eckenstam Johnson and Oro Bay Roads which is downstream of the restoration project.
In 2009, we applied for and received a grant for $2,812 from the ALEA Volunteer Cooperative Grant Program. This grant was for the removal of barriers to fish passage, removal of invasive plant species and replacement with native plants, and stream bank repair.
This was a great success! We had a large turnout of volunteers for the removal of blackberries and the planting of native plants. Once this was done, we realized that the stream was really in need of some major work to encourage salmon spawning to take place. We began working on a plan to apply for another grant to add some swales to the stream, along with woody debris, gravel and more native plants.
In 2011, we began Phase I of the actual restoration of Schoolhouse Creek. The project’s purpose was to:
At the watershed level, this project, in concert with replacement of two downstream fish passage barriers to be completed by Pierce County in 2012, would address all of the limiting factors on School House Creek identified in Key Peninsula-Island Basin Plan. We received a grant for $38,500 and the work was completed in 2013.
Since 2014, we have been getting 20,000 Chum eggs from the Minter Creek Hatchery, for an instream incubation system that is placed in Schoolhouse Creek near the old school house. We have been seeing some of the salmon return in 2018, along with native Coho salmon.
Since Phase 1 work, we have been planting additional native plants near the stream and replacing those that were destroyed by deer since that time. Willows have also been planted along the stream near Eckenstan Johnson Road where the County had replaced the old culverts.
As we move toward 2020, we are poised to begin many exciting projects to further our restoration efforts. The plans and permits are complete to begin Phase 2 - expanding restoration up the final 250 feet of the stream. We are currently applying for grants to fund work on addressing culvert structural challenges that will allow salmon to reach historical breeding areas.
And we're forming a Stream Team of volunteers to help us monitor the water quality at points along the creek. Our hope is to impose our watershed health rating in the coming years by locating potential sources of lower quality.
Our local elementary school has often been involved in our Salmon Restoration program through the years. Below are a couple of scrapbooks of our island kids hatching and raising Coho eggs in the classroom and releasing them into Schoolhouse Creek.