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Sep 01

Volunteers and Elected Officials Depave Peck Parking Lot!

Posted to Conservation Corner by Camila Matamala-Ost

Pavement at Peck Parking Lot broken up before volunteers remove it.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.

A lot of us are familiar with the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi. The lyrics decry the loss of trees to make way for a new parking lot outside of a mall. The song drew attention to the loss of nature that communities across the country experience in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Looking across our cities today, you’ll see that this story of paving paradise was all too common. Instead of vibrant and diverse green spaces dotting our urban communities, we have big swaths of hot, barren parking lots, often only partially full if not completely empty.

With all this excess pavement comes a host of environmental problems. Unlike forests and meadows, pavement doesn’t soak up rainwater, creating millions of gallons of stormwater runoff, the largest source of pollution entering Puget Sound. Parking lot runoff tends to be especially toxic because of the oil, tire dust, and other pollutants that cars leave behind while parked. Pavement also absorbs heat, which makes the surrounding neighborhoods warmer. As the Northwest experiences more and more heatwaves, parking lots are making our neighborhoods even more deadlFortunately, parking lots are not forever, and people across Washington are taking action to Depave Puget Sound! This regional effort empowers community members to take direct action by removing unneeded pavement to replace it with a new community green space. Through a partnership with the City of Tacoma, PCD has helped remove pavement across the city since 2014, and we were so excited to be back out hitting the pavement this August in Central Tacoma!

After walking by a usually empty parking lot during the pandemic, community members living around Peck Fields nominated the lot to be Depaved. Metro Parks Tacoma, who owns the parking lot, agreed to take out parts of the lot to replace it with a new rain garden, trees, and pollinator plants. PCD has continued working with Metro and the Central Neighborhood Council to reimagine this space.

Leah Michaelson with PCD Director Dana.  Leah was the neighbor who nominated the Peck for Depave.
Leah Michaelson with PCD Director Dana Coggon. Leah was the neighbor who nominated the Peck Parking lot for a Depave project!

With the help of 40 volunteers, we made quick work on the first part of this transformation – within an hour, we removed roughly 3,000 square feet of pavement from this parking lot! We were joined by leaders from the Central Neighborhood Council and several elected officials, including City Councilmember Walker, County Councilmember Mello, and U.S. Congressman Kilmer. It’s always good seeing politicians out at volunteer events! Neighbors who were walking by also stopped to pitch in too. Thank you so much to everyone who joined!

Board Chair Dorner, U.S. Congressman Kilmer, Pierce Councilmember Mello, Tacoma Councilmember Walker
PCD Board Chair Dorner, U.S. Congressman Kilmer, Pierce County Councilmember Mello, and Tacoma City Councilmember Walker all pitching in to Depave Puget Sound!

The next step for this project is for the soils to be replaced with healthy compost (being under pavement for decades deprives soil of the nutrients plants need to survive). Then, on October 8th, we’ll be back out at Peck Fields for Green Tacoma Day to plant trees, pollinator plants, and a brand-new rain garden. You don’t want to miss out on the fun! Sign-up here to help us bring back paradise to this parking lot.

And if there’s a piece of excessive pavement in your neighborhood, reach out and nominate the site to be depaved. PCD staff will work with the property owner and City to see if we can depave the site and create a new community green space! Learn more about depaving and how to nominate your site here.



Volunteers next to parking lot before depaving. Volunteers standing next to a large area of soil that used to be covered in pavement.
U.S. Congressman Kilmer and a volunteer carry a large piece of pavement together.
U.S. Congressman Kilmer and a volunteer carry a large piece of pavement together.
A child volunteer holds a piece of pavement he removed. It’s longer than his torso.
A child volunteer holds a piece of pavement he removed. It’s longer than his torso.

Tag(s): Depave

Aug 31

Another AmeriCorps Season Winds Down

Posted to Environmental Education by Camila Matamala-Ost

Connor shows Salishan ECO Campers how to collect bugs from Swan CreekEvery fall, we welcome a new AmeriCorps member into the Environmental Education program as they begin their 10.5 month term of service. It’s a great opportunity for young professionals to get experience and put their education into practice. They bring energy and ideas as they tackle their work in new and inventive ways, and build skills along the way. The 10.5 month term also means we have to say goodbye the following summer. 

Connor Runyan recently ended his term with us as Conservation Education Specialist. During his time with us, Connor played a key role in helping the salmon in the schools program get off the ground. He helped schools manage their tanks, delivered lessons for the students, and organized several days of salmon release field trips. He also handled the bulk of our Envirothon program, a natural resources competition for high school students in Pierce County and statewide. 

Join us in thanking Connor for a great year of service and wishing him the best of luck in his next adventure!

Aug 22


Posted to Habitat Improvement by Camila Matamala-Ost

SPCP instream structurePhoto: The new side channel shortly after being fully connected with the mainstem of South Prairie Creek.  Not only did this new channel create a half-mile of salmon habitat, but it reconnects the mainstem to the adjacent floodplain, which allows for critical processes that help with flood storage, maintaining flow during summer months, and keeping water temperatures cool.

After years of planning and months of construction, the South Prairie Creek Preserve project reached an important milestone recently in the effort to improve salmon habitat in the Puyallup River watershed.  On a sunny fall day in early October, the barriers that had cordoned off the new side channel from the mainstem of South Prairie Creek were removed, resulting in unobstructed flow and fish access to this new habitat.  

Even before this, salmon migrating upstream were navigating their way through the channel-spanning structures that were built in the mainstem to recruit gravel and create habitat features where fish can rest, feed, rear, and spawn.  The new side channel has also created a half-mile of new habitat that fish can use year-round.

In addition to these in-stream improvements, the project includes several dozen acres of restoration planting.  Over time, these plantings will create a riparian and floodplain forest that will sustain many of the ecosystem process currently missing from this site.  Some of the project area was able to be planted prior to construction, but now that the earthwork is done, the planting effort ramps up to finish the job.  

Check out a Story Map of the Project: Click Here
A HUGE THANKS is due to the coalition of partners who worked doggedly to bring this project to fruition:  South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Pierce County, and the Puyallup Tribe, in addition to project engineers Natural System Designs, contractor Active Construction Inc., cultural resource consultant Aqua Terra, Snohomish CD engineering staff, and field crewsfrom Earth Corps and the Washington Conservation Corps.  Funding provided by the WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Dept. of Ecology, Puget Sound Partnership's Puget Sound Acquisition and RestorationORD plantng at SPCP Fund, Puget Sound National Estuary Program's Habitat Strategic Initiative, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Pierce County Surface Water Management, Puyallup Watershed Salmon Recovery Lead Entity, and WA Conservation Commission.  And last but not least, many thanks to the volunteers who have been part of the planting efforts over the years!  We couldn’t do it without you!

Photo Caption:  PCD hosted a few small
 planting parties along the banks of the new
 side channel in honor of Orca Recovery Day (Oct. 17).

SPCP Project Facts:

  • Demolition of 11 buildings and a creosote bridge over South Prairie Creek.
  • Installation of a new bridge over Silver Springs Creek. 
  • Restoration of 2,600 linear feet of side channel on the north floodplain. 
  • Installation of 113 engineered log structures, resulting in 4,648 new pieces of wood in the project reach. 
  • Noxious weed treatment and re-vegetation of up to 50 acres of floodplain and riparian forest.
  • Project cost:  $4.85 million.