Conservation Corner

Welcome to our online newsletter where we will keep you updated on everything the Pierce Conservation District is working on, from our work On the Farm to Water Quality Improvement. The Conservation Corner highlights our most interesting stories, but does not include everything. Find our other stories linked in the sidebar and below. 

The latest from...

Jan 19

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Caring

Posted on January 19, 2024 at 10:18 AM by Laura Wagner

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15th, Pierce Conservation District hosted four different invasive plant removal work parties at Bradley Lake Park, Silver Creek, Deadman’s Pond, and Whittier Park. Though the temperature only reached 20 degrees and the ground was frozen in some locations, over 55 volunteers across our restoration work parties braved the weather to serve their community. A surprise visit by Executive Director Dana Coggon with warming goodies was a huge help in the cold!

Dana sports a jacket and PCD Beanie while handing out beanies and handwarmers

Executive Director Dana Coggon poses with important goods for 20 °F weather: free beanies and handwarmers. Begone cold fingers and ears!

January 15th is a national day for people to celebrate the legacy and work of Martin Luther King Jr. People honor Dr. King’s legacy in various ways; educating themselves about his work, learning about historical and modern injustices, doing advocacy work, volunteering, or serving their community. Many Pierce County Residents honor the work of Dr. King on the 15th through community service opportunities like the ones hosted by Pierce Conservation District.

AmeriCorps Day of Service

Pierce Conservation District hosts seven AmeriCorps members who provide volunteer service to improve their local communities. These seven members cover a wide range of services here at the Conservation District with at least one person serving in each of our branches; Harvest Pierce County, Farm & Agricultural Assistance, Water Quality Improvement, Habitat Improvement, and Public Communications.

For AmeriCorps members, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a National Day of Service. National Days of Service are special opportunities to address community needs, collaborate with other AmeriCorps members, and show the difference AmeriCorps members make nationwide, among other opportunities. On their Day of Service, our members dedicated themselves to a service project in their community that will create lasting change for years to come. All of these AmeriCorps members joined one of the four restoration work parties Pierce Conservation District hosted on Monday. Pierce Conservation District was also joined by three AmeriCorps members from Habitat for Humanity at Bradley Lake Park for their Day of Service.

Three people hold a gigantic blackberry root wad and their shovels

Three Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps members proudly show off the massive blackberry root wad they extracted at Bradley Lake Park!

Our AmeriCorps Gleaning Specialist from Harvest Pierce County, Lex Barnard, was excited to have the opportunity to attend one of the district restoration work parties. “As a worker under Harvest Pierce County, I normally don’t have the availability to attend the other branches’ work parties. I had a lot of fun getting to experience a new side of PCD and improve local habitat!”

How This Work Impacts Each Site

All of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteers did invasive plant removal work that will positively impact those sites’ riparian habitats for years to come. 

While Bradley Lake Park is now a lovely public space, it initially existed as a peat bog. For decades, it has lacked the biodiversity and native plants that it needs. However, thanks to years of hard work by Pierce Conservation District and countless volunteers, Bradley Lake Park is gradually growing into a healthy, biodiverse space! The removal of invasive species this past Monday ensured that the new plants we installed last year and the ones we will plant this year have a low competition from invasive plants. 

The ongoing efforts at Whittier Park focus on the invasive plant presence creeping down from a nearby residential area. English ivy is very prevalent in this space. The relentless efforts of all 21 volunteers to remove invasives from this site made a huge difference for the quality of water that flows through the ground.

Over by Silver Creek, the invasive plant removal site was right along the length of the stream where growing pollinators reside. Removing those plants along Silver Creek ensures that this salmon bearing stream has healthy, good quality water and that the pollinators nearby have the nutritious soil and water that they need to thrive.

One of the most important creatures living in Deadman’s Pond habitat is the endangered Western Pond Turtle! While we aren’t directly involved in efforts to restore their population, the work we do to protect their habitat indirectly helps Western Pond Turtles. The invasive blackberry removal on Monday not only protects the recently planted pollinator garden from competition with invasive plants, but it also indirectly provides high quality water for the pond.

A group of volunteers at Deadman's Pond take a selfie with Dana Coggon

Everyone at Deadman's Pond huddles together for a quick selfie with Dana Coggon

We hope you all had a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday. We see firsthand how much Pierce County residents like you care for our community. Though Martin Luther King Jr. Day is only one day of the year, we show up for our community in many ways throughout the year. If you're looking for a chance to step up for your community, consider joining one of our many work parties listed on our Calendar of Events & Volunteer Opportunities.

Nov 22

Chum Fest Walk 2023

Posted on November 22, 2023 at 3:21 PM by Laura Wagner

On November 18, Pierce Conservation District attended the Gig Harbor Chum Fest. The event was a great success, with 203 total visitors coming to our tent for some educational fishy fun!

The vlog posted to our Instagram Reels showcasing the day of fun at Chum Fest 2023, featuring two pictures by Julie Ammann

What is Chum Fest?

Chum Fest is an annual event near the Harbor History Museum to celebrate the return of chum salmon to Donkey Creek. These celebrations are cohosted by the Harbor History Museum and Harbor WildWatch. This year, due to construction, it turned into a "Chum Walk" along the gravel path that runs behind the museum, featuring 7 participating organizations with their own canopied activity stations. 

Participants started at Austin Park where they received a "Salmon Passport". To fill their passports, they travelled to different activity stations of hands-on learning opportunities like collaborative salmon art, salmon bracelet making, facepainting, and Pierce Conservation District's "Salmon Survivors Game". At the end, visitors turned their passport in to the Harbor History Museum front desk to enter a drawing for a salmon-themed prize.

Fishy Fun with Pierce Conservation District

At Pierce Conservation District's canopy, our main attraction was the Salmon Survivors Game: a fun game that teaches players about the many complications that salmon can encounter throughout their life stages. To play, you are given a cup of 1000 salmon eggs, represented with beans, to take care of. Then you move between card stations and roll a wooden die that tells you what fraction of your fish die and how. By the time you make it to the spawning phase of life, you should have 1-3 salmon left! Regardless of the number of survivors, all players are awarded a small wooden salmon token that they can color and make into a magnet or even hang it somewhere in their house as a little ornament.

Apart from the Salmon Survivors Game, we also had another table with two salmon plushies, vials showcasing real salmon early life stages, PCD pamphlets, and some "Salmon Steward Pledges". After learning about some harsh factors that influence salmon ability to survive, visitors could take a pledge to protect salmon habitat by checking provided methods or writing their own ideas. 

Two kids look at the early salmon life stages vial. PCD worker bends over to explain it to them!

Two kids look at the early salmon life stages vials as Laura explains them, moment captured by Julie Ammann

Chum Fest Visitors

Pierce Conservation District had so much fun meeting all 203 visitors to our tent! The attendees of Chum Fest included a wide range of people: entire families, visitors from inside and outside of Pierce County, educators, a WDFW worker, and more. Pierce Conservation District Board Member and local Gig Harbor photographer, Julie Ammann, even came out to visit the Chum Fest event. We were so excited that she could attend the event and chat with us!

We had so many memorable interactions at the event. One visitor was a salmon biologist visiting all the way from Alaska! She was so enticed by the Salmon Survivors Game that she hoped to use it in her Alaskan community. We also had the opportunity to speak with an elderly Pierce County resident who shared a story about her growing interest in camas, a fun flowering plant native to many Puget Sound spaces!

One of Laura's favorite interactions was with a young toddler. She was just barely tall enough to notice that there were soft salmon plushies on our table. As a toddler, of course you have to grab one! Likely out of courtesy to our setup, her mother tried to stop her from taking one. However, Laura said it was ok if she played with the salmon for a while. After some quick discouragement from trying chew the salmon by the mother, Laura came over and played with the salmon plush with the toddler. Together, they played by making the salmon do swimming motions, the little girl mirrored some of Laura's reactions or motions, she petted the salmon, and they took turns giving the salmon a big hug. 

Our time at Chum Fest reminded us that getting the Pierce County community excited about salmon and their habitat is something for all ages! You could be listening to a story from an elderly person about native plants that provide good habitat and water quality for salmon. You could be talking with an educator about her curriculum surrounding salmon. You could be using a salmon plush to play with a toddler. Regardless of who you're talking to and what you're doing, all efforts matter in raising awareness about these beautiful fish that we share habitat with.

Nov 08

Green Puyallup Day 2023

Posted on November 8, 2023 at 4:02 PM by Laura Wagner

Two volunteers plant trees behind the volunteering in progress sign

Two volunteers plant native plants at the Green Puyallup Day Bradley Lake work party

Last weekend on November 4th, Puyallup community members gathered at three different locations throughout Puyallup for Green Puyallup Day. On Green Puyallup Day, we celebrate the spaces that we inhabit and collaboratively restore Puyallup lands that need some extra love from caretakers. This day brings Puyallup residents of all identities and backgrounds together to care for the land. The volunteers who joined us on Saturday included repeat volunteers, high school students, friend pairs, regular Bradley Lake Park visitors, and even a first time volunteer with Pierce Conservation District! Thanks to the hard work of these volunteers, these habitats have new native plants that will protect the water and soil health of their new homes. 

All of us at Pierce Conservation District are community members who are invested in boots on the ground work that improves the quality of life for our community and the land we steward. The work Conservation Districts do doesn't just stop with our workers. Green Puyallup Day is a day that embodies the work that all of us Pierce County residents do to steward the land. 

The day started with a downpour of rain that left the ground (and us) soaked. The weather timing was very Washingtonian; the skies cleared up hours after our restoration work concluded. Still, sixteen volunteers braved the weather to meet Pierce Conservation District workers. We planted a total of 249 plants at Bradley Lake Park, Deadman's Pond, and Silver Creek. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who attended Green Puyallup Day to improve urban landscapes' habitat!