With the east side of the park already open for business, the Salmon Run Nature Park is looking more and more like a park every day.
The park (formerly known as the Darren Pritt property), was little more than blackberry brambles when the city acquired it for open space in 2013, but an intense restoration project this year has helped to protect migrating salmon and beautify the park for visitors.
The city of Issaquah contracted with Kirkland-based The Watershed Company and Redmond-based IO Environment and Infrastructure, Inc. to restore the 2.3-acre park, which surrounds Issaquah Creek just behind Gilman Village.
“This isn’t just a habitat restoration project, this is a park,” senior fisheries biologist Greg Johnston of The Watershed Company said.
The initial phases of the project centered around laying logs and stumps in the creek to create natural pools and ripples, in which salmon can take refuge. This next part of the project, however, shapes the park into a nature retreat for locals, with native vegetation, walking trails and an all-purpose lawn where people can play with a frisbee, said The Watershed Company Landscape architect/restoration designer Marina French.
The trail on the east side of the park opened for Salmon Days, and French estimates that the rest of the park should open up by the end of November, weather permitting.
Besides hiking trails, there is talk of possibly putting a footbridge over Issaquah Creek, from which people could watch migrating salmon. Johnston and French both said that the park will be a great alternative to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery for viewing the salmon every autumn.
“This is a place downstream, a little less crowded, a little more of a natural setting,” French said.
Part of the next phase of the Salmon Run Nature Park restoration involves planting vegetation, a task with which the park crews are asking for the community’s help. Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust will hold a planting party on Saturday, Nov. 5 in its effort to plant thousands of native trees and shrubs along the banks of Issaquah Creek.
“We want to have a more diverse palette of plants … that can survive our local climate,” Johnston said.
In the past, the park has had problems with invasive species taking over the land, in particular the Japanese Knotweed. Thankfully, according to Johnston, crews “were able to clear things away and freshen the soil.”
Now the goal is to bring in as many native trees as possible to strengthen the creek bank and give shade to migrating salmon so that the fish have a “native corridor,” French explained. This will also one day provide new sources of logs and branches for the creek.
“Eventually we want the trees to grow, fall into the creek and create pools for the salmon,” Johnston said. However, as this will take decades, this wood has to be brought in in the meantime.
The organization appreciates everyone who can come out to help, no matter how much of a green thumb they bring. Supplies — as well as hot cocoa — will be provided.
“You show up and help put in plants. You just get dirty — no experience necessary,” French said. And helping to plant shrubbery can also give volunteers a sense of pride in their local park.
“It’s a neat way to feel some ownership in the park,” French said.
To volunteer for the planting day, visit http://mtsgreenway.org/volunteer/sites-and-opportunities/salmon-run-nature-park/tree-planting-at-salmon-run-nature-park.