Local gardeners celebrate progress of Scriber Creek restoration

Val Taylor speaks to volunteers and neighbors about the progress of the Scriber Creek restoration project.

Several volunteers from the Scriber Creek restoration project and members of the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club, Lynnwood’s Alderwood Garden Club and Woodinville’s Cottage Gardeners Garden Club gathered in the rain Thursday to witness the fruits of their efforts in planting native plants along Scriber Creek. Since Nov. 4, many of the native seedlings have sprouted to become saplings over a fresh layer of mulch. However, there are still many invasive reed canary grass and English ivy coating the creek bed. 

“The native plants we have planted are doing very well,” Lynnwood resident Val Taylor said. “We’ve heard about some active wildlife, including a muskrat or otter, coyotes and blue herons.”

This dogwood shrub has almost doubled in size since last November.

While they were able to accomplish their plan for the flat area of the creek bed, Taylor said the volunteers were not able to work on the slope. That’s because the City of Lynnwood said no to their plan, even though it was based on Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recommendations. 

“The weeds are so out of control on the slope and are creating far more work for us and contributing to poor water quality and the health of the creek itself,” Taylor said. “Invasive weeds continue to grow out of control.  Neighbors have requested several times for them [the city] to mow, and they have not done so.”

The slope of the south side of Scriber Creek is coated with invasive reed canary grass and English ivy.

Lynnwood’s Environmental and Surface Water Supervisor Derek Fada said that the city’s storm and street maintenance crew had already weeded, but the grass grew back immediately. “It did not seem [like] the best use of city resources,” Fada said. “Our streets and storms maintenance supervisor suggested that mechanical removal would [allow] them to easily reach the roots but knew there was permitting required through WDFW to do any instream work more than just hand removal of invasives. The city is looking into pursuing a programmatic WDFW permit that would allow the city to remove sediment deposits and invasive vegetation in streams that have been identified as causing issues.”

Taylor started the project by herself in 2019 when she saw the creek bed was covered with reed canary grass and English ivy. She planted a few native shrubs on the creek’s west side along the patch of land — 145 feet by 8 feet — lying just south of the 189th Street Southwest and 55th Avenue West intersection.

Taylor later asked her friend and Lynnwood resident Jeanne Aldrich for help. Aldrich handled the administrative and communication tasks of the restoration project, including contacting the City of Lynnwood and Adopt A Stream

Last fall, Aldrich developed a slope remediation plan and showed it to a  professor at Edmonds College’s horticulture department. “He came out, reviewed the situation and said he would be happy to solicit – but not require – help from his students because he considered the plan reasonable and a worthwhile actual, real-life experience,” Aldrich said. “A date was set. Shortly thereafter, the city nixed the slope work [because] their concern [was] that our work might make the situation worse, not better.”

Fada said that the City of Lynnwood was “extremely happy” last year about the community efforts. Since then, the city had provided its streets and storm maintenance crew in preparing the creek bed for planting by mowing, removing invasive plants and installing wattle fences to help hold the wood chip mulch in place to prevent it from entering the stream. 

A comparison of the Scriber Creek creek bed in November 2023, left, and June 2024 right. While the flat side of the bed is finished, the slope has an increased amount of the invasive reed canary grass and English ivy.

“In addition to the help from our maintenance crew, we used funds from our Tree Voucher Program to use towards the purchase of trees to line the stream,” Fada said. “Jeanne and Val were hoping these trees would help to provide shade to the stream that would eventually hinder the growth and spread of the reed canary grass in the stream.”

After this part of the project was done, Taylor asked the city if willow wattles could be installed to stabilize the stream bank, which allows the willow sprouts to grow into the banks and provide more shade in the area once the plants mature, which will limit how much the invasive plants would grow.

“When this was brought up to our city’s streets and storm maintenance supervisor, he indicated that just downstream of this location the stream often experiences flooding due to trapped debris,” Fada said. “Since the proposed willow wattles would be very near the ordinary high water mark of the stream, the maintenance supervisor wanted to watch the stream closely this upcoming fall to determine if there was concern over high flows washing away the wattles and creating hazardous flooding downstream.

“After this portion of work concluded, it was brought up that the community project wanted to install horizontal willow wattles that would help to stabilize the stream bank by allowing the willow sprouts to grow into the banks,” Fada continued. “These would also help to provide more shade to the stream and thus help to control the invasive grass in the stream. The city and our team love the efforts from Jeanne and Val in restoring this riparian area next to Scriber Creek. They have done an amazing job and we have assisted when we are able. As a lot of this work is outside our team’s duties, we have tried to assist as much as possible when resources and time allow.”

Douglas fir saplings.

Meanwhile, Taylor, Aldrich and volunteers continued to weed and restore the native plants throughout the winter and spring when the weather is permissible. 

“Our current plan includes weed, weed, weed to prevent the slope weeds from encroaching into the level area, which itself is virtually weed-free,” Aldrich said. “[We] keep a very watchful eye on the newly planted trees and shrubs, which need consistent watering and care for the first year or so until they get established. In the fall, [we will] continue to plant smaller ground cover-type natives according to our planting plan, add a small bench at the south end for contemplation of the water.”

Other features of the plan includes:

– Adding a resource cabinet with information about growing native plants in an urban area, similar to the free libraries that are installed in local neighborhoods

– Continuing to work with the City of Lynnwood to encourage more attention on the Scriber Creek slope and streambed.

Val Taylor (center in black), Jeanne Aldrich (left in orange), Atticus Byrd (right, NASA hoodie) and other volunteers of the Scriber Creek restoration project.

One of the neighbors across the creek from the project has been watering the native plants with koi water. “When she changes her koi pond water, she captures the runoff and hand-carries it across the street to water individual plants,” she said. “In August and in hotter weather, she will use her hose to water more frequently. Once the plants are established, they will need less water as they are all natives.”

Lynnwood resident and volunteer Atticus Byrd plans to keep weeding throughout the rest of this year with the restoration project.

“I thought it would help people and make the world cleaner and not as destroyed,” Byrd said. “I weeded and planted a couple of plants, making sure that the weeds keep out of the areas where it’s supposed to be clean.”

“I love this project,” Aldrich said. “I enjoy applying the skills and practices I learned as an ad hoc student at the Edmonds College Horticulture Program, and seeing them produce results. Most of all, through this work I have met some absolutely fascinating and wonderful people who have helped Val and me in various ways along our journey. Working with them on this worthwhile project brings out the best in me.”

“We are looking for more volunteers like a local scout troop or students looking for volunteer hours,” Taylor said. “There is an incredible amount of weeding to do with several invasive noxious weeds that have grown up from the slope into our plantings. It’s overwhelming.”

Residents in Lynnwood and nearby communities who wish to volunteer may reach out to Val Taylor at seggy4@comcast.net and Jeanne Aldrich at jeannealdrich@gmail.com.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

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