Many hands working on restoration of Scriber Creek

When Lynnwood resident Val Taylor saw the bundles of reed canary grass and carpets of English ivy that grow along Scriber Creek near her home a few years ago, she rolled up her sleeves and started to plant a few native shrubs on the west side of the creek. This patch of land — 145 feet by 8 feet — lies just south of the intersection of 189th Street Southwest and 55th Avenue West.

She said that she often hears stories from neighbors that there used to be frogs and fish in the Lynnwood creeks, including the small section in her neighborhood. However, after the trees and shrubs that provided shade were removed, invasive plant species have taken over in the last few decades.

Val Taylor is one of the project leaders.

An active member of the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club and Lynnwood’s Alderwood Garden Club, Taylor realized that this project would take more than just her bare hands. So she contacted her friend and Lynnwood resident Jeanne Aldrich for help. Aldrich handled the communication and administration side of the project, including contacting the City of Lynnwood and Adopt A Stream.

“We looked at some of the [nearby] restoration projects, consulted with a lot of different people to get the right information because not everyone said the same thing,” Taylor said. “Some people said to plant tall trees, and they take a long time to grow. And one of the neighbors didn’t really want that.”

Taylor contacted biologist Jesse Dykstra from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and he suggested that Taylor and Aldrich plant native plants along the side of Scriber Creek. “He was probably the most knowledgeable about the stream, and that’s his expertise,” Taylor said.

“It’s the housing for a stream,” said Aldrich, referring to the riparian zone that runs along the edge of a river or creek. The area provides a home for native plants and animals, helps maintain water quality by absorbing nutrients and removing sediments, reduces the risk of flooding and provides natural scenic beauty.

“Just like people, [creeks] need suitable housing or we’re going to suffer for it,” she said. “We saw the housing was just as bad as some landlords’ situation because in the case of a stream — an open stream like this one — you need to have shade, diversity of plants, a rich biome, and all kinds of insects. It protects from erosion of the slope, allowing fish to spawn. It’s a healthy ecosystem.”

And the best way to remove the invasive plants is by giving them shade. “It can’t tolerate [it],” Aldrich added.

A Douglas fir sapling, partially hidden among English ivy, struggles to reach for sunlight.

“This place needs help. Val had already put in some shrubs that, in time, would provide some shade, but what we needed is a plan,” Aldrich said. “It doesn’t cost a ton of money. We knew we couldn’t just be guerilla gardeners, we needed to work with the people.”

Taylor pointed to the north side of the Scriber Creek across 189th Street where there are rows of tall evergreen trees and shrubs that provide shade over the creek and riparian zones. “That’s what it should be like,” she said.

Phase one of the restoration project is completed. Last month, Taylor, Aldrich and a team of neighbors put an 8-inch layer of wood chips along the riparian zone to quash further growth of invasive plants that need sunlight to grow. They are currently working on phase two, which is planting 110 plants along the creek before the first hard frost occurs.

Thanks to a chip drop program, Taylor and Aldrich were able to get several truckloads of donated wood chips to launch their project on time. Instead of taking the unwanted parts of a tree to a landfill, arborists donate them to local residents who want to use them for their own landscaping.

In addition to receiving project cost reimbursements from the City of Lynnwood thru the Tree Voucher Program, the Edmonds College horticulture department has been giving advice and will send some horticulture students to help later this year. Lynnwood residents can apply annually for up to $500 in tree vouchers, which can be used to buy almost any type of tree from a participating Washington State Landscape and Nursery Association (WSLNA) nursery.

Several Oregon sunshine pots wait to be planted.

Taylor said that she has requested a visit from Vice Chair of the Snohomish Tribe Pamela SeaMonster, who had helped create a native plant botanical garden at Gold Park in Lynnwood in the late 2000s.

She is hopeful the restoration can lead to future educational events, similar to current salmon restoration education programs in the Edmonds School District.

“One of my goals is to involve the local schools where the creek runs through,” she said. “Maybe once they remove the filter from the creek on 196th, the fish could come back and maybe do a release of the fries (baby salmon) and other different fish. It could be a good educational thing to be part of their curriculum.”

Aldrich is happy to see more kids and teens are involved with their project and hopes that local preschools and elementary schools eventually adopt some curriculum around creek restoration and maybe even raise fish in their classrooms to release.

Several sword ferns were among the first to be planted along Scriber Creek.

“We’re hoping that this could be a demonstration that anybody can do this because even King County and several other government agencies have created guides for people on how to protect their streams and yards,” said Aldrich. “I don’t know how much there is going on right now, but it’s a model of what a neighborhood can do.”

Taylor and Aldrich offered thanks to everyone who has been involved with the project:

Marni Swart from Growing Roots Together

Susie Egan from Cottage Lake Botanical Gardens

Tom Murdoch from Snohomish County Adopt a Stream

Dave Schmidt and Hillary Ethe from Edmonds College

Neighbors of Scriber Creek

Cottage Gardeners Garden Club

Derik Fada and Kayla Grattan from Public Works Department of the City of Lynnwood

Jesse Dykstra from the Department of Fish and Wildlife

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

  1. What a wonderful project! Starting with Val and then expanding to the wider community and available resources, ensuring success and sustainability.
    A perfect example of regeneration!!!
    A member of the Cottage Gardeners Garden Club, we too benefit from Val’s passion for the natural environment.

  2. We had another work party with a couple of my hometown friends I’ve known since I was a kid. One brought her daughter and 4 kids ages 3-9 and they worked for 2 hours! We got a lot done and I appreciate all the help.

  3. Sign me up to help. I’m quite interested in this.
    Also, I have requested sunlighting of scriber creek and downstream waters otherwise I believe the salmon are not going to have a chance.

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