Volunteer Robert Moreno removes invasive species from the conservation site behind Lake Washington Christian Church. Madeline Coats/staff photo

Volunteer Robert Moreno removes invasive species from the conservation site behind Lake Washington Christian Church. Madeline Coats/staff photo

Conservation district educates Kirkland residents on responsible stewardship and shoreline restoration

Residents learn techniques for returning their property to a more natural state.

The King Conservation District (KCD) partnered with Lake Washington Christian Church in Kirkland to educate residents on the importance of sustainability and responsible stewardship on June 26.

The event allowed residents to tour a 2.5-acre shoreline restoration project that was once taken over by invasive weeds. Homeowners living on streams, lakes and wetlands were invited to learn techniques for managing weeds and returning their property to a more natural state.

Kent Sullivan, outdoor work coordinator for the church’s Community Habitat Restoration Project (CHRP), and Robert Moreno, also with CHRP, described their efforts to protect the water quality, soil health and stream and wetland restoration for the site behind the church.

The property was developed as a church in 1968, explained Sullivan. The current church home was purchased in 2009 and land restoration began soon after.

“I think it’s fair to say that we didn’t know we had a calling to do this type of work until we moved here and gradually inhabited the space,” said Sullivan. “The project is a story of perseverance and just taking a chunk at a time.”

KCD education programs coordinator Kristen McCune and KCD improvement project assistant Ashley Allan have been working with the church to provide technical assistance, workshops and project installation for the site. The project has a 15-year lifespan and they are currently in the third year.

“The unique part about this site is that it was covered in blackberry. No one actually realized there was a stream or moving water,” said McCune.

The small stream running through the restoration site is connected to the Lake Washington watershed. The water drains from an unknown location down into the lake and then into Puget Sound.

The water at the site location is the only part of the stream that is above ground in Kirkland, the rest of it is covered. While it is unknown where the water originates, the runlet still flows year-round, even during the summer months.

“Our wetlands and our streams play a really important function in our environment, so ultimately their goal is to move water and sentiment from high elevation places to low elevation places,” she said.

The streams and wetlands play a critical role in the habitat for fish and wildlife. Likewise, native plants have evolved to allow wildlife access to vegetation for food, shelter or hiding.

“We could probably quit now and the plants would live because they’re big enough, but we don’t intend to stop,” said Sullivan. “We’re going to keep going until they get twice the size.”

Allan, who specializes in native plants and stream restoration, explained their goal to get to the point where the natives are so well established that future maintenance beyond that is minimal. She aims to create a self-sustaining forest with less than 10 percent coverage of invasive species.

“Obviously this doesn’t happen by magic,” said Allan. KCD intends to help residents conserve their land.

All landowners are entitled to free information and technical assistance from KCD services. The organization can help educate residents with information about water quality protection, wildlife habitat enhancement, farm conservation plans, soil and slope stability, native plants, stream restoration and other natural resource topics.

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The third path through the conservation site was created for a local Eagle Scout project. Madeline Coats/staff photo

The third path through the conservation site was created for a local Eagle Scout project. Madeline Coats/staff photo

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