Salmon and stewards return to Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park

Community members visit the Salmon Stewards in Carkeek Park.

Our everyday actions impact Seattle’s salmon population whether we realize it or not. We encourage everyone to make sure it is a positive impact.

In 1980, volunteers from Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project began a salmon enhancement project in Piper’s Creek in partnership with the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). Today the Suquamish Tribe’s Grover’s Creek Hatchery provides chum salmon as fingerlings for release into Piper’s Creek and eggs for local schools to raise.

Carkeek Park’s chum salmon will return to Piper’s Creek later this fall, which means it’s time to train the next group of Salmon Stewards to educate community members. The Salmon Stewards Program is a community volunteer program funded and collaboratively run by Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Restore Our Waters program and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

November to early December is the best time to witness Pacific Northwest salmon in an urban stream.

SPU Urban Watershed Educator Bill Malatinsky said that for a long time Carkeek Park’s habitat was “battered and bruised,” but community members recognized its potential for salmon production and soon a restoration project was underway.

About 70,000 chum fingerlings are first introduced into the Les Malmgren imprinting pond at Carkeek Park each winter, and 5,000 additional eggs are provided to elementary schools that raise and release their salmon into the imprint pond at Carkeek Park each spring. The young chum are held in the pond under the care of diligent volunteers and fed for about three weeks to imprint them to the “smell” of the creek system, which helps them return as adults to spawn.

After two to five years at sea, the chum salmon return to Piper’s Creek as adult fish, ready to spawn. Malatinsky said anywhere from 60-600 salmon pass through Piper’s Creek every fall.

This year’s Salmon Steward training will be held from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Carkeek Park Environmental Learning Center. No experience is necessary. Malatinsky said he’s had stewards ranging from preteens to senior citizens.

College student Anne Wang has been a Salmon Steward since 2008. She had fond memories of Carkeek Park as a kid and said when she saw a flier for the program at her community college she thought it’d be a perfect way to give back.

“As far as I know, Piper’s Creek is the only stocked chum run in Seattle, so it’s an important resource to gather information about salmon,” Wang said.

Wang said the stewards usually talk to about 300 people in the park every weekend. She said many walkers, joggers and families stop by during their park visits.

Salmon Steward Anne Wang

“A lot of people in our area are knowledgeable about salmon, so it’s cool to interact with them. We as volunteers get to share and learn, and it’s a good way to connect people to their local park,” Wang said.

Trained Salmon Stewards like Wang will be tabling and facilitating observations of Coho and chum salmon at Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 8 – Dec. 7. The community is encouraged to visit and learn about perpetuating salmon habitat and simply take in an incredible sight.

“The experience in Carkeek Park is unique in the sense that it’s a small creek and there are a lot of access points,” Malatinsky said. “You can stand on a foot bridge and watch salmon swim between your feet. Salmon are a valuable species and they fascinate us. Every day people affect water quality by what they allow to be carried from their streets into storm drains. We all have an effect on our salmon.”

For more information on becoming a Salmon Steward, or to register for training, contact Bill Malatinsky at Bill.Malatinsky@seattle.gov or 206-684-5999. To stay updated on fish sightings at Piper’s Creek, follow the Salmon Stewards on Facebook.