Making parks enjoyable to people and wildlife through creative compromise

Beaver in Magnuson Park. Photo by Robert Vandenbosch

Seattle was recently named one of the top 10 cities for wildlife and we take that title seriously. Every day Seattle Parks and Recreation works at stewarding a healthy environment for people and nature. Recently our creative environmental stewardship efforts have led beavers to establish their habitat in Magnuson Park.

Seattle Parks’ staff started noticing beaver activity in the central wetlands last spring, and by December 2014, the water level in the north Promontory Pond was 4 feet above the designed level. Staff were challenged with protecting the trails and vegetation, without destroying the beavers’ habitat. In order to keep beavers in residence, staff had to come up with a compromise between human and natural use of the wetlands.

Enter the Clemson Beaver Pond Leveler.

Seattle Parks worked with the designer of the wetlands, an environmental consultant and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to lower the water level of the pond down between what the beaver created and what the design of the wetland intended. Staff coordinated the installation and monitoring of three water-level-control devices in the wetland to lower the water level about two feet. At this level, flooding to the adjacent trail is reduced and some of the shoreline and upland vegetation are saved. Most of the beaver’s dam was left in place while work was completed, and the beaver has already repaired the dam with the new water-level-control devices in place.

Photo by Mike Schwindeller

The Clemson Beaver Pond Leveler works by discreetly lowering water levels. It minimizes the sounds of rushing or dripping water, catalysts for dam construction. Additionally, since most of the device is submerged underwater, it lessens the probability that the beavers will detect current flow, another trigger for dam building.

Because of this work, Seattle Parks is able to allow beaver habitat in Magnuson Park, and give the public a unique viewing experience.