Environmental learning center to be named after longtime volunteer

Join Seattle Parks and Recreation at noon on Saturday, May 2, as the department names the new Carkeek Park environmental learning center in honor of Nancy Malmgren, a dedicated park volunteer. The event will take place at the center at 950 NW Carkeek Park Rd.

Nancy Malmgren first visited Carkeek Park in northwest Seattle in 1945 at the age of 16, and she’s maintained a strong connection to the park ever since. Ms. Malmgren’s daughter attended Carkeek Park’s annual Girl Scout Day Camp for six years and Nancy led different scout groups on expeditions throughout the park. In 1965, she began making restoration improvements to the area.

Ms. Malmgren has spent the last 40-plus years restoring Carkeek Park and the Piper’s Creek watershed. After securing funding from the Clean Water Act in 1979, Nancy and her husband Les started the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project in partnership with Ted Mohldendorph. The watershed group organized educational, habitat restoration and outreach activities in the area and the Malmgrens often spent full work weeks reinforcing stream channels and creating sustainable paths for salmon. By the late 1980s, the couple’s efforts were repaid when hundreds of chum salmon returned to the stream.

Ms. Malmgren has received an Environmental Excellence Award and Denny Award from Seattle Parks and Recreation along with recognition from the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Washington State Ecological Commission.

Due to Ms. Malmgren’s strong commitment to hands-on education to take care of Carkeek’s watershed and natural environments and her commitment to preservation and sustainability, Seattle Parks will name the new environmental learning center the Nancy Malmgren Environmental Center.

The event will be part of the larger Pioneer and Garden Celebration hosted by the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Please RSVP to Cheryl Eastberg at Cheryl.Eastberg@seattle.gov or 206-386-4381.


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.

Camp Long hosts ‘Great American Backyard Campout’

What better way to celebrate the start of summer than to go camping with family and neighbors less than a mile from where you live?

On Saturday, June 21, 67 people from 12 families, including 27 adults and 40 youth, did just that. Residents of Seattle Housing Authority’s nearby High Point Community, the families participated in a free overnight nature immersion experience, many of them visiting Camp Long and camping for the first time.

Singing around the campfire.

For the second year the Camp Long Environmental Learning Center partnered with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) for NWF’s annual national initiative the “Great American Backyard Campout,” which aims to get more families outside, even if it’s only in their own backyards.

Families stayed overnight in Camp Long cabins and participated in various activities including forest hikes, night walks, a traditional campfire and a forest stewardship activity.

After getting settled in their cabins on Saturday afternoon, families joined educational organizations in the Camp Long meadow behind the lodge for interactive learning stations.

Seattle Tilth provided gardening information and compost investigations to connect home recycling with the natural systems that exist in nature. Kids got to see live worms and other decomposers in action. Other learning stations included read-aloud multicultural nature stories with Seattle Public Library and making nature crafts from recycled materials with NWF volunteers.

Ranger Rick, NWF’s raccoon mascot, was a hit with the children.  Staff and volunteers had to pull kids off of him in order for more to climb on.

Following a buffet dinner provided by NWF and donations from local vendors, everyone headed to the community campfire circle to learn about building a safe campfire. The children eagerly swapped stories, and a Samoan family borrowed a naturalist’s ukulele to lead the group in song.

Before tucking into their cabins, there was naturalist-led stargazing and night hikes to search for owls and other nocturnal life. Candle luminaries graced the upper trails in a magical glow to illuminate the path for children back to their cabins.

Sunday morning after breakfast, families went on forest walks, learned about the health of Seattle’s forests and its wildlife and helped with forest restoration – pulling invasive ivy and putting mulch on newly planted native plants.

Everyone seemed to get a great dose of Vitamin N (nature activities) and enjoyed being outside together with their community.

Local mammal and bird specimens came to life as Seattle Parks Environmental Learning Center Volunteer Naturalists shared how these animals coexist with humans in the city.


An excerpt from a letter sent by one of the Campout participants:

“…Our 9-year-old foster son, has never done anything like a campout before, and this was a HUGE experience for him. We watched him learn and grow in new ways in front of our eyes in 20 hours. This is a kid who whined about reading anything just weeks ago. Having the Seattle Public Library person there with books about nature (and totem poles, etc.) that were just right for him was PERFECT. He read books about animals in the field there. At bedtime, for the FIRST time, he said he’d like to stay up reading a little bit. Please share this with the library people.

“He was afraid of the dark, afraid of bats, etc., and so much of these fears dissolved on this trip because we got to pet little stuffed bats, he got to wake up in a safe cabin in the darkness without any light on. The structure provided by you and your people was so incredible, that there were only positive experiences. This weekend would have been incredibly hard to simulate in any other location, even at a campground because of the numbers of strangers there.

So thank you from the depths of our hearts.”


Seattle Parks Volunteer Naturalists meet the Duwamish River Valley

Seattle Volunteer Naturalists Kevin Tsui, Patty North, Chris Hoffer, Mary Kay Sykes and Karl Seng watch a trio of osprey circle over the Duwamish River in search of prey.


Long known as an industrial area, Seattle’s Duwamish River Valley is also a great place to learn about nature.

The valley is home to Seattle’s only river, the cultural center of Seattle’s first people and a landscape of river bends, industrial areas, fishing communities and rare birds that truly represent urban nature at its most threatened and most resilient.

In 2014, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Environmental Learning Centers (ELCs) began to work in partnership with Duwamish River Valley communities to create environmental education opportunities in the Duwamish River Valley. In order to accomplish this, ELC staff have begun to build their capacity of volunteers and develop meaningful partnerships with Duwamish Valley communities.

Building volunteer capacity

On Sunday, May 18, ELC staff hosted Meet the Duwamish River Valley, a continuing education session to introduce 10 of their most committed volunteers to some of the unique parklands, habitats and communities of the valley. These Seattle Volunteer Naturalists spent the day on the river in order to educate the public about ecology and community in the Duwamish River Valley.

Penny Rose, a Public Education Program Specialist with the ELCs, kicked off the day by telling the group how she had been inspired by the irrepressible beauty of the river and its wildlife.

“I used to ride my bike along this trail, through this industrial corridor, and I kept seeing some amazing and unique birds every time I’d pass through,” Rose said. “It took me a while to make my way to one of our parks along the river to see what a special place this really is. And that’s my goal with our work in the Duwamish River Valley—that we can show others who live in the city how truly important the river is to wildlife and to people.”

With the Duwamish River below, Public Education Specialist Penny Rose scopes out a peregrine falcon alongside Seattle Volunteer Naturalists.


Nature in action

Volunteers explored the restored salmon habitat at the heart of Herring’s House Park, the historical home to one of the area’s older Duwamish tribal villages, which provides respite for young salmon making their transition from fresh water to salt water as they move down river. During their visit, a red-tailed hawk made its way toward the river from its nest in Puget Park—only to be chased off again by a pair of agitated crows.

At the mouth of the river, the volunteers watched in wonder as a peregrine falcon—one of a pair that nests and rears its young every year on the underside of the West Seattle Bridge—snatched a starling out of the air for a meal.

Sharon Leishman, coordinator of the Duwamish Alive Coalition, told the volunteers why the river is so special to her.

“All of Seattle’s history and culture can be found right here,” she said. “It’s the home of our native people and the site of changes in the landscape by European settlers. It saw the growth of industry and pollution, and is now seeing our attempt to restore the natural environment. And, it is home to some of our most diverse neighborhoods.”

With towering cranes in the background, seals sunned themselves on floating buoys as giant barges rolled past. In the fall, salmon will pass through and be caught by tribal fishers, and hundreds of volunteers will spend thousands of hours restoring riverbanks.

“The Duwamish River Valley is such a rich place to do environmental education,” Naturalist Justin Hellier said. “We are able to see some amazing wildlife, but also some incredible community organizing for a cleaner river. We are able to look at how our economic systems interact with our ecological systems, and how these affect our communities. This river allows us to think about the really big questions of our day—how we live on the land, and how we treat each other.”

New community partnerships

The ELC staff work on the river has focused on developing and deepening partnerships with community groups and organizations that call the Duwamish Valley home.

Recently, the Naturalists have collaborated on programming with the Duwamish Tribe to provide environmental education at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. They are excited by their initial foray into the program—an event exploring Duwamish River birds attracted 34 people out on a recent Friday afternoon, and an event on the river’s geology brought out more than 100.

In addition, the Naturalists have begun conversations with the Duwamish Alive Coalition, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, EarthCorps and others to continue to develop relevant, accessible, community-based environmental education opportunities. This fall the group will join Duwamish River Festival at Duwamish Waterway Park in South Park.