Riparian wonder: Northwest Stream Center

Public invited soon
Jun 20, 2016
Photo by: Brian Soergel The new half-mile elevated nature walk will soon allow visitors to explore the diversity of the Northwest Stream Center at McCollum Park.

Tom Murdoch could no doubt survive for a time inside the 20-acre Northwest Stream Center at Snohomish County’s McCollum Park.

“Just about everything in here is edible,” he said, plucking a berry from a bush while leading a tour of the elevated nature walk, a half-mile trail that twists through a verdant, wetlands landscape of second-growth forest, native plants, streams, ponds, ducks, frogs, birds – and serenity.

The center, a popular destination for school field trips, will be open to the general public for the first time sometime this summer. The opening of the center, a project of the Adopt-a-Stream Foundation, is a two-decades-long vision of foundation director Murdoch, his staff of hundreds of volunteers, and businesses and nonprofits that have helped fund it.

To  ensure that visitors have an enjoyable outdoor experience, their number will be limited to no more than 30 per half hour on a reservation basis. Although a price is yet to be determined, Murdoch said it could range from $7 to $10.

The site is in a riparian zone, an area of vegetation next to a stream, creek, or river that affects the ecology of that aquatic system. In this case, it’s North Creek, which has its headwaters near the Everett Mall and flows through Mill Creek on its way to the Sammamish River near Bothell.

(The drainage basin is roughly 19,000 acres and includes Silver Lake, Ruggs Lake and Thomas Lake.)

The first stop on the tour will be the Gate House, a prefabricated shed built by volunteers in two days. Its low-impact design includes rain barrels and a living green roof, filled with plants. The paver outside the shed is porous, so rain drains through the soil.

This stop will hopefully, Murdoch said, get visitors into a conservation mode. Maybe to think of what they can do to help ensure the planet’s longevity.

A deck in back of the shed looks over the Stream Center’s own trout stream, constructed to help visitors understand how streams work and their role in protecting salmon habitats. Several viewing windows give visitors a you-are-there view of cutthroat trout and mussels, the latter which can live up to 100 years.

Two pumps downstream recirculate water from a marshy pond that was formerly a parking lot. There’s also a pretty cool waterfall.

A highlight – and a justifiably point of pride for Murdoch – is certainly a raised boardwalk,  constructed of recycled plastic lumber. Interpretive signs are now being placed along the half-mile trail, which features bridges, trails and rest stops.

In addition to schoolchildren, teachers and families, Murdoch expects wetland scientists to also visit the site, where instructors will eventually lead classes.

“Anyone interested in natural sciences of Northwest will be interested in the Northwest Stream Center,” he said.

The Northwest Stream Center is part of the Adopt-a-Stream Foundation's vision to insure the protection and care of streams by encouraging schools, community groups, sports clubs, civic organizations and individuals to adopt their streams and become streamkeepers.

On June 30 at 7:30 p.m., the Northwest Stream Center will host a  “Walk on the Wild Side” naturalist-led interpretive tour of the elevated nature walk. Attendance is very limited. The cost is $7 for Adopt-A-Stream Foundation members, $10 non-members. Call 425-316-8592.

“We never know exactly what to expect, because the scene changes every day,” Murdoch said. “The plant growth will be at its peak, and, if everyone is quiet, a variety of wildlife can be observed. We might even get to ‘hoot’ with our resident barn owls. Everyone who takes this short trip will learn the interconnections between forest, wetlands, streams, fish, wildlife and people.”

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