King Conservation District has had the pleasure of partnering with King County Housing Authority on two properties in Kirkland, Casa Juanita and Juanita Court, which provide subsidized housing for families, seniors, and disabled persons. Through this partnership, KCHA residents will see firsthand the progression of streamside habitat restoration projects; from the removal of invasive species like bamboo, Himalayan blackberry, and English ivy to the installation of native species like thimbleberry, salmonberry, and Western redcedar. Together, the two projects add 1,380 native plants to the Juanita Creek corridor and further connect KCD habitat restoration projects along Juanita Creek.
Both KCHA properties lie along Juanita Creek, a stream that runs for about 5 miles through Kirkland and flows into Lake Washington through Juanita Beach Park. According to King County, land use in the area has drastically changed in the last 40 years. In 1981, 40% of the land basin was characterized as “urban/suburban,” compared to 88% “highly developed” today. Though development has altered water quality and native streamside habitat in and along Juanita Creek, the creek still provides spawning and rearing ground for kokanee, sockeye, and coho salmon. Unfortunately, due to the removal of streamside vegetation and lack of in-stream complexity – like large woody debris – the creek is not ideal for salmon during their time of reproduction and growth. That’s one reason why organizations like KCD work with private residents to restore streamside habitat. In the years following the installation of Pacific Northwest native shrubs, like black twinberry, and trees, like Sitka spruce, will grow to provide habitat and food for wildlife, including aquatic insects, which make up a large portion of the salmon diet. As these species mature, their limbs will fall in the creek below, providing safe rearing ground for salmon fry – young salmon that have not yet left their freshwater system.
In addition to the ecological benefits of streamside restoration, the people living nearby reap benefits as well. The restoration projects at Casa Juanita and Juanita Court will connect residents to nature in their own backyards, providing daily opportunities for solace, enjoyment, and discovery. Residents will enjoy bright red vine maple leaves in the fall, and equally colorful red-osier dogwood stems in the winter. In spring, mock orange, red flowering currant, pea-fruited rose and oso berry will put on showy flowers. And in summer, residents will be encouraged to keep an eye out for the edible fruits of certain species, like thimbleberry and salmonberry. Already, one resident has formed a relationship with the project and the land by repurposing some of the bamboo cuttings removed by KCD’s Washington Conservation Corps crew.
KCD thanks KCHA and Casa Juanita and Juanita Court residents for partnering with us on this effort to restore Juanita Creek and its streamside areas. As the plants grow taller, they will cast shade on the creek keeping water temperatures low and oxygen levels high for aquatic life. They’ll also keep stormwater runoff out of our streams, reducing the potential for pollutants to enter the waterway. We hope that in addition to these impacts, the restoration projects will provide enjoyment – and maybe some food – to KCHA residents and wildlife alike.
A lack of native vegetation along Juanita Creek reduces stream quality for local salmon populations.
A pile of invasive ivy removed from the site in preparation for planting.
WCC crews working to remove invasive species from before planting.
Written by Liz Fredrickson