Homeowners’ Association Leads the Charge to Improve Its “Back Yard” in Black Lake

Submitted by Paul Dunn for Chehalis Basin Lead Entity

Jo John Wilson and other members of the Sylvan Terrace Owners Association, the multi-acre splash of waterfront and wetlands between their Olympia condominium complex and Black Lake is a little slice of heaven.

The site, they say – including Michelle Creek bisecting it – is a wonderful ode to the riches of nature and the wildlife that call the land home. And because of that, Wilson and the Sylvan Terrace Owners Association are doing their best to preserve and enhance their unique backyard.

John Wilson is a board member of the Sylvan Terrace Owners Association in Thurston County. Photo credit: Paul Dunn.

“We have this beautiful natural habitat between the condos and the lake, and we can’t wait to get out there and make a difference,” Wilson said.

Wilson, 43, and Dorothy Zee — two of the condo owners association’s four board members — led the charge. Their vision and dedication, along with the help of many others, will help ensure the salmon in the creek are once again free to migrate through the waters. Due to man-made barriers, native salmon species including coho, chinook, rainbow trout and cutthroat have not been seen in Michelle Creek for 15-20 years . The stream is a tributary of the Lac Noir and, further, of the Rivière Noire.

The main part of the homeowners’ association project, which is expected to begin soon and be completed by the end of August, will replace an existing three-pipe culvert with a 12-foot-wide by 30-foot-long pressure-treated modular timber bridge. . About three months later, volunteers will help shore up the creek banks by planting about 1,200 willow stakes along the creek.

The culvert removal is expected to open approximately 100 acres of stream bed for the site’s salmon population and help restore this east-central part of the massive Chehalis River watershed.

Wilson can’t wait. He predicts a salmon renaissance.

“I’ve never been so excited for fall and all the rain to come back,” he said. “I really want to see the fish back in the estuary.”

Key McMurry is also confident. McMurry, a stream and wildlife biologist, owns Key Environmental Solutions, LLC, in Raymond. She worked closely with the Sylvan Terrace Owners Association to determine how to replace the constricted culvert, improve the banks of the creek and bring back its aquatic residents.

“I’m very confident that as soon as we open those barriers, the fish will literally come up the creek next season,” she said. “This has been the case on almost every barrier project we have worked on over the years. The wetlands are impressive for salmon and other species. It provides connectivity with other waterways and access for the wildlife that lives there.

black lake salmon restoration
Plans call for a new wooden bridge that will span this part of Michelle Creek near the association’s condominium complex. The bridge will replace an existing three-pipe culvert that has impeded the migration of the region’s native salmon. Photo credit: Paul Dunn.

With McMurry’s guidance, the Homeowners Association Board was successful in securing a $96,908 Habitat Restoration Protection Grant from the Chehalis Basin Strategy which is expected to cover approximately all expenses. of the project. The grant, received at the end of February, does not require any monetary consideration from the owners’ association, an unusual circumstance.

“This is truly an amazing grant, and I think it highlights the importance of the Chehalis watershed and the fact that we received it shows how beneficial our project will be,” said Wilson, a speech pathologist from Olympia when not doing environmental duty.

“In all my years doing this type of work, I have never encountered an unrequited grant in the world of salmon restoration,” McMurry said, noting that the grant is for the improvement of all species. aquatic and therefore applies to salmon, Oregon said. frog and Olympic minnow that inhabit the Michelle Creek area. “The culvert desperately needed to be replaced, which would open up miles of wetlands for salmon in their overwintering habitat.”

Although McMurry has provided much of the assistance for the project thus far and will continue as the bridge is built and the creek banks are revitalized, Wilson and the homeowners association also rely on other volunteers to help them.

They will mostly come in the form of around 30 Cubs from Lacey’s 007 Pack. Wilson expects about 20 more people to reinforce the scouts as the work progresses.

black lake salmon restoration
A three-pipe culvert currently intersects Michelle Creek in Thurston County near Black Lake. Thanks to the efforts of the Sylvan Terrace Owners Association, the culvert will soon be replaced with a new wooden bridge that will facilitate the migration of native salmon along the waterway. Photo credit: Paul Dunn.

“For me, this is an opportunity to educate future generations about the importance of restoring natural habitat and ensuring that different species will be around in the future,” Wilson said. “I love being in the natural environment, and I can’t wait to get out there and make a difference.”

When it comes to McMurry’s, Wilson and the owners’ association have already accomplished a lot. Without them, the project would never have seen the light of day.

“Salmon restoration requires great, willing landowners who go out of their way to figure out how to make things happen,” she said. “You can’t make plans without willing landowners.”

To learn how you can help salmon recovery, visit the Chehalis Basin Lead Entity website or search for Chehalis Basin Strategy online.

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