Woody debris drop draws big crowds

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — Stillwaters Environmental Center administrative director Naomi Maasberg said she felt tears welling up as she watched a helicopter carefully place a log in the Carpenter Creek Marsh near the center. The work, part of a large woody debris drop, has been about a year and a half in the making and she said the emotion of seeing it finally completed was almost too much.

“Finally, a big idea that’s finally going to fly,” said Stillwaters program director Joleen Palmer. “We’ve been working on the watershed plan for quite a few years now, and it’s like wow. Persevere enough, and you finally get things done.”

The large woody debris drop took place Wednesday afternoon, and had interested residents lining West Kingston Road near the marsh to watch as Columbia Helicopters, Inc. flew one log at a time from a nearby staging area to the estuary. Cars slowed, and residents paused long enough to take pictures with their cell phones or cameras.

“I think that’s pretty cool they are making stuff for the animals,” said Kingston resident Drew Jasper, 12, who lives just up the road from where the work was being done. “It’s pretty cool they are replacing the habitat they took down earlier.”

The large woody debris drop will provide shade, breeding and hiding places for both insects and small organisms that call the habitat home, Palmer said. It will also improve the marsh for salmon, as well as help the ecosystem reestablish a more natural balance.

The environmental project, during which 100 logs were relocated, was made possible by a $15,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

While the process dropped jaws locally, for Columbia Helicopters, Inc. logging crew coordinator Mike Dauenhauer and co-workers, it was just another day on the job.

“In the summer and fall, these kinds of projects vary in size,” he said. “We have two sizes of helicopters we use, for this one we’re using the smaller one. For this project, there are a lot of small pieces, small dry pieces. Some projects we have are moving big pieces all day long.”

Essentially, the Stillwaters’ project was a piece of cake for the helicopter pilot, who operated a grapple on a 200-foot hydraulic line under the helicopter to lift each log. The marsh relatively open with not many trees, and the logs were smaller compared to some of the materials the company has moved in the past.

Despite Dauenhauer’s description of the helicopter as “small” and the project easy, residents were drawn by the rotors’ noise and the sight of a white and red helicopter towing logs. Palmer, Maasberg and Stillwaters volunteer coordinator Kari Golden watched the process from Stillwaters’ saltmarsh platform, while Steve Heacock, who both works for Kitsap County and has been involved with Stillwaters for many years, assisted the ground crew in placing the logs.

“This is awesome,” said Kingston resident Julie Gorset-John. She stopped her car alongside the project so four 10 year olds riding with her could watch the progress for a few minutes. “It’s very neat what they are doing. This is so neat.”

“We’ve be doing this for quite a few years now,” Dauenhauer said of the large woody debris drop. “People are claiming it really works, and that’s really cool.”

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