Stillwaters working to maintain rural beauty

KINGSTON — With all the new developments taking place within the next few years on Apple Tree Cove, environmental supporters in Kingston are making sure the community’s rich natural habitats are preserved and maintained in a healthy manner that will allow them to be appreciated by residents.

During the next 18 months, Jolene Palmer, program director for Stillwaters Environmental Education Center and Naomi Maasberg, Stillwaters administration director, will work with local environmental groups on three major projects in the lower portion of the Carpenter Creek Watershed.

“It’s very exciting for us,” Maasberg said. “The lower part is in protective hands.”

Stillwaters will be restoring the main campus of the environmental center, creating an outdoor classroom for school groups and making Carpenter Lake more accessible.

The women have also been heading up the efforts to preserve five acres of wetlands near Barber Cut Off Road where the education center and caretaker’s home are currently located. The duo has plans to renovate the current caretaker’s home into an interpretive center for education purposes.

On a drier and more stable portion of the wetland near the road, they plan to add a small building with a full kitchen for meetings and events.

On the rear portion of the property, Maasberg and Palmer have created a trail leading to a platform that overlooks the West Kingston Road saltmarsh. The two are keeping a careful eye on what is growing at the wetlands, while planting native species at the site and removing non-native plants.

Up the road is the rest of the Stillwaters property — three acres of wooded land on Carpenter Creek that will become a “streamside wetland classroom” as Palmer called it. There, students from local schools will be able to have hands-on experiences with Mother Nature.

The large pools of water settled between the banks on this property were once a small creek, much like the rest of Carpenter Creek, Maasberg said. But after beavers built a dam on spot, the resulting ponds created an even healthier habitat for animals and fish.

“(The beavers) know what they are doing,” Maasberg said, noting that some people believe beavers disturb the natural flow of an environment with their dams.

The center was recently awarded a $2,500 grant from Kitsap County’s Department of Surface and Storm Water Management for materials to establish trails and boardwalks, Maasberg said, noting that they hope to have community volunteers help them build an 800-foot boardwalk into the woods.

While the brown and white recreation signs on Barber Cut Off Road indicate a county park is just up the road, there are no definite directions on how to get to the center’s third project — Carpenter Lake. Stillwaters and other environmental groups are hoping to change that.

The lake, which is surrounded by a bog, isn’t readily accessible, Maasberg said, adding that one misstep can lead to sinking a leg in thigh-high water and mud.

In collaboration with the Kitsap County Department of Parks and Recreation, the Carpenter Lake Stewardship Committee and the Cutthroats of Carpenter Creek (a program under Stillwaters), a trail has been created that starts behind Gordon Elementary and meanders down the hill through open woods. The path ends at a platform that overlooks a wetland full of non-native canary reeds and blackberry bushes.

The county is working to get permits to finish the trail, which will include a boardwalk over the wetlands and another platform closer to the lake.

While all these restorations are going on, the watershed and the creek itself are in very good shape, Palmer said.

She added that the goal is to just to keep them maintained while educating the community about the importance of watershed conservation and salmon enhancement.

The restorations are taking place in the lower reaches of the Carpenter Creek watershed because of the development that is being planned in the area over the next few years, Maasberg explained. The eventual goal, she said, is to connect all the wetland and nature preserves from the lake to Arness Park via nature trails.

Palmer and Maasberg said the community has been supportive in their efforts since they officially started the non-profit organization in 1999. School groups have helped with water testing and the Boy Scouts have made benches for the Carpenter Lake trail.

“I think these sorts of endeavors by the community are great because it makes (the area) livable and there is a community sense of pride,” Palmer said.

“Of pride and ownership,” Maasberg added.

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