City boy connects with country fish

BIG VALLEY — Mike Dale doesn’t call himself a farmer, but when he and his family found a 15.5-acre pasture on Big Valley Road in 2001, they were hooked on the idea of living on such a unique piece of land.

But after removing 32 dump trucks full of debris and replacing a faulty septic system on the 100-year-old farm property, the Dales discovered there were more ways than one to help improve the quality of their land, which includes salmon-bearing Dogfish Creek.

With the assistance of a Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife Landowner Incentive Program grant for salmon enhancement, the Dales and Brian Stahl from the Kitsap Conservation District have been working together since early 2002 on projects that benefit the health of the stream.

“He’s the one who told me all the cool stuff we could do,” Dale said of Stahl. “I didn’t know so many cool things could be done. In five years, this place will be fantastic.”

The property is an historic, old pasture with no woody vegetation along the creek bank, Stahl explained. But by planting trees along the stream, a more salmon-friendly habitat is created that includes hiding spots for the fish and stabilizes the creek bank.

Last year, 300 bare root trees were planted and another 220 5-gallon potted trees were expected to be planted on Saturday morning, thanks to the approximately two dozen volunteers who showed up to the Dale property. They planted a variety of trees, including Western red cedars, Sitka spruces, big leaf maples, Oregon ash, red twig dogwood, black hawthorne, Western crab apple and alders.

Saturday’s group included members of Trout Unlimited and Mid-Puget Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, juveniles from the Kitsap County Alternative to Detention program and local business employees.

Watson Furniture’s Julia Zander was one of those local business employees digging in the mud Saturday morning with her coworkers. Watson’s is a certified Envirostar company and was invited to help out on the property.

“I think a lot of us are interested in doing this kind of thing,” said Zander, who works on projects that help the company be more environmentally-friendly. “We’re just working towards being better.”

While Dale was struck with a cold and couldn’t get out to help on Saturday, he was excited about the work that has taken place and what lies ahead.

Other plans for the creek include replacing an undersized culvert with a bridge for better water flow and building a fence to keep grazing livestock out of the banks of the creek. Uprooted tree stumps will also be strategically placed in the stream at a later date to help the flow of creek.

Dale hopes within five years, the property will be on the right track to becoming as healthy as possible.

“Big Valley is one of the last cool untouched farm properties,” he said.

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