Howe Farm Park Stewardship: Success in Four Parts!

Photos taken by Claire Voris

The boardwalks leading to Salmonberry Creek at Howe Farm Park had met their match. The contender? A family of beavers and their dam.

The beaver dam on Salmonberry Creek.

Beavers are quite prolific in this section of Salmonberry Creek. Their dam spans the width of the creek and has forced the waters and mud to rise and overtake the boardwalks used by locals to hike and walk through the beloved heritage park.

Signs of beaver chew, this area is now completely under water.

It was important to leave the dam untouched, as beavers can be very beneficial for salmon: the pools created by their dams create ideal habitat for fry and resting spots when it comes time to spawn.

The project to build new boardwalks, as well as lift existing pieces, would take more than a day or two of work.

Here’s the before photo, scroll all the way down to see the after!

Great Peninsula Conservancy collaborated with Kitsap County Parks and devised a series of prep days and work parties to bring the community together to make the park more accessible and give folks a chance to see the dam without disturbing it.

Months earlier, Great Peninsula Conservancy was awarded generous funding from REI’s “loving our local outdoors” grant to support outdoor places in the local community. Howe Farm Park was a perfect fit!

Part 1: NextGen Outdoor Camp

The 19 middle schoolers in GPC’s NextGen Outdoor Camp jump-started the Howe Farm project at the end of August. After 8 weeks walking trails and learning about outdoor safety, they got to put their new skills to work using rogue hoes and McLeods to make the trails to the boardwalks wider. They also cleared invasive species and set to work picking up garbage, helping protect habitat and beautify the park for future visitors.

Part 2: GPC Member Work Parties

Now that the trails had been opened up, it was time to come in with the supplies. GPC’s all-star stewardship team, Ali and Erik, joined forces with the Parks team: Jackson, Rachel, and Steven to prepare for the work parties on Friday and Saturday. It was muddy Friday and then it was even muddier Saturday, but there was pizza at the end of the tunnel!

Part 3: Tall Tails at Howe Farm

With most of the new boardwalks in place, Howe Farm was ready for the first ever “Discover Your Parks” event. Families came down to plant trees, make arts & crafts with their kids, and check out the beaver dam. The event was sponsored by Kitsap County Parks and Public Works, Olympic College, Howe Farm Stewardship Group, Great Peninsula Conservancy, and WSU Kitsap County Extension.

(Photos contributed by WSU Kitsap County Extension.)

Part 4: YouthBuild Kitsap

As the finale to the Howe Farm project, several YouthBuild participants spent two days completing the last details on the boardwalks. YouthBuild Kitsap helps young adults gain job skills through community service and leadership projects while simultaneously completing their GEDs. Ultimately it helps provide a pathway for employment, apprenticeships, and post-secondary education.

The Howe Farm Park Stewardship Project was an extraordinary example of the dedication and commitment our community has to caring for outdoor spaces. This project provided a resource for community members to learn more about salmon and beaver habitat and do something to help protect that habitat. Great Peninsula Conservancy was thrilled to help organize the project, and we couldn’t have done it without your help! So, to the many members who showed up in the rain or have supported GPC with an annual gift, to REI with special props to our local Silverdale store, to the amazing team at Kitsap County Parks, YouthBuild Kitsap, Olympic College, the Howe Farm Stewardship Group, and WSU Kitsap County Extension: thank you!

Look at these beautiful boardwalks!