News & Events

Winter Work for Summer Chum on Chimacum Creek

Author: Stephanie Wiegand | 02/01/17

Children at creekSalmon Recovery Grant Award

A recently awarded grant will continue the community effort to keep Chimacum Creek healthy and vital by helping us protect vulnerable land at the mouth of the creek. Jefferson Land Trust is the recipient of a grant award from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The grant will fund the purchase of land on Chimacum Creek’s north shore, near the estuary where Irondale Beach County Park is located. This grant will provide up to $88K for the Land Trust to purchase stream-side lots from willing landowners along the creek’s lower main stem.

“The properties we have the opportunity to preserve with this grant are mostly in really good, natural condition,” said Sarah Spaeth, Jefferson Land Trust Conservation Director. “They have mature, native forest that keep the stream banks stable so sediment doesn’t become a problem for salmon spawn, and shade the creek to keep it cool.”

Protecting Lower Chimacum Creek

Chimacum Creek has been a focus of a long-time, significant community effort to bring back salmon. The demise of summer chum in Chimacum Creek led to the Land Trust spearheading the “Chumsortium,” a  partnership that still carries on today. This group of partners works to bring back local salmon runs in Jefferson County. The “Chums” have a long-time focal area at Chimacum Creek’s downstream reaches, where summer chum spawning habitat is located. Early efforts to bring back the summer chum led to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Jefferson Land Trust purchasing land along the lower stretches of the creek. WDFW and other Chumsortium partners, including the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and Jefferson County, performed restoration projects.

Irondale Beach

One such restoration effort was a massive project to clean up the old log dump at the estuary. The restoration of the beach here was a huge success, with Jefferson County establishing Irondale Beach County Park at the former mill site. Neighbors organized together as Friends of Chimacum Creek. The Friends are still active today, performing monthly beach clean-ups at the park by the mouth of the creek. It’s just one of the ways Irondale Beach County Park is being cared for and enhanced by continued community partnerships. Other volunteers like Doug Huber are doing incredible work here in partnership with local agencies and non-profits.

The park is growing in size, as well as in health, thanks to the actions of local citizens. This winter, the Land trust donated our Irondale Springs Preserve to Jefferson County for addition to the park. Several years ago, a neighbor donated this land to Jefferson Land Trust. Irondale Springs is a forested ravine where a small stream, sometimes called “Otter Creek,” springs and trickles to the shore.  This donation to the County counts as a funding match that will unlock grant funds to purchase more neighboring land from a willing seller. So, down at the mouth of Chimacum Creek, benefits for wildlife, water and people continue to grow hand-in hand.

Looking Ahead

The nature preserves and restoration sites on Chimacum Creek are anchors for a successful effort to bring summer chum here back from extinction. Salmon still struggle, though. As the Earth’s climate changes and human development of natural areas increases, it’s more and more challenging to maintain the cool water temperatures and low sediment conditions that spawning salmon need. There are still important undeveloped bluff and creek-side lots along the creek that need protection to preserve the conditions that sustain salmon runs. These lots were densely platted back in the 1880s when nobody understood the danger of salmon disappearing from our streams due to human impacts. Luckily, we still have the opportunity to make a difference by working with willing landowners to protect remaining undeveloped creek-side forest and bluffs at Chimacum Creek’s lower main stem.