NE Seattle has 1 of Seattle’s 4 salmon-bearing streams flowing through it, Thornton Creek. The stream, who’s headwaters is the Ronald Bog in Shoreline at N 175th Street, flows through a highly modified system that had been increasingly encroached upon by construction of I-5 and Seattle’s northward expansion, as it makes its way to its confluence with Lake Washington at Matthews Beach. However, its ever-encroached upon fate has been changing for Thornton Creek in the relatively recent. Many local groups (e.g,. Thornton Creek Alliance), regulatory agencies, and City departments have begun efforts to restore the stream and its hydrograph, improve water quality, and rehabilitate the riparian and in-stream habitat for salmon.
Recently, there has been lots of positive news for those who love Thornton Creek.
- Friends of Thornton Creek Park #1 Natural Area received a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) Small & Simple grant to design a new park for the city-owned natural area between 10th and 15th Ave NE and north of 130th Street. The planning process is still ongoing and there’s time for folks to get involved and help out. (Note, the WCC has applied for a similar grant to design a park at the Morningside Substation site.)
- Three poorly named park areas (similar to Thornton Creek Park #1 above) have been aptly renamed to reflect the site’s natural features. These include Kingfisher Natural Area, Beaver Pond Natural Area, and LaVilla Meadows Natural Area on Thornton Creek. A lot can be said in a name and these newly named ‘natural areas’ can say a lot more than their predecessors.
- Seattle Public Utilities is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, June 15th, on a flood-control and sediment storage project they are proposing near 35th Ave NE near the Meadowbrook Community Center. The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8:30, at the Nathan Hale High School “commons” at 10750 30th Ave. N.E.
- The GreenSeattle Partnership has done a phenomenal job over the past couple years empowering folks to restore our urban forests and riparian corridors. From battling the dreaded English Ivy (if you’re still planting this, please stop) and other noxious and nuisance weeds, to planting thousands of new trees and shrubs to restore the understory of our urban forests, GreenSeattle has steadily chipping away at its goal to restore 2,500 acres of urban forest. This includes restoring city-owned properties along Thornton Creek! (not to mention the Burke-Gilman Trail and Magnuson Park). Want to get involved and help out GreenSeattle? There’s always an event that they need help on (they’re fun too). Or, you can get super involved and become a Forest Steward, and maybe steward our own urban forested ravines along Maple Creek in NE Wedgwood, which are tributaries to Thornton Creek.
- Although less recent, a developer and the City came to an agreement on a new residential development near Northgate, Thornton Place, after years of squabbling back and forth. While the condo market has taken a hit since the development was first built, Thornton Place is receiving its well-deserved credit for its creativity and ingenuity to increase urban density while restoring our natural systems.
While these projects should improve the habitat and natural conditions for the Thornton Creek system, the news isn’t all good. Small, invasive New Zealand mud snails, which can indeed do significant damage, have recently been found near the mouth of the creek.
There’s lots of work still needed to restore this beautiful urban stream. Much positive work is ongoing, although you can help in many different ways by being mindful of what you put on your yard or wash down the street’s storm drain. You can also become active in local stewardship groups like the Thornton Creek Alliance, Friends of Thornton Creek Park #1, or GreenSeattle.