2021 April Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Mountaineers Foundation friends! Spring has returned, and I know that many of us have welcomed the change in season and the longer days of light. While we continue to put a pause on some of our outdoor education and work party activities, we’re still working full speed on several important efforts. A few highlights:

  • In our December newsletter, we highlighted the work of our 2020 interns who developed a new GIS tool that will help us refine our plan for managing the Preserve and supporting the Chico Creek watershed. We’ve hired two interns to continue that work this year – Casey Blankenship, who is returning from last summer, and Megan Burch, both from Western Washington University. They’ll begin working part-time this month and work through the summer to further refine our conservation-based management plan for the Rhododendron Preserve.
  • Thanks to those who contributed during our 2020 virtual Fall for Fish event! Director Amy Lawrence is working with a construction contractor to obtain a bid for a deck around Big Tree. We’ll need volunteer help with this project when the time is ready, so keep an eye out for updates.
  • Our Hidden Valley restoration work continues with the help of the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC). A WCC crew was at the Preserve for two weeks in March removing invasive species like Himalayan blackberry and English holly.
  • The Suquamish Tribe’s fisheries biologists are working in Hidden Valley daily until June to monitor the salmon smolts leaving Lost and Wildcat creeks. The biologists will return in the fall to count the number of adult salmon that return to spawn. Their work provides important indicators about the health of the watershed and its ecosystems. We’re grateful for their partnership.
  • The GiveBig campaign is coming up May 4-5! As always, we welcome your support. These funds will help our efforts this year to restore and maintain Big Tree trail, restart field trips and other environmental education programs when it’s safe to do so, and maintain our 426-acre Preserve in support of the Chico Creek watershed. As always, 100% of all donations directly support program activities. We are proud that we manage all our funds in socially responsible investments.

Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to visit the Preserve recently, I encourage you to pick a sunny afternoon to stop by and see the trillium in bloom. Last year, Director Amy Lawrence shared a virtual Trillium Walk that’s worth a watch, and our education committee chair Katha Miller-Winder shares some lovely photos below. Remember to wear your face mask and give space to other visitors!

— Jeff Wirtz
President, Keta Legacy Foundation
also known as Mountaineers Foundation


It’s the little things…

This month the focus at the Preserve is on the little things. If we slow down and really notice our surroundings, there are a wealth of little things to see at the Rhododendron Preserve. Trillium are everywhere. You can see them shift from the vibrant white of blooms at their peak, then shading through the pink tinge of blooms just past their prime, to the mottled magenta of blooms before they fade away until next year. There are precious woodland violets hidden in plain sight for those who take the time to look. You can find mahonia beginning to bloom, new sword fern growth unfurling, and countless varieties of moss. And if you take the time to see it, you can marvel at the multitude of spikes protecting a devil’s club’s new growth. There are sapsucker holes in trees to notice, bleeding heart blooms to admire, and many plants waking up and showing their new growth. The little things are calling. Come and see.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Community grant partners demonstrate innovation and persistence during the pandemic

The pandemic and related shutdown measures have been incredibly on hard on nonprofit organizations that often rely on in-person fundraising events or paid programming. Over the past 53 years, we’ve partnered with organizations on hundreds of projects, and the creativity and resilience shown by our 2020 grantees made these some of our most inspiring.

We were able to award seven grants last year to organizations that were all dedicated to making sure that their conservation and education work continued despite the shutdowns and uncertainties of COVID-19. A year later, we’ve been incredibly proud to see how some of them have demonstrated remarkable innovation and persistence.

One example is Heronswood, a botanical garden near Kingston owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Their gardens have long been a beautiful site for events and educational programs and tours, but they had to cancel all of those during much of last year. They leaned into the virtual space, while also looking at how to get ready for safe reopening. They adopted a new daily “Show and Tell” community class that has become so popular that they’ll be continuing it through 2021. Also, they’re building new “environmental education pods” throughout their garden that will support more outdoor education for small groups, as well as improving the accessibility of several of their paths and gardens to support those with mobility support devices. It turns out that their online class formats have been so popular, Heronswood is planning to keep them as part of a new “Lunchtime Lectures” series. Online or in-person, these gardens are worth a visit!

Friends of the San Juans is another example. They took online learning to another level by developing a virtual reality experience for high school students that allowed them to see our local marine food web up close. While there’s no substitute for experiencing nature in person, Friends of the San Juans helped students get awfully close. Watch for yourself!

Washington Environmental Council hosted four events for Orca Recovery Day including two beach cleanup events. 57 volunteers participated in the events.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance was able to engage dozens of students in its effort to create a story map about Lost Urban Creeks and support the water quality monitoring work of Springbrook Creek and the Duwamish River. Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands hired a new forest educator who successfully launched several outdoor education programs that are already connecting local students to the outdoors. We’re so pleased that Pacific Shellfish Institute, RE Sources, and Washington Environmental Council all found similar success in adapting their programs quickly.

All our 2020 recipients found ways to keep their doors open and ensure that the important work of connecting people to the environment and healthy ecosystems continued. Our 2021 community grants program is proving to be just as crucial to helping our partners navigate these challenging times. Keta Legacy Foundation also known as Mountaineers Foundation prides itself on partnering with like-minded conservation organizations because just as our planet’s ecosystems are inter-related, so is our work to protect them. We’ll be announcing our 2021 grantees soon – stay tuned!

— Renee Johnson
Community Grants Committee Chair


Tree cookies made for learning, not eating

Have you ever heard of a tree cookie? It sounds like it would be a cookie in the shapes of a tree, doesn’t it? Tree cookies actually refer to a slice of tree that people can study to determine the age of the tree, how climate has impacted the growth of the tree, and which years were good (or not) for tree growth.

There’s an entire science called dendrology which relies on the study of trees and other woody plants. Looking at tree cookies is one aspect of that science. The Mountaineers Foundation was recently delighted to acquire five large tree cookies from a Western Red Cedar that fell in 2020. Once these are sanded and covered in a protective preservative, they will become part of our available education materials. Each cookie will be large enough for four or five students at a time to share. This is one of many things we’re excited to share when in-person field trips resume!

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • Get ready: the 2021 Kitsap Kids’ Directory is hosting a parks & trail challenge, inviting families to visit all of Kitsap’s parks and trails. The Foundation is proud to be supporting this effort. Check out the details here, and start exploring!
  • If you haven’t taken a look recently, peruse our Flickr site to see beautiful new images from the Preserve.
  • Remember to Give Big on May 4 & 5!