2022 August Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

Fall is upon us – cooler temperatures, less daylight and, of course, our annual Fall for Fish fundraiser. We’ll gather for the event on Oct. 15th at 5 p.m. at Island Lake Park for wine tasting and some amazing speakers that we will introduce later in this newsletter. The funds raised ensure that we can continue to build on our work to manage, restore and share the Rhododendron Preserve for generations to come.

In the meantime, we are focused on building a pavilion in Hidden Valley and installing a new bridge over Wildcat Creek as we discussed in the last newsletter We’re so proud of the work that’s been done to make sure that we have a relaxing and wonderful space to share with our community.

We hope that you can join us at Fall for Fish to celebrate all the hard work that we’ve accomplished with your support, as well as connect with old friends and maybe make some new ones.

Stay healthy and well,

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


Fall for Fish Speakers to Share Expertise

The Foundation will hold its annual Fall for Fish fundraiser in just a few short weeks, on Oct. 15th to be exact, at Island Lake Park.

We’ll have wine tasting and then sit down for a family style dinner to break bread with each other and hear from some amazing speakers who will share their work and experience in forest restoration and old growth forest preservation.

One of the speakers is Frank Curtin, a soil conservationist/forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service. Frank will talk about the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that the Foundation has applied for and the work that we will be doing with the USDA to improve the Preserve. We discussed some of the forest restoration work that we plan to complete in our May newsletter.

A little bit about Frank: In his USDA role, he spends his days working with private landowners throughout Kitsap, Mason, and Pierce counties to improve the landscape and waterways through voluntary conservation efforts. In his free time, Frank spends his time with his wife and two daughters, age 1 and 3.

“We enjoy exploring all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer by camping, fishing, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding and all things outdoors. Additionally, we enjoy all the amazing local parks, children’s museums, and zoo,” Frank said of his family’s favorite activities.

The other speaker will be Christine Upton, the Communications and Information Director for the Old Growth Forest Network (OGFN). Christine was at the Preserve last September for the induction of the Preserve into the OGFN. She plans on talking about why preserving old growth forests like the Preserve is so important.

A little bit about Christine: She fell in love with the natural world at a young age and has carried that deep connection for her entire life. Previously, she managed outdoor recreation programs at various universities across the nation, where she gained valuable experience in all things related to operations, programming, and communications. Christine is ecstatic to join the OGFN team and offer support to the organization through communications, information systems, and data management. When she’s not in front of her computer, you can find Christine in the garden, reading anything sci-fi/fantasy related, or wrangling her Newfoundland dog.

We hope that you’ll join in the fun at Fall for Fish this year to hear from these great speakers and connect with one another in person…and raise funds to keep our great work going. You can purchase your ticket here.

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


Preserve as Outdoor Learning Laboratory

Our Preserve is an incredible resource used by educators as an outdoor classroom and laboratory to teach the next generation about the benefits of nature and the importance of ensuring that our landscapes remain healthy and accessible to all.

In addition to customized preschool, elementary, and high school field trips where students get to experience the Preserve in a single visit, we have a number of relationships with educators where students make repeated visits to the Preserve and work with us to collect data that helps us monitor the health of the Preserve.

Both advanced placement (AP) environmental studies students at Bremerton High and environmental studies students at Olympic College use the Preserve as their outdoor classroom and laboratory. As well as collecting data to monitor the health of the Preserve, students have volunteered to help plant trees and continue to monitor trees that were planted in the past.

It’s an exciting gift to be able to connect these young people with this healthy ecosystem and inspire their engagement in our conservation work. By encouraging the use of our Preserve as an outdoor laboratory and classroom, we are creating the building blocks of understanding on how interconnected we are to nature throughout our lives.

On the Preserve, we’re restoring the Wildcat and Chico Creeks, both of which are prime spawning ground for salmon. We’re working to restore the forests on the parcels that we purchased over the past decade from the Ueland Tree Farm, making sure that they are healthy and resilient forests that provide habitat for wildlife and cool, clean water for salmon. It is fantastic that we have students helping us monitor our progress and supporting our efforts.

When our young people get this hands-on experience – walking through the woods, collecting data on the health of the Preserve, planting a tree and taking care of the lands and waterways – and learning about the work that it takes to maintain our delicate ecological circle of life, we inspire our next generation of leaders and environmental stewards.

If you have a class that you want to bring to the Preserve, please contact education@ketalegacy.org and we will work with you to customize a field trip or help you design ongoing research and data collection projects. We are always happy to take a walk in the woods with students, teachers, and parents.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


Higher Stream Banks Benefits

As we are able to open Hidden Valley to the public this fall, those who pay attention will notice a significant difference between the banks of Wildcat Creek in Hidden Valley and elsewhere on the Preserve. The banks on Wildcat Creek in Hidden Valley are significantly higher than those upstream. You might think that it’s better for the creek to stay in its bed rather than to spill over the sides, but the issue is more complex than that. Undoubtedly, it’s better for the people living nearby when creeks stay in their beds and don’t flood over the banks, but is it better for the health of the ecosystem?

Hidden Valley is an original homestead site in Kitsap County, and it was occupied until 2001. Creeks are attractive to homesteaders because they mean a convenient source of water and rich soil. Unfortunately, creeks can also mean flooding. This was true in Hidden Valley and to protect his home, Harry Murray, the last occupant of Hidden Valley, deepened the channel of Wildcat Creek to prevent it from overflowing its banks in the heavy spring and fall rains. As a result, you will see steep banks that are bare dirt near where the old house stood.

On the part of the Preserve that was not homesteaded, you’ll notice that the banks of Wildcat Creek are gently sloping, shallow, and covered in plant life. During times of sustained heavy rainfall, the creek will overflow its banks. This is natural creek behavior. As the water overlaps the banks, the trees, shrubs, and other vegetation drink up some of the water, but more importantly this vegetation reduces bank erosion because the roots hold the soil in place. The rising water, as it overlaps the banks, carries the lighter mud and silt particles and nutrients onto shore replenishing the soil.

Vegetation on creek banks is an important part of creek health. When there is a lack of vegetation and bare soil is in direct contact with the water, sustained heavy rainfall results in erosion of the creek banks. This erosion fills the creek with silt and sediment that settles onto the bottom filling in the spaces in the creek bed cobble. This reduces salmon spawning habitat, as well as smothers creek-dwelling insects and eliminates their feeding and breeding areas. These creek-dwelling insects are essential food for salmon, birds, and other wildlife.

Erosion also increases the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients found in soil that are essential for plant growth, in the creek. The increase in these nutrients in the water creates excess growth of algae which in turn results in a decrease in the dissolved oxygen in the water. Salmon and creek-dwelling insects, as well as other aquatic animals, depend on dissolved oxygen to breathe. Erosion dirties the water, decreases dissolved oxygen, clouds the water, and blocks essential sunlight from reaching the stream bottom. Without sunlight, plants can’t grow and salmon can’t find their food.

The vegetation on the banks of creeks not only reduces erosion, but also shades the creek, which helps to keep the water cool. Salmon need cool and clear water to thrive. By maintaining stream banks in as naturally vegetated a state as possible, creek health is maximized. One of the steps that we will be taking in the restoration of Hidden Valley is native plantings along the creek banks that will help to restore the natural conditions of the Hidden Valley sections of Wildcat Creek.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


Upcoming events and reminders

  • A new pavilion and bridge in Hidden Valley will be constructed this summer with a completion date of mid-October. This project has taken 5+ years of planning, fundraising, and many board volunteer hours to get where it is today.
  • Save the date: Fall for Fish annual fundraising event, Oct. 15th, 2022, at Island Lake Park, 1087 NW Island Lake Road in Poulsbo. Tickets are now available.
  • Kitsap Salmon Tours: Washington State University will host free salmon tours on the Rhododendron Preserve Saturday, Nov. 5th, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn more here.
  • Mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29th, 2022.
  • Stay tuned for information on when and how to apply for the Foundation’s 2023 Community Grants.