2022 November Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all our partners, board members, and friends of the Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation. I could not be more grateful for all of your support in 2022!

You’ve helped us reach some big milestones – from the installation of a protective deck around Big Tree to the building of a new pavilion and bridge in Hidden Valley, we’ve had a productive year. If you didn’t see The Kitsap Sun article on all the work that we’ve done to improve and enhance Hidden Valley and other areas of the Rhododendron Preserve, it truly captured all we’ve done this year and the work it takes over the years to accomplish all our goals. We have also started reseeding bare areas in Hidden Valley with native grasses and wildflowers and we will continue our restoration work in 2023.

With so much to be grateful for, we’re looking ahead to an even better 2023 and all it will bring for the Preserve and everyone that will come out to enjoy it. We’ll continue implementing our restoration plan for planting hundreds of diverse and native plants in Hidden Valley in January and March. And we will again award our Community Grants, welcome many schools and groups to the Preserve, host our annual fundraiser in October, and so much more.

We hope that you will continue to support our work and get out to Hidden Valley to see its beauty and all the work that has been done to make our small oasis even more welcoming for all. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday time with your families and friends and we’ll look forward to engaging with you again in the New Year.

Stay healthy and well,

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


 Planting the Seedlings of Tomorrow

The Preserve is truly a special place that we are consistently working to improve and reinvigorate through clean-up efforts, stream and bank restoration, planting of native species, and trail maintenance. What we’re building today is done with a vision of tomorrow.

One part of our restoration efforts is implementing the Hidden Valley Restoration Planting Plan that was created in collaboration with five students enrolled in Western Washington University’s Ecological Restoration class this fall. The recommendations in the plan are intended to act as a guide for the Foundation’s restoration planting events in 2023.

The goals of the upcoming planting events are to:

● Restore the riparian habitat surrounding the area where Lost and Wildcat Creeks converge to form Chico Creek.
● Reestablish a diverse forest surrounding the riparian area.
● Enhance the resiliency of Hidden Valley as the effects of climate change continue to emerge.

To do this work, the Foundation has purchased the 900 native trees and shrubs listed below to restore the natural habitat of Hidden Valley in the Preserve:

● 50 Baldhip Rose (Rosa gymnocarpa)
● 50 Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)
● 50 Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
● 50 Osoberry (Oemlaria cerasiformis)
● 50 Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
● 50 Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
● 50 Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
● 50 Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)
● 100 Western White Pine (Pinus monticola)
● 100 Sitka Willow (Salix sitchensis)
● 50 Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)
● 50 Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)
● 50 Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
● 50 Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
● 100 Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)

There are ample, open priority planting areas in Hidden Valley, which are labeled areas A, B, and C (see image to right). The plan recommends the planting of the following species in each area:

● Area A: priority planting area for Sitka willow, red osier dogwood, red elderberry, and Pacific ninebark (the same species are recommended if planting is planned on parallel streambank).
● Area B: Sitka willow, cascara, vine maple, and rhododendron.
● Area C: Sitka willow, vine maple, and Osoberry.

I’m happy to report that some of our restoration efforts in Hidden Valley have already taken place. The same five WWU students that prepared the restoration plan also planted 20 Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) in Hidden Valley in November. Also, the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) reseeded all of the bare areas in Hidden Valley this fall with the following native grasses and wildflowers:

● Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
● Blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus)
● Red fescue (Festuca rubra)
● Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
● Common Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)

We welcome you to come out and see the work that we’re doing to restore the lush landscape that makes the Preserve such a diverse ecosystem with old growth forest, healthy, salmon-bearing creeks, wildlife habitat, and forestlands that we’re working to restore.

It has been a pleasure to watch these restoration activities and the many visitors that have come to help do the work, or simply take a walk in the woods. We’re excited for the future of the Preserve and hope you are, too.

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


Kitsap Salmon Tours See Record Turnout

The Foundation was delighted to once again be a part of Kitsap Salmon Tours this year. Salmon Tours is a wonderful countywide event that encourages people to connect with the environment and learn about salmon and the critical role that these amazing creatures play in healthy environments.

Kitsap Salmon Tours were a tremendous success again this year. The tours, which were held in-person this year, visit various stream sites across the county as we explore all things salmon with biologists, local environmental organizations, and trained docents.

For the Foundation, one of the great parts of Salmon Tours this year was the ability to use our new pavilion. It allowed for visitors to stay dry and our docents to take small groups out for salmon viewing and learning with the many experts that we had on hand.

As part of the tour, the Foundation had many docents and other experts stationed in Hidden Valley and throughout the Preserve to discuss local salmon species, their lifecycles, and the role that we all play in the health of our salmon populations. It’s a perfect location for this discussion because the Preserve’s creeks have some of the healthiest salmon runs in Western Washington. Working with the Squamish Tribe and harnessing their expertise, a smolt count takes place each spring on the Wildcat and Lost creeks and it has consistently shown healthy returns year over year.

This year, we had 140 people visit the Preserve for Salmon Tours and we estimate that 75% of them were first-time visitors. That’s great news for the Foundation as we work to build awareness of the work that we’re doing not just to protect salmon runs, but to preserve old-growth forests and restore the landscape to a healthier environment every single year for fish, wildlife, and humans.

This is just one more reason Hidden Valley is a special place worth the effort that we put into it every year. Our goal is to create a welcoming and educational space that opens minds to the value of conservation of critical and diverse green spaces.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


Field Trips Planned with a Purpose

People sometimes wonder what a customizable field trip means. In a world where everything is prepackaged, order off the menu, one size fits all, something that is tailor made and crafted to be what you need and want is surprising. But for the Foundation, that’s exactly the kind of field trip that we want to provide.

The field trip that we crafted for South Kitsap High students is a good example. It was a more complex field trip than usual because it involved more than just the Preserve. Teachers at South Kitsap High reached out wanting to visit our Preserve, Salmon Haven, and Chico Salmon Park. Joint field trips like this are something that we’ve discussed with the people from the county in the past, so it was exciting to have a role in making one happen.

Being able to see old growth, second growth, and ongoing restoration at the Preserve and visit restored sites of different ages to compare them to the mature forests of the Preserve is exciting. All three sites exist within a few minutes of each other. We’re always delighted to be able to work in concert with other environmental organizations and county agencies, emphasizing that just as all parts of the environment work together, so should all pieces of the environmental community.

The teachers identified their field trip objectives as Salmon, Connections, and Environmental Careers. Each site was responsible for their own part of the field trip, keeping in mind the stated objectives. Since our site is more complicated with the need to hike to the creeks, the Preserve was the first stop. To get students to the other sites and back to school by dismissal, we had very limited time for activities. One of the teachers remembered a watershed web activity that we’d done with a previous class. It’s a great activity that does a fantastic job of showing how all the parts of the watershed are connected and how an imbalance in one part affects the whole. Unfortunately, that activity takes much more than the time that we had available. Working with members of our education advisory committee (members of the public with a passion for environmental education), we found a way to capture the essence of the learning in a quick and simple worksheet exercise to aid students in identifying connections and how everything fits together.

To maximize students’ ability to participate, we broke the students into two groups. While one went on a hike with a trained salmon docent, the others did the connections activity. Then the groups switched. We even took advantage of the WCC crew that was working in Hidden Valley at the time. The WCC crew leader talked to the students about the WCC and where they hoped their time with it would lead. As you can see, we tailored our part of the field trip to meet each identified goal while providing an enjoyable, educational, and memorable experience for the students.

Even with limited time and all the juggling that needed to be done to meet the students’ and teachers’ needs, we made it a full and educational day. That’s what a customized field trip does.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


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