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!

Self Guided Salmon Tours

The Rhododendron Preserve is open for self guided salmon tours. Please avoid crowds, stay 6 feet apart, and wear a cloth face covering according to local safety guidelines.

Visitors are welcome to follow the interpretative signs down the Big Tree Trail.

salmon get scared

2020 Fall for Fish

Virtual Wine Tasting and Fundraiser

The Mountaineers Foundation, also known as Keta Legacy Foundation, has adapted its annual Fall for Fish benefit dinner in response to COVID-19. The Foundation now looks forward to gathering online for a virtual wine tasting and fundraiser. We are so excited to host you in our upcoming event! Get tickets now!

Help Protect Big Tree

Your support during this fundraiser will help construct protective decking around Big Tree and help maintain the Big Tree trail.

Big Tree is a rare old growth Douglas Fir spanning 30 feet around. It is the main attraction at the Rhododendron Preserve, where visitors come to marvel at the old growth forest. The trail is in constant need of maintenance and the roots of Big Tree are at risk of being harmed by foot traffic. We need your help to maintain safe public access to Big Tree and to protect Big Tree from becoming a Big Log. Please join us for a fun-filled happy hour to support Big Tree!

The Event

The virtual wine tasting starts at 6 pm on October 24th. We will gather online using Zoom. During this interactive happy hour, we will enjoy a certified Salmon-Safe wine tasting with Becky Selengut and her master sommelier wife, April Pogue. This dynamic duo will guide us through tasting two wines paired with tasty morsels.

We will arrange for wine.com to ship you the wine. Becky will supply the recipe and shopping list for our guests to prepare at their homes. After the wine tasting, we will learn about the Rhododendron Preserve and it’s unique characteristics. We will also celebrate this year’s Chico Champion. We will then wrap things up with an admission drawing and announce the winners at the end of the happy hour.

Becky Selengut is a Seattle-based author, instructor, speaker, podcaster, and chef. How to Taste: The Curious Cooks Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond is Selenguts latest book, published in March 2018. She is a staff instructor at The Pantry Cooking School in Ballard. Selengut is also the author of Good Fish (a sustainable seafood cookbook), Shroom: Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms and the co-author of Not One Shrine: Two Food Writers Devour Tokyo. In her free time, she co-hosts a NSFW comedy podcast with Matthew Amster-Burton called Look Inside This Book Club where they read, review and riff on only the free look inside preview of best-selling (but not necessarily good) romance novels. Selengut forages, makes a mean Manhattan and shares her life with her sommelier wife April Pogue (Cafe Juanita) and their lovably loony pointer mix Izzy.

Photo by Seattle Times

April Pogue comes to us with 25 years of experience having worked with some of the industry’s best at Spago Beverly Hills, the 5th Floor in San Francisco, Seattles Wild Ginger, Loulay Kitchen & Bar, and Cafe Juanita. She believes that the years spent in these establishments along with her diligent study through the Court of Master Sommeliers have prepared her for her knowledgeable participation in our workshop.  Through the years April has been inspired by education, good service and hospitality and is very excited to share this vision along with all of you.

Admission Options

There are several admission options for this event (see rules and restrictions):

Admits one couple to the interactive wine tasting where we will provide the happy hour and you will provide the food and wine (we will email you a food and wine shopping list in advance).

Admission + White Wine
Admits one couple to the virtual wine tasting, plus we will arrange with wine.com to ship a Salmon-Safe WHITE wine to your address (you provide the food and we will email you a food shopping list in advance). You must be 21 to participate and provide a valid shipping address.

Admission + Red Wine
Admits one couple to the virtual wine tasting, plus we will arrange with wine.com to ship a Salmon-Safe RED wine to your address (you will provide the food and we will email you a food shopping list in advance). You must be 21 to participate and provide a valid shipping address.

Admission + White & Red Wine
Admits one couple to the virtual wine tasting, plus we will arrange wine.com to ship BOTH WHITE AND RED Salmon-Safe wines to your address (you will provide the food and we will email you a food shopping list in advance). You must be 21 to participate and provide a valid shipping address.

Rules and Restrictions

You must be 21 to participate. A person 21 years of age or older must be present to receive the wine upon delivery. Wine.com is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes, APO, FPO addresses or international addresses. Due to state regulations, wine.com is unable to send wine to the following states: AL, DE, MS, ME, MT, KY, UT and SD.

Get Tickets