Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cutting Edge Planting at Padden Estuary

Upon returning to Bellingham via Chuckanut Drive after adventures on Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula, I made a short visit to the Padden estuary in south Bellingham before heading home. Geoff had alerted me to a planting area next to the estuary that included my latest favorite tree, Juniperus maritima. The planting area is located between the Port of Bellingham parking lot and the lower estuary of Padden Creek and is a great example of appropriate native plant selection.

Padden Lagoon planting including Juniperus maritima

Padden Estuary, 2011

The site is very far from a natural site. Natural processes were long obliterated from the landscape at this location with the construction of a railroad across the mouth of the creek, a road with fill across the estuary, and wide assortment of fill and industrial activities during early industrial development of the area.

1889 View of Padden estuary

View towards the east with industrial era in Fairhaven, 1898
Padden estuary is to the left of the street behind 3-story hotel
Many of the buildings in image are long gone

Padden estuary viewed from the west in 1918

Fairhaven 1890
The estuary would be just to the left of the image

Close up of image above - note the large stumps throughout
The large stumps in the old image above very near the estuary indicate that the estuary area was likely mostly forested with really big evergreens prior to the arrival of Americans.

1950 Aerial
Estuary used as a log pond

The selection of trees and brush for the site is a great example of appropriate native vegetation selection for the site conditions. It works for the narrow strip available, it works for supporting the limited wildlife and it works for giving opportunity to plants that are native but would otherwise not grow in the area unless some management is provided.

Besides the juniper, a few other favorites of mine were utilized - Garry oak, madrone and hairy manzinita. Plants to think about if your considering planting native trees. We have plenty of Douglas fir, western red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, red alder and big leaf maple. Giving the other trees that have lost habitat seems to be a worthwhile approach. After my visit, I am thinking a hairy manzinita is just the thing for one particular corner of my yard.

Garry oaks

Hairy manzinita

Hairy manzinita


Geoffrey Middaugh said...

Fantastic blog. You get it. I'd been looking for those type of pictures. Those stumps indicate to me why this is a rehabilitation of a degraded site. Not a restoration. Good work.

Mark Turner said...

The challenge with this rehabilitation site is maintenance. Folks are always happier to spend money planting than keeping the weeds under control.

Overall, it's a fine example of what's possible when using a variety of native shrubs and forbs in an urban landscape. Thanks for calling attention to it.

Vikki Jackson said...

Thank you for spot lighting this project. It is a gem that deserves attention. This little spot provides amazing habitat for flora that are very restricted in their range in Whatcom County as well as the associated pollinators.

Dan McShane said...

Comments and emails about the post are appreciated. I hope people check the esturay out and think about the broad possibilities with native plant communities. The work done at the site has been great. But then again Mark is correct, maintenance will still be needed.

Tricia Otto said...

Credit must be given to Binda Colebrook for this site and her knowledge and expertise in picking the right plants for the right spot.