June 7, 2013

Bothell’s last urban forest becomes outdoor classroom

Driving down I-405 in Bothell, you might not expect to find rich wildlife habitat directly off the road, but stepping beneath the trees of North Creek Forest, it would nearly seem that the urban world had faded away entirely if it wasn’t for the traffic sounds that mingle with bird calls.

Last month, the Coalition joined a group of 5th grade science students from St. Brendan Parish School to explore the last urban forest in Bothell with naturalist Rob Sandelin and Friends of North Creek Forest.

More than 9,000 students go to school within walking distance of this outdoor laboratory.

“Science – particularly for K-8 students – needs to be very hands on,” said Fa Fairbank, a science teacher at St. Brendan. “Being able to get into the forest, get into the soil and really be able to see and experience nature really makes a greater impact [than a textbook].”

Sandelin lead the students in counting plants in randomly selected two meter areas. The data was added to a continuing study of the forest by UW Bothell and Cascadia Community College students. The elementary school students observed bleeding heart flowers, sword ferns, thimble berries, and other plants as pileated woodpeckers flitted overhead.

The City of Bothell has received one federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to purchase 6 acres of the forest but a second grant is needed for 22 additional acres to ensure the entire forest can become an urban park within the Bothell City limits.

LWCF is funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling, not taxpayer dollars, and been used in almost every county in the nation. Even so, each year Congress has raided the fund for other purposes, leaving a huge backlog of unmet need for investments in our parks, trails, wildlife habitat and working forests.

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has worked with Friends of North Creek Forest in advocating for these grants.

“Without the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, we wouldn’t have had a chance,” said Jim Freese, executive director of Friends of North Creek Forest. “As the value of the property goes up, it gets harder and harder to raise funding to buy the rest of the land.”

The forest is imminently threatened by housing development. Without a grant from the LWCF, a large part of the forest could be lost forever.

Washington Senator Patty Murray, a Bothell native, has been a champion for LWCF funding in Washington. At the end of the field trip, the students signed a pair of white hiking boots to thank Murray for her support – an homage to the fact that Murray was told she was just a “mom in tennis shoes”  when she was first getting started in politics.