Restoring Mission Creek At Priest Point Park

ThurstonTalk published a piece on a proposed restoration project in lower Budd Inlet.  As the article points out, cooperative projects that involve multiple agencies will be necessary to achieve recovery in Puget Sound.

By SarahJoy Smith

Priest Point Park is an oasis right at the edge of Olympia. The park is 341 acres in size, and boasts a full mile of shoreline right on Budd Bay. On a clear day you can stand at the shoreline and see a full view of the capitol rotunda in one direction, and the Olympic mountain range in its entire splendor in the other. But far more than just a beautiful view, Priest Point has much to offer its visitors in the way of outdoor fun as well.

As one of the largest within the city limits, the park offers a little something for everyone. Covered picnic facilities, complete with BBQ and outdoor “kitchen” amenities like running water, are available to the public for a reasonable fee. Many a gathering, graduation, and even the occasional wedding are held here. A formal rose garden is maintained in the spring and summer months that makes for a beautiful backdrop for such events.
priest point park

priest point park

Private and public organizations are joining forces to clean up Mission Creek.

Miles of trails meander through the wooded areas of the park, most of which provide relatively easy walks that even the smaller kids can do. But if the kids are less interested in walking there is always the large and inviting playground. Not to mention there is plenty of room to play by the water when the tide is out.

For the nature lover this is a wonderful place to observe wildlife. Heron, otter, eagle, seal, and even deer are some of the many wild residents seen daily by visitors.

This year, the park is getting some much needed restoration work to an area on the far eastern border known as Mission Creek. For centuries Mission Creek was a salmon run. Then sometime around 70 years ago it was paved over as a road.

Today all that remains is quite a bit of “rubble”, and a bulkhead which is acting as a block to salmon trying to enter the creek. The restoration will remove both rubble and a portion of the bulkhead. Then native vegetation will be replanted, invasive species removed, and some aesthetic changes will be made along the adjacent path to make it more welcoming for both people and salmon.

The restoration of Mission Creek has been a long time in the making. The main participants were proud to point out the joint effort between several different agencies. The Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG), Squaxin Island Tribe, a funding group called Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and other agencies to a lesser extent have been working together for ten years to get approval for this restoration. As Lance Winecka, SPSSEG Executive Director pointed out, “It takes perseverance, but the take-home message is that we can work together with everyone to do what is right.”

The significance of the Mission Creek project is twofold. To begin with, at the completion of this project the entire shoreline of the park will have been restored to its natural state. Another bulkhead was actually removed at the opposite end of the park a few years back. But more importantly, this creek is the last remaining estuary within the area.
priest point park

priest point park

Restoration work at Mission Creek is returning the area to original habitat.

An estuary by definition is a place where salt water and fresh water meet. Throughout human history estuaries are the places that people live near because they provide many resources. As you can imagine the health of an estuary and the health of the people who live near that estuary are intertwined. Moreover, this restoration has the intended purpose of bringing the salmon back to an original spawning ground.

Salmon are an indicator species, which means that their presence or absence is a measure of how healthy a waterway is. When the salmon disappear it is a telltale sign that something is wrong with the natural balance of an area. Hence the reason this project was finally approved. Alex Smith, Senior Environmental Planning Manager for the Port of Olympia has been part of this effort for many years. “If (a site) has some kind of impairment, like Mission Creek does, it is a great candidate for funding because it can restore the salmon, which is good for all of us,” said Smith.

Her counterparts with the City and SPSSEG agree with this sentiment. David Hanna, Associate Director for City of Olympia Parks and Recreation department, feels that this is a win-win for salmon and people. “Doing as much as we can to restore an area, so long as it does not do damage to the relationship between the people and the park is important,” said Hanna. “Here we are returning a degraded system back to nature, and making the park better.”

If all continues to go according to plan the project is set to begin in late August and completed no later than September 15. The park will remain open during the restoration and is not anticipated to affect visitors, so be sure to make your way there. And by this fall with any luck you may even get to see some salmon in Mission Creek attempting to return to their long forgotten home.

For more information about volunteering for the restoration project please contact Michelle Stevie at

Tribal Fishery Feeds the State of Missouri

Early this October natural resources staff tagged 600 adult coho in Budd, Case and Hammersley Inlets with spaghetti tags. This easily visible tag is inserted just below the dorsal fin. Each tag contains a unique identification number and a phone number to the natural resources department.

Tag being inserted into an adult salmon.

These fish were captured by natural resources staff in the lower ends of the inlets in areas that are generally closed to Tribal fisheries during the coho managment season. The purpose of this study is to track when these fish move out of the inlets and where they ultimately end up.

More information on mangament for coho can be found at:

Fishing regulations and maps

Several weeks after tagging the Department began recieving calls from several grocery stores in St. Louis Missouri reporting Squaxin tags on salmon they were about to fillet. This was followed by a phone call from a fish processing plant in Missouri that had found numerous Squaxin tags in shipments of fish they were buying. According to the processing plant manager fish bought from South Puget Sound feed three quarters of the state of Missouri.

Tumwater Falls Hatchery Chinook Update

Fall Chinook have begun to arrive at the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.   Washington Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) post weekly  In-Season Hatchery Escapement Reports online through out the year.  Current year escapement updates are available along with past years reports.

Snapshot of a WDFW In-Season Hatchery Escapement Report:

WDFW In-Season Hatchery Escapement Report from Wednesday September 4th, 2008

WDFW In-Season Hatchery Escapement Report from September 4th, 2008

Tumwater Falls Hatchery

Tumwater Falls Hatchery

As of Wednesday September 3rd, Tumwater Falls Hatchery has reported a return of 60 adult Fall Chinook so far.  Generally Tumwater Falls Chinook  will begin to enter the Deschutes River in late August continuing through October.   WDFW staff will begin random spawning of 2500 Chinook (1:1 male to female ratio) in late September through late October for collection of broodstock for continued hatchery production. Peak spawning is mid-October.  Spawning occurs about three times a week. Visitors are welcome to watch WDFW staff spawn Chinook at the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.

Squaxin Fall Chinook Fishery Report:

The fishery has slowed way down.  Earlier this week Salish Seafoods reported buying about 100 1bs. of Chinook for one night.

Chinook catches from Budd Inlet and Marine Areas 13D as of September 2nd: 9800 at an average of 13.5 lbs per fish.