Carkeek Park: views after the Dec.12th rainstorm
After the rains subsided last Sunday, I toured the neighborhood and visited Carkeek Park to see how the record rainfall (2.17” in 24 hours) affected our beloved park and salmon-bearing creek. The creek, which normally runs clear with gentle ripples and small pools, was swollen and fast. The waters were gray with the sediment of our urban stormwater and, as I found out later, mixed with unknown quantities of untreated sewage which ran across a trail near the tributary, Venema Creek. Portions of the park around Venema Creek tributary, to the north of Carkeek remain closed. Make no mistake: this was a small scale disaster impacting the park ecology, it’s salmon-run and the water quality and ecology of Puget Sound. I wanted to share these photos and observations as a regular park user and landscape architect trained in low impact development strategies. I would welcome additional observations and follow up reports by the Carkeek Park staff and specialists in urban ecology and stream hydrology.
1. Views from the stone bridge into the wetland area near the outfall at the beach. A wetland is a low lying area which can absorb, filter and clean stormwater. It appears this storm event may have overwhelmed its capacity.
2. Views of the swollen creek from the bridge near the meadow. The velocity and force of the water flow erodes stream banks and moves the gravel beds, washing away most of the salmon eggs which had been deposited during the previous month.
3. View looking east to the creek from the weir, just before the creek passes into a culvert under the BNRR tracks, to the beach outfall. Normal winter water flow is just between the six foot wide cut in the center of the weir, but on my visit, water gushed over the entire weir and up the banks.
4. From the pedestrian overpass crossing the railroad tracks, one could clearly see a brownish gray colored flow from Carkeek into Puget Sound (not quite as clear in these photos.)
5. As we continued our tour around Carkeek Park that morning, we saw first-hand the impacts of clogged catch basins on the park. A catch basin along the lower meadow parking area clogged with leaves caused flooding of the meadow. Another clogged catch basin created a dangerous driving situation on the loop road from the upper meadow.
6. A bright spot in my tour: two wonderful park volunteers, Lex Voorhoeve and Loren McElvain, brought their shovels and rakes and wadded into the flooded park roadway to unclog a catch basin creating another deep puddle across the access road. In the video link below, you’ll hear the sounds of their success, and the reason for their dedication: Our city budgets have slashed maintenance funds, and more than ever, volunteers need to step in to help maintain our parks and trails!
Other volunteer opportunities at Carkeek Park: Join the Friends of Carkeek Park, which meet most Saturday mornings to maintain and repair trails and other tasks. Training to become a Salmon Steward, coordinated by E3, Education for sustainable communities is held in mid fall in the park. See this link: