By Charly Kearns
For the past seven years, Halloween has come to mean something special to many in our watershed – it’s the official kickoff of the planting season. Since 2009, it has been a tradition to host a volunteer planting in the Ohop Valley on October 31. Now that construction on the new channel of Ohop Creek is wrapped up for the foreseeable future, the reforestation effort takes center stage. The Nisqually Indian Tribe’s restoration crew has taken the lead on the planting project, installing the majority of the nearly 100,000 native trees and shrubs throughout the valley. However, local students and volunteers are playing a big role too!
Since we’ve planned the annual volunteer event to fall around Halloween, naturally we’ve had a number of ghouls and goblins come out to help. This year was a little different – most volunteers came out in their best drowned rat costumes. A powerful “Pineapple Express” system arrived just ahead of the event and the valley received close to 3” of rain over the weekend. Combined with high winds, planting conditions were less-than-ideal. The event was almost cancelled, but we decided to follow through and anticipated many volunteers would opt-out. Much to my surprise, we had a total of 60 hardy volunteers come out for the day, helping to plant 750 trees and shrubs!
This is a great example of how incredible our volunteers are. Seemingly unfazed by torrential rains and high winds, volunteers young and old went to work in the floodplain, the sounds of their laughter and conversations carrying across the valley. When the creek topped the bank and water started flowing across the floodplain, everyone helped to move the remaining potted plants out of harm’s way.
Next year, after eight years of effort, we will host the last major planting season in the Ohop Valley. The entirety of the floodplain on the Land Trust’s property will be filled with young trees and shrubs. Walking through the rapidly growing forest, first established by those early plantings, it is thrilling to think about what this place will look like in twenty or thirty years. I know that many in our watershed share this excitement. I just met a young man who remembered helping to plant trees in the Ohop with the Nisqually River Education Project when he was in middle school. He is now graduated from college and pursuing a job in the environmental field.
This experience sticks with people. Many of our regular volunteers still talk about the first Ohop planting, and the impact it had on them. I feel very lucky to have played a part in this effort. We’ll be out planting trees throughout the watershed this winter, so be sure to check out our volunteer calendar for upcoming events.