Northwest Trek is asking for volunteers to help it finish what officials at the Eatonville-area wildlife park describe as a major conservation project.
On the morning of April 20, from 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers will work alongside Northwest Trek employees to plant 6,500 native grass plugs around newly created ponds at the facility’s Conservation Center.
Children are welcome, but they must have adult supervision and their own work gloves. Northwest Trek staff will provide all other materials, tools and instruction for the project. The only thing that park officials can’t promise is dry conditions.
Volunteers should be prepared to get wet and muddy, said conservation coordinator Jessica Moore. They’ll at the edges of the ponds, she noted.
They’ll also be rewarded with buy-one, get-one-free vouchers to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.
Similar work parties have planted more than 5,000 trees and shrubs at the wetlands area since last fall in the effort to establish habitat for dozens of amphibians, birds and other animals.
Moore said conservation is “a way of life” for the staff at Trek. She noted the employees have worked shoulder to shoulder with volunteers over the last several months, sharing their mutual love of the land.
On Jan. 5, for example, 84 volunteers planted approximately 700 bare-root plants and 500 live willow stakes and installed 1,400 tree tubes and shelters. The tubes help protect the growing trees from the browsing of native deer and elk until the plants are well-established, said Jake Pool, a Trek horticulturist.
Shrubs, trees and grasses planted in the area so far include redtwig dogwood, Oregon ash, Pacific crabapple, Western red cedar, willow, Sitka spruce, salmonberry, Douglas hawthorn, slough sedge, tufted-hair grass and small fruited bulrush.
The fruits of the labor are the growing number of creatures that are calling the wetlands home, officials said. That includes the annual migration of Western toads that hatch in the ponds. Tiny tadpoles eventually become toads that are smaller than a human’s pinkie fingernail, hopping out of the ponds by the thousands en route to the forest to begin new lives.
The Conservation Center wetlands area, which is not on public view is one of the few Western toad breeding sites in Pierce County. Northwest Trek acquired the wetland when it expanded its boundaries seven years ago.
The overall projects area is approximately 4 acres. An additional 11 acres also are being enhanced around the property. Northwest Trek built four weirs, or small barriers, to hold water and create seasonal ponds on the property.