By Pat Karman and Corinne Poole
We are stewards of an 8-acre parcel of property with about 200 feet of no-bank waterfront on North Bay, which we purchased in 2001. Before moving here, we lived in a wonderful neighborhood in Seattle, but we felt a pull to the water, having both grown up on the Salish Sea.
We were looking for view property, not waterfront. But after a three-year search, we could not resist this place with Douglas fir trees up to 125 feet tall, complete with an eagle’s nest. Some people might consider an eagle’s nest a disadvantage, given regulations that limit human activities around the nest, but we were delighted to cohabit with eagles.
For the first three years, we planted dozens of native plants, some from the Mason Conservation District and some relocated on our own property. Our objective was to provide wildlife corridors with cover and food. We attended workshops on native plant identification, soil health, vegetation management and rain gardens.
In 2004, we began building the first structure on the property, a garage/shop/storage building, then in 2005 we started building our house. We built both the garage and house with our own hands, living in a tent trailer during construction.
We noticed that it is not uncommon for neighbors to fill an area that lies inland of a gravel dune, which tends to build up along the shore during storms. We have resisted the idea of adding fill to our “front yard,” and we allowed the return of native aspen trees on the shoreline — an area that was bulldozed before our arrival. High tides and heavy rains tend to cause water to back up behind the gravel dune, creating a lake in some places. We have found that by avoiding the fill, water drains out faster when the tide recedes.
We love to swim in the bay, and we launch our kayaks and rowboat from the beach. We enjoy eating clams from our beach. We watch wildlife in the uplands and along the shore. Our swim float was even the birthplace for a baby seal in 2015. Unfortunately, the foxes and coyotes we saw after moving here have been absent, as more people have moved to the area.
Our first contact with the Mason Conservation District may have been when we were trying to find out how to remove Scot’s broom and blackberries without using poison. We made many phone calls and eventually contacted Kirsten at the district. She helped us borrow a “weed wrench” for pulling the invasive plants and also offered advice regarding our laying hens. While registering for a blueberry propagation workshop, we learned of the Shore Friendly program and decided to participate.
MCD staffers have been very helpful as a resource and “sounding board.” Their enthusiasm and knowledge have been evident during workshops, consultations and conversations, which have helped form our vision and reinforced our commitment to stewardship.
It sounds trite, but everyone needs to be more aware of the natural processes and understand that humankind cannot create substitutes for these processes. Technology cannot fix the damage.
We are a little pessimistic about the future of Puget Sound. In our experience, too many waterfront property owners ignore the impacts of their behavior rather than trying to understand the natural processes. We get discouraged when a former salt marsh gets filled in to become a great expanse of lawn treated with chemicals right to the water’s edge.
We are hopeful, however, about the direction society is moving to protect Puget Sound. It is heartening to see fewer bulkheads installed and more being removed. We are encouraged by those who are learning from the Mason Conservation District, which has a lot of useful information and resources. More people seem to be enjoying the benefits of waterfront living without messing things up for future generations.
Pat Karman and Corinne Poole worked with environment reporter Christopher Dunagan to tell his Shore Friendly Mason story.