Parkland Profiles: Sinclair Inlet Wildlife Viewing Area

DSC_1382Hundreds of drivers whiz by a large waterfront park at the head of Sinclair Inlet, but few know it’s there, and even fewer stop for a visit.

Sinclair Inlet Wildlife Viewing Area (SIWVA) is, according to a mildewed sign, “one of the largest undeveloped wintering area(s) in Kitsap County for many waterfowl.” Widgeons, mergansers and other migratory marine birds spend the winter feeding from the area’s expansive mudflats, the sign explains.

Located between Elandan Gardens and the Mattress Ranch, the park has an abandoned feel. Its welcome sign – large but not easily seen from nearby Highway 16 – is weathered and peeling. Nests of tarps and trash hint that this is a spot where you won’t be told to move along if you need a place to hide out for few nights.

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Park entrance sign.
Billboard overlooking Highway 16 and the park's gravel parking lot.
Billboard overlooking Highway 16 and the park’s gravel parking lot.

Nowhere in the park can you escape the highway noise. A billboard aimed at westbound drivers looms over the ponds of standing water in the SIWVA’s gravel parking lot.

SIWVA’s owner, the Kitsap County Parks Department, doesn’t have much information on the property. The department’s list of parks puts SIWVA at 17.5 acres. County property records list it as a much smaller 6.75 acres.

It was purchased by the county for $128,000 in 1993, according to property records. Continue reading

Record year for national park visitation, but not quite for Olympic

Families take turns enjoying the busy sledding hill at Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge on Saturday. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun
Families take turns enjoying the busy sledding hill at Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge on Saturday. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Last year was a record-breaker for national parks.

About 305 million people swarmed Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia and other federal parklands. That’s a 4 percent increase over 2014, which set the previous record with 293 million visitors.

Olympic National Park had a very good year, too, but it wasn’t a record. ONP had 3.26 million visitors last year. The park’s record year was 2002, when more than 3.69 million people visited.

Below is an interactive graph I put together showing the park’s visitation over the last 80 years. Hover your cursor over a bar to see the year and precise visitation number.

The National Park Service credits its system-wide success on the National Park Foundation’s “Find Your Park” media campaign. The campaign sparked visitation from neighboring and nearby communities, as well as state tourism agencies and Congress. Late last year, Congress approved a 9 percent funding increase for the park service.

That funding boost will help tackle the problems that come with increased visitation.

Line at Yosemite's Half Dome. By Bonzo McGrue/Flickr
Line at Yosemite’s Half Dome. By Bonzo McGrue/Flickr

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis said in recent remarks that park managers are scrambling to make sure they have sufficient staff for interpretive programs, restroom and campground cleaning and other basic services, such as answering all the questions those hundreds of millions of visitors have when they arrive.

Crowding is becoming a common complaint at national parks. In response, the NPS is trying to spread the wealth of visitors across the calendar. Park officials are urging visitors to come in the spring and fall, or stop by early in the morning or late in the day. Simply getting yourself a few hundred yards out on a trail means you’ll probably be far from the glut of visitors, according to Jarvis. Apparently, a lot of visitors are sticking to cars, tour buses, visitor centers and gift shops.

“Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks…,” Jarvis said in a statement. “I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone.”

Olympic also noted an uptick in auto traffic, with “to-capacity parking lots in several areas,” said the park’s spokeswoman, Barb Maynes.

The park’s visitation numbers might have been larger were it not from some bad weather. Parts of the park were closed due to road washouts, landslide dangers and the risks posed by falling trees.

“Windstorms, floods and resulting park closures like we experienced in late August and again in the fall can have big impacts on the numbers,” Maynes said.

Time for a little (bird) house cleaning

BirdBoxCleanning

Spring cleaning doesn’t stop with your own house. If you’ve got a bird house on your property, state wildlife managers say it’s important to clean it out to stop the spread of disease and improve the survival rate of newborn birds.

Bluebirds, swallows, wrens and other migrating birds use bird houses, bird boxes and other cavities for nesting. They’ll be returning next month, so the state Department of Fish & Wildlife is urging owners to remove any old nesting material and insects that might be inside.

Purple martin. Photo: Meegan M. Reid
Purple martin. Photo: Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun

I learned a bit about this issue last year when I wrote a story about the Kitsap Audubon Society’s efforts to help the purple martin, a variety of swallow that has suffered population declines for more than 50 years. Martins are now almost entirely dependent on humans for nesting sites, making them “arguably the most intensively managed migratory bird in North America,” according to a report by the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

Martins depend largely on amateur bird enthusiasts who install and maintain nesting containers, including a few at the Brownsville Marina (photos above). Read my story here: kitsapsun.com/outdoors/can-birders-save-purple-martins

Mites, lice, fleas, flies and hornets are relatively harmless to birds, but in larger numbers these pests can injure or kill baby birds.

Photo: WDFW
Image: WDFW

According to Fish & Wildlife, not all birds are diligent about removing old nesting material, and may simply build on top of an old nest. The pileup of material can raise the nest dangerously close to the entrance hole, where predators can more easily pluck out an egg or young bird.

It’s dirty work, so use protective gloves and a mask if you have one. You might run across a dead nestling or old eggs. These, of course, should be tossed out.

Also check for loose screws and clogged drainage holes.

If a bird house or nest box is getting no use, or if you keep finding dead nestlings and infertile eggs, consider relocating it. It might be in the wrong habitat or in an area with too much competition or too many predators.

A quick improvement that can make a big difference is to remove any perch posts on the front of a bird house or nest box. Washington’s native cavity-nesting birds don’t need these perches. More often, they’re used by starlings and other aggressive non-native birds to harass nesting birds.

For more info from Fish & Wildlife about bird houses and nesting boxes, head over here.

Top photos: Kitsap Audubon Society volunteers clean purple martin nesting boxes at Brownsville Marina in March. By Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Olympic Mountain Rescue fundraising for promo film

As you may have read, Bremerton-based Olympic Mountain Rescue will host the national conference for mountain rescuers in June.

OMR hopes to produce a two- to three-minute promotional film in time to show at the conference’s opening day.

The film would showcase the work of OMR’s volunteers and similar mountain rescue groups around the state. American-born, Ireland-based filmmaker Mark Flagler is set to make the film. You can view a promo video he did for Ireland Mountain Rescue above.

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“The goal with this short video is to give the nine all-volunteer mountain rescue teams in Washington State a tool they can use for their fund-raising efforts for many years to come,” OMR chairman John Myers said. “We see it as a little spent today to bring in a lot tomorrow.”

OMR relies on various forms of donations to cover the gear, trainings and other costs that help them save hikers, climbers, skiers and snowboarders in the Olympics and Cascades. OMR went on about 55 rescue calls over the last two years.

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To get a better idea of the work OMR does, check out my profile of one of its members, Kevin Koski.

The cost to produce the video is $15,000. OMR and the other groups have raised $11,000 and are hoping to gather the remaining $4,000 in the coming weeks. That’s where they hope you’ll come in. To help fill the fundraising gap, go to OMR’s webpage and make a donation. Their PayPal donation page is here.

You can send a check to:

OLYMPIC MOUNTAIN RESCUE
P.O. BOX 4244
Bremerton, WA 98312

Make a note that your donation is for the film.

If you have questions, call John Myers at (360) 509-3119.

Photos: Olympic Mountain Rescue in action, courtesy of OMR volunteer Jeremy Johnson.

Kitsap paddlers from way, way back

Canoe

Here’s a sneak peek at this Sunday’s Kitsap Sun Time Capsule, a feature we run in print but not online. *

These hearty wool-clad canoeists are plying a Kitsap waterway during the winter of 1915. Can you name the waterway, and the landmark building behind them?

Photo courtesy of the Kitsap County Historical Society Museum.

*Correction: Time Capsule is available online as part of our Remember When feature. This week’s Remember When is available here.

Answer questions, win new fishing rod

Fishing

State fisheries managers want to know how much you know about a government program you’ve probably never heard of.

Even with its catchy title, the “Puget Sound Recreational Salmon and Marine Fish Enhancement Program” isn’t a hot topic on the docks and marinas where saltwater anglers congregate.

To find out just how little people know about the program, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife has crafted an online survey with such questions as:

  • Where does WDFW utilize the Puget Sound Recreational Salmon and Marine Fish Enhancement Program (PSRE) funds to enhance fishing?
  • Where does PSRE receive its revenue from?
  • If you caught a rockfish in Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5-13) in 2015, did you use a descender device to return the rockfish to the depth it was caught at?

Don’t worry – fully flunking out still means you’ll be entered to win a shiny new rod, reel set and fishing net. No, really. They’ll select a winner in April. It’s worth $500.

The program was created by the state Legislature in 1993 – right around the time recreational angling took a steep dive. During the six years before the program was created,  the annual number of fishing trips in Puget Sound fell from 1.6 million to 400,000, according to a to a recent program presentation.

The Legislature realized dwindling fish stocks were threatening a sport that a) had been part of what made life on the sound great, and b) was a big economic driver for the region.

The lion’s share of program’s $1.3 million budget goes to hatchery production. Certain fishing licenses provide the program’s funding.

Ryan Lathrop, the sound’s recreational salmon manager, said the survey will help the program focus its efforts and hopefully get more people fishing.

The survey takes about five minutes. You can find it here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/psrfef/survey.html

Photo: A fisherman brings a salmon to shore at Point No Point in October. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Illahee’s jumping with squid jiggers

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Illahee has been especially good to squid jiggers this winter.

Jim Aho, an Illahee port commissioner, sent some photos showing how busy the dock has been with hearty nighttime jiggers.

“Evidently the fishing is good until seals show up later in the evening,” he wrote in an email.Squid4

Illahee Dock on Ocean View Boulevard is not to be confused with the dock at Illahee State Park.

Winter is prime time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. Kitsap’s best spot appears to be Illahee, although it’s also popular at the Indianola Dock and Waterman Dock (until it was closed for a major overhaul).

Jump back to our archives for a feature on the sport and a bit of advice on how to get started.

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Photos: Jim Aho

More razor clam digs set for January

RazorClammer

A week’s worth of razor clamming has been OK’d by state shellfish managers.

Starting Thursday, clamming will be allowed at Long Beach until Jan. 14. Copalis gets a two-day dig set for Friday and Saturday.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed the digs after marine toxin tests showed the clams on these two beaches are safe to eat. All other beaches will remain closed.

Freshly dug razor clam
Freshly dug razor clam

The January dig follows a brief one around Christmas.

“The season opener at Copalis over the Christmas holiday was a huge success with most diggers filling their limits,” Fish & Wildlife shellfish manager Dan Ayres said in a statement. “We’re excited that we can open Long Beach for the first time this season.”

Last year, marine toxins kept coastal beaches closed for about seven months, including the prime fall clamming season.

This month’s digs are on evening tides. Here’s the schedule:

•    Jan. 7, Thursday, 4:57 p.m.; 0.1 feet, Long Beach
•    Jan. 8, Friday, 5:37 p.m.; -0.4 feet, Long Beach, Copalis
•    Jan. 9, Saturday, 6:16 p.m.; -0.8 feet, Long Beach, Copalis
•    Jan. 10, Sunday, 6:55 p.m.; -1.0 feet, Long Beach
•    Jan. 11, Monday, 7:34 p.m.; -1.0 feet, Long Beach
•    Jan. 12, Tuesday, 8:14 p.m.; -0.8 feet, Long Beach
•    Jan. 13, Wednesday, 8:56 p.m.; -0.4 feet, Long Beach
•    Jan. 14, Thursday, 9:40 p.m.; 0.2 feet, Long Beach

The best time to dig is usually one or two hours before low tide, Ayres said.

Diggers must keep the first 15 razor clams they dig, regardless of size or condition. The daily limit is 15 clams. Each digger must keep their clams in a separate container from other diggers.

For information about shellfish licenses, head over here. 

Other coastal beaches will remain closed for clamming until domoic acid levels drop below the threshold set by state public health officials.

Domoic acid posed a problem for shellfish fisheries along Washington’s coast for much of 2015. The natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae can be harmful or fatal when eaten by people. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Top photo: Tara Schmidt/Flickr.

Wipeout! Scenes of locals at winter play in the ’80s

01/08/80 Sledding Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

Kitsap Sun photographer Meegan Reid found some great shots of skiing and sledding from our archives. The above shot by Ron Ramey on Jan. 8, 1980.

Meegan is slowly making her way through our photo archives. She scans and catalogs the negatives for a growing digital library. Her favorites make it on to her blog, Kitsap Frames. Sadly, most of the details about each shot were lost over the decades. Many photos only have a date, the photographer’s name and a brief title. So if you spot a familiar face or know a photo’s story, please let us know.

Here are a few more winter scenes from 1980:

01/21/80 Ski School Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

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Ski School
Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

01/21/80 Ski School Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

01/21/80
Ski School
Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

01/10/80 Sleigh Ride Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun

01/10/80
Sleigh Ride
Ron Ramey / Bremerton Sun