New site to be added for fall salmon-viewing on Kitsap’s Chico Creek

The most popular spot on the Kitsap Peninsula to watch salmon swimming upstream to spawn will be off-limits to the public this fall — but Kitsap County officials have a backup plan.

Erlands Point Preserve, as seen from Erlands Point Road // Photo: Christopher Dunagan

Chico Salmon Park, located off Chico Way next to Kitsap Golf and Country Club, will remain closed until the fall of 2020 while a new bridge is built across Chico Creek on Golf Club Hill Road.

The park, which includes trails to Chico Creek, is the best place I know for people to observe this natural phenomenon during the fall migration of chum salmon, which are still abundant in the Chico Creek and its various tributaries.

The plan this year is to allow people to reach Chico Creek at the 30-acre Erlands Point Preserve, a county-owned property less than half a mile away, off Erlands Point Road. Volunteer stewards will clear an overgrown trail and build a new gravel viewing pad near the stream, according to Jackson Lee, volunteer coordinator with Kitsap County Parks.

Chico Creek runs through Kitsap County’s 30-acre Erlands Point Preserve, off Erlands Point Road and Chico Way (click to enlarge). // Map: Kitsap County

The viewing pad and associated fencing will allow people to get close to the stream without trampling the stream bank, Jackson told me. Permits for the project are under review by state and county officials, and construction is planned for September and October.

“The plan is to make this as low-impact as possible, and we have been in consultations with (Washington Department of) Fish and Wildlife and the tribes,” Jackson said.

I see from the Chico Salmon Park Facebook page that volunteers have already cleared the invasive Scotch broom from the Erlands Point property. If you would like to help with the ongoing effort, email Jackson Lee at parks@co.kitsap.wa.us and he will let you know when the next work party is scheduled. See Volunteers in Parks for information about helping to keep the parks in good shape.

Chico Salmon Park is closed for bridge construction.

The annual Kitsap Salmon Tours on Nov. 9, sponsored by WSU Kitsap Extension, will include a stop at Erlands Point Preserve this year in lieu of Chico Salmon Park. A gate at the preserve will be opened to allow parking in the grassy field. As usual, trained salmon docents will be available to explain the life histories of salmon, identify species and describe healthy habitat.

The Kitsap Salmon Tours website describes all eight locations where people can learn about salmon on Nov. 9.

The $5.2-million construction project on Golf Club Hill Road is designed to improve salmon passage by replacing an aging concrete box culvert with a 140-foot-long bridge.

“As we’ve seen in other areas of the county, replacing box culverts with bridges significantly improves the habitat for wildlife and brings our waterways and estuaries back to their natural state,” Kitsap County Commissioner Ed Wolfe stated in a news release in April. “In partnership with the Suquamish Tribe, we are committed to improving and maintaining the health of our natural resources. It’s imperative to the recovery of salmon, resident orcas, our local ecosystem and the Puget Sound watershed.”

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman was quoted in the same news release: “The tribe has deep historical and cultural roots in Chico. We have been working with the county on trying to remove the Golf Club Hill Road culvert for nearly 20 years, and it’s gratifying to see this obstacle to fish passage being removed. This is a great example of what the community can achieve when we all pull together.”

The new bridge is scheduled for completion later this year with culvert removal and stream restoration planned for next summer. For the complete construction schedule and updates on the work, check out Kitsap County’s project website. See also Kitsap Sun story by Christian Vosler.

Chico Salmon Park is closed during construction of a new bridge on Golf Club Hill Road, at left. // Photo: Christopher Dunagan

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