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Stream Team continues efforts thanks to grant

They don’t make the stream, they make it better.

That’s the unofficial slogan of the Friends of the Hylebos.

And it doesn’t hurt to be awarded a $28,730 grant from King County WaterWorks program. The money will be used to fund the Stream Team, a volunteer branch that helps educate the public and organize volunteers to monitor water quality, restore habitat and track salmon spawning.

“The one consistent comment I hear is, ‘I didn’t know this was in Federal Way,’” said Friends of the Hylebos executive director Chris Carrel about West Hylebos State Park. “There’s the perception that Federal Way is stripmall-centric. But there’s a lot more flavor to it. We’re trying to preserve some of that. That’s our own branding effort.”

Friends of the Hylebos became an official non-profit organization in 1983, with the purpose of preserving the West Hylebos wetlands. When the area became a state park in 1991, the mission shifted to maintaining the park.

The organization soon realized that water flow isn’t confined to a boundary. Activities up stream and down stream affect the health of the state park.

In 1999, the Friends expanded their mission to protecting the health of the larger Hylebos Creek Watershed and restoring Hylebos Creek salmon.

The Stream Team was founded in 2000, funded by a King County WaterWorks grant, along with cash and technical support from the City of Federal Way. This year’s grant allows the program to continue and grow.

“The Hylebos Stream Team is a great example of how volunteers can restore our salmon streams,” said Pete von Reichbauer, King County councilman. “This is precisely the type of program WaterWorks was designed to help.”

Staff member Carla Milesi is the Stream Team coordinator. She helps with public education, including a slide show to generate awareness. She also trains volunteers for water quality monitoring programs at eight locations.

The group is also performing stream insect surveys that help determine heavy metals contamination.

In the late summer, the Stream Team is involved salmon spawning surveys, tracking what kind of fish come to the stream and where they go.

One of the main purposes of the stream team is helping organize volunteers for projects.

“When we started, it was really an untested notion in Federal Way,” Carrel said. “Three years ago, very few people knew about the creek.”

The organization’s first such undertaking was Earth Day 2000, which drew a higher-than-expected turnout of 85 volunteers.

“That told us we were on the right track,” Carrel said.”The community kind of adopted an ownership in the creek and became longtime stewards of the creek.”

The Stream Team’s newest program is called Watershed Discovery. The program educates second and third grade classrooms. The classes go on day-long field trips and investigate the watershed.

“We let the kids get a sense of the choice urban citizens have to protect salmon, and they get to see it in practice,” Carrel said. “We’re looking at ways to hold on to what we have in the midst of more development. I don’t know anybody who says we need more apartments or pavement.”

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