Steamboat Neighbors Pull for Prairies

Camas blooming on the prairie (photo: Stephanie Bishop)

Camas blooming on the prairie
(photo credit: Stephanie Bishop)
Click for a larger image

There are two magnificent oak trees on the corner of Steamboat Island Road and Sexton Drive. As a Griffin parent, I have driven by those oaks hundreds of times on the way to school, marveling at the dense mats of moss and ferns growing on strong limbs and the remnant prairie plants growing beneath. Late last winter, I stopped. I walked under the oaks and imagined how this native prairie habitat would look with rivers of camas running through it like long ago. The picture of a restored prairie in our backyard was too pretty to let go of, and is what prompted me to start doing some digging.

It turns out this small parcel is a part of Schneider’s Prairie and owned by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT also happens to be very supportive of protecting the oaks and restoring the prairie. Native prairies like this used to cover large sections of Thurston County, though mostly down south near the Glacial Heritage Preserve and Mima Mounds where some are still present. Today only about 3% of this habitat still exists. Scotch broom and sun-loving Douglas fir thrive in these open areas and conversion to forest can happen quickly without the traditional land management practice of controlled burns. Camas, that beautiful blue flower growing in pockets around the Steamboat/101 interchange, is a culturally important “First Food” cultivated by indigenous people of the area. Burning prairies not only increases this food source, it improves soil conditions to support myriad pollinators and endemic species. According to local historian Steve Lundin, Schneider’s Prairie was probably last burned more than 200 years ago.

Volunteers remove invasive species (photo credit: Joanne Schuett-Hames)

Volunteers remove invasive species
(photo credit: Joanne Schuett-Hames)

Presenting the idea of prairie restoration to the Steamboat community was like setting a spark in a dry field.  A single email to members of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership (SCP) this spring resulted in an immediate site visit and two work parties. Outfitted with gloves, chain saws, weed wrenches and clippers, SCP volunteers and other friends and neighbors removed the encroaching Douglas fir seedlings, cut down non-native black locust trees, pulled scotch broom and whacked back 10’ high Himalayan blackberry! After reaching out to Griffin School, seventy-five 4th graders helped out this May by removing brush from the prairie.  They also learned about traditional camas harvest from Shawna Zierdt (Griffin parent, Native Plant Specialist and member of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians) who demonstrated digging techniques and showed students how the relationship between Native people and the prairies is deep and present.

Griffin students visit the prairie (photo credit: Shawna Zierdt)

Griffin students visit the prairie
(photo credit: Shawna Zierdt)

This project has had a tremendous jump start, thanks to the outpouring of interest and support from the Steamboat community. I wish I could say that the prairie has been fully restored, but there is still work to be done. Invasive plants will continue to move in and will need to be removed manually unless the property is burned, which is an idea for the future. In the meantime, 1,000 camas bulbs are on order and will be planted this fall, most of which are expected to bloom the following spring. Some of the invasive plants will be covered with black geotextile material to kill the plants and roots, while others will be hand cut and pulled to keep them under control.

The progress that has been made at this site in just a few short months is impressive. Special thanks goes out to SCP members and volunteers Jack Sisco, Paul Meury, Bonnie Blessing-Earle, Mark Fischer, Jim Leonard, Steve Lundin, Skip McGinty, Peter Reid, Elizabeth Roderick, and Joanne and Dave Schuett-Hames for sharing knowledge of this site, offering suggestions on how to proceed, and most of all showing up at work parties ready to work! We are also grateful to AmeriCorps member Hanna Jones, the US Fish and Wildlife’s Connecting People with Nature program, WSDOT, Griffin School, and the Washington Native Plant Society for their support and interest in this project. We welcome new ideas and volunteers to this project.  Feel free to contact Thurston Conservation District staff member Stephanie Bishop at sbishop@thurstoncd.com to learn more about the project and/or how you can get involved.

By Stephanie Bishop, Thurston Conservation District

Sovereign Cellars’ Spring Release Wine Tasting Event, June 24 and 25

Click the image for a larger view.

Dennis Gross, winemaker for Sovereign Cellars, invites local residents to the Sovereign Cellars’ Spring Release Wine Tasting Event. “Our vintage wines have turned out exceptional. Please come enjoy friends, hors d’oeurves and our four great Sovereign Cellars red wines.”

Saturday, June 24th and Sunday, June 25th
1 pm to 5 pm
7408 Manzanita Dr. NW, Olympia, WA 98502
Take Steamboat Rd to 79th turn right and follow the signs.

For more information about Sovereign Cellars and their award winning reds, click here to visit their web site.

 

A “Discovery” Pass

Discover Pass logo with link to http://discoverpass.wa.gov/Decades ago when I was a student at Saint Martin’s College I would go into the woods a wonder for days and commune with nature on the Olympic Peninsula. For free. Sometime I would park my 1973 Dodge Dart at a private residence, pay them a dollar a day, and be off to the wilderness.

Then a small fee was instituted for the back country, park fees increased and finally a State Pass was instituted. At first I was furious that welfare dwellers could go to lakes all day on a free pass while I went to work. It just struck me as wrong. The State was making me pay while other people got a free ride. Eventually I decided to give in and to gain access to lakes and parks again.

A few years ago, I put out the cash and got an annual Discover Pass. It was really OK. If you want access to 3 million acres of state owned property, purchase your Discover Pass at discoverpass.wa.gov or call them at (866) 320-9933. Discover Passes can also be purchased in person from any of nearly 600 recreational license vendors where state fishing and hunting licenses are sold. You will not regret it.

JamesNugent

James Nugent is a local author who has 102 e-books, 95 paperbacks, and 53 audio books available at Amazon.com

Mr. Nugent's books include Fifty-Two Vacations A Year. "Most of us work Monday thru Friday and then try to have a little fun during the weekend. Some of us live for the weekend. If we have chosen a life of wage slavery, then there is nothing left for us to do except to maximize our enjoyment of our freedom during those precious two days a week."

At US-101 and the WA-8 Underpass, It’s Called a “Zipper Merge,” and We’ve Been Doing it Wrong

Most weekday mornings traffic begins to stack up where southbound US-101 merges from two lanes, to one, under WA-8. Drivers line up in the left hand lane and sometimes traffic slows almost all the way back to the onramp at Steamboat Island Road. As traffic slows, drivers entering US-101 at Steamboat Island Road scramble to join the line forming in the left lane. It sometimes creates a dangerous situation. And those drivers who cannot move left, or choose to remain in the right lane, feel like they are cheating, cutting into the line closer to the actual point the two lanes merge into one.

Transportation engineers call it a “zipper merge.” It is not taught in driver’s education. And the Washington Department of Transportation doesn’t normally provide the correct signage instructing drivers how it’s supposed to work. And it turns out we’ve been doing it wrong, all along.

At normal highway speeds, when traffic is moving smoothly through the WA-8 underpass, it’s correct for drivers to move to the left lane early, when the sign indicates there is a merge ahead.

But, when traffic begins to stack up and slow down, the correct way to use a zipper merge is for drivers to fill in both lanes. If the roadway was signed correctly, long before the right lane merges into the left, there would be a sign reading, “Use both lanes to merge point.”

Then, actually at the point the right lane merges into the right, drivers should file through the underpass one at a time. First a car from the left lane, then a car from the right, then the left, and so forth.

Cars from each lane file together, at the merge point, just like the teeth of a zipper.

If the roadway was signed correctly, there would be a sign at the merge reading, “Take turns merge here.”

Or perhaps a single sign, like the one pictured at the bottom of this article, would suffice to notify drivers that, when there is congestion, they should use both lanes and then take turns at the merge.

When both lanes are used correctly, a zipper merge could reduce by 50% the length of the backup along US-101. At the height of out little morning rush hour, drivers using the Steamboat Island Road onramp would easily be able to get into either the right or left lane. And everyone would get under WA-8 and on their way, just as quickly as before.

In traffic engineering, the late merge or zipper method is a convention for merging traffic into a reduced number of lanes. Drivers in merging lanes are expected to use both lanes to advance to the lane reduction point and merge at that location, alternating turns.
Wikipedia

In countries such as Germany, the zipper merge is taught to drivers and it’s normal. But here in the U.S., we prefer to queue up as soon as we see there’s a merge ahead. Especially as traffic begins to move more slowly. On US-101 we think of the drivers that remain in the right lane as “cheaters” who are “cutting in line” by not moving to the left. But it turns out, we’ve been wrong. It’s not rude to use both lanes; that’s the way a zipper merge is supposed to work, when traffic congestion is higher. But what would it take to develop a critical mass of local drivers, who use this route most days, to begin to change how we use both lanes along US-101?

Talk to your neighbors who regularly travel this route. Share this article. The Washington Department of Transportation usually only signs for a zipper merge in construction zones. They’ve done it, up in Seattle. But we can create a safer situation right here, if our own zipper merge were correctly signed. Contact WSDOT to ask for the “Use both lanes to merge point’ and “Take turns merge here” signs to be installed along US-101. The WSDOT representative is Angel Hubbard at (360) 705-7281.

Update (1/11/2017): Washington DOT replied to an email sent to them, about this issue.

WSDOT considered this very issue a while back. After some investigation, we elected not to implement any zipper signing at this particular location for two main reasons:

1. Our literature search and past WSDOT experience show that encouraging drivers to zipper merge can be beneficial in slow-moving traffic conditions, and is most often employed in temporary construction situations. This location is a high-speed corridor (60 mph) that experiences congestion for only about 30 minutes a day, during the a.m. commute.

2. At the US 101 merge onto SR 8, a tight single-lane curve immediately follows after the two US 101 lanes drop to one. The tight merge operates at full capacity during the morning rush, and traffic engineers did not believe a zipper merge would notably increase through-put or travel times. This was confirmed with visual field verifications, and from traffic modeling.

It’s clear the zipper merge is useful when there’s congestion, and not at normal highway speed. That does present a challenge to clearly signing the road. However, we don’t expect use of both lanes, as a zipper merge, to decrease travel times. Instead, we want to reduce the numbers of unsafe merges into the left lane, when congestion causes traffic to back up in that lane nearly to Steamboat Island Road. Also, we have seen instances when cars drive down the middle of US-101, straddling the center line, specifically to prevent others from using the right lane.

What steps can be taken to legitimize use of the right lane, when there is congestion at this merge?

Update (1/20/2017): The only available solution may be an educational campaign.

A dialog with Representative MacEwen’s office and WSDOT representatives has disclosed how complicated merely signing this location may actually be. Apparently, except for use in a construction zone, standards for signing a zipper merge don’t exist along US highways. The Washington State Patrol, too, has expressed concerns they wouldn’t be able to accurately assign fault to accidents occurring where it wasn’t clear, at the merge point, which lane was ending.

In the short term, we may be left with the only remedy being an educational campaign. But are there enough drivers coming from the Steamboat Peninsula to have an impact on the behavior of drivers coming from further up US-101? Time will tell.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling Returns to Prosperity Grange

Come join your neighbors this Saturday, December 17, at the Prosperity Grange for what’s rapidly becoming a cherished annual event: Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling. Hosted by Restoration Hope. Complementary hot chocolate, cider, coffee, chili, and Christmas cookies will be available. Photos with Santa and his sleigh!

This is a free event, but any donations will go to Griffin School’s ‘Friendship Fund’ to help kids in need, and to St. Christopher’s Community Church for them to distribute to Steamboat families in need and to their Helping Hands Community Garden.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling
3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Saturday, December 17
Prosperity Grange
3701 Steamboat Loop NW, Olympia

Thurston County To Install Shoulder Rumble Strips on Steamboat Island Road

This fall, Thurston County Public Works will be installing shoulder rumble strips, weather permitting, along portions of Steamboat Island Road. "While we work to make your community safer," a recent announcement reads, "construction activity and minor delays will occur."

Postcards have been mailed to residents near where this work will take place.

If you have any questions, contact Brandon Hicks at (360) 867-2358 or click this link to visit the web site of Thurston County Public Works.

Click the images below, to see larger versions of them.

steamboatislandrdrumblestrips-page-001

steamboatislandrdrumblestrips-page-002

Bike Ride on Steamboat Peninsula – July 16

Beach at Schmidt Conservation Easement.

Beach at Schmidt Conservation Easement.

Join us on Saturday, July 16, for a bike ride around the Steamboat Peninsula.

“Don your bike shorts,” reads a web page for the Capitol Land Trust, “grab your bike and head out to the Steamboat Peninsula for a short (15.5 miles) or long ride (21 miles) with Capitol Land Trust and the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016
10 AM
Steamboat Peninsula, Olympia

The ride will start at the Wynne Tree Farm, a 530-acre working tree farm at the base of the Steamboat Peninsula. If you haven’t seen this property, you’re in for a real treat. It’s located up Whittaker Road NW, which is what Steamboat Island Road turns in to, south of the US-101 overpass. Schneider Creek flows through the parcel, then alongside US-101, and on to Oyster Bay.

Riders will travel along Whittaker Road, and will be able to see the beautiful, and vast, forest and fresh water areas that comprise the Wynne Tree Farm, and that are permanently conserved by Capitol Land Trust and the Wynne family.

The short ride travels up the Peninsula and will stop at Frye Cove Park. Riders can take a short (approximately 1/3 mile) walk to the beach, and will enjoy the scenery while having a snack at the picnic tables. Riders will learn about conservation on the Steamboat Peninsula, especially about a hopeful addition to CLT’s conserved areas which is next to Frye Cove and is home to a half mile of Frye Cove Creek, the stream that drains to Frye Cove and that contains important salmon spawning habitat. After this stop, riders will ride back to the Wynne Tree Farm.

The long ride travels up the Peninsula, and will take a short stop at the entrance to Frye Cove, but will then continue to ride to the Schmidt Conservation Easement towards the tip of the Peninsula. Riders can then stop and will learn about this beautiful 35-acre property along with a walk (approximately 1/3 mile) to the beach. Also enjoy a snack and learn about conservation on the Steamboat Peninsula. As an optional addition, riders can choose to continue their ride out to Steamboat Island, approximately 5 miles more to the overall ride. Or riders will ride back to the Wynne Tree Farm.

This is a free event. However, registration is required, so event organizers can prepare to host the event. When you register, you’ll be asked for your email address. You will receive event directions and other event details to this email address.

To register, click here to visit the Capitol Land Trust’s web page. Scroll down to the bottom and fill out their form.

Click here to read a reprint of an article about Tom and Charlene Wynne’s rescue of Schneider Creek. This article was published in the January 1998 issue of the Griffin Neighborhood Association’s “Neighbors” newsletter.

 

Community Picnic, Business & Farm Fair, and Benefit Car Wash is July 24

Click to see a larger image.

Come join your local neighbors and friends at our annual Community Picnic, Business & Farm Fair, and Benefit Car Wash on Sunday, July 24th. There will be food and fun, including activities for youth. You won’t want to miss this great Griffin neighborhood event!

Community Picnic, Business & Farm Fair, and Benefit Car Wash
Sunday, July 24
12 noon to 4:00 PM
Tin Cup Golf Range and Griffin Fire Department

Local businesses and farms will be arranged on the lawn in front of Tin Cup Golf. This is a wonderful opportunity to visit with the people who operate businesses and farms right here on the Steamboat Peninsula.

In addition to the picnic and business and farm fair, the Griffin Fire Department will hold its annual benefit car wash. Donations support the Griffin Firefighter’s Association.

The Griffin Neighborhood Association couldn’t do this without the sponsorship of these fine businesses and organizations:

Thanks for supporting these local businesses and organizations.

For more businesses, see our online business directory and shop local!

We hope to see you at this year’s community picnic. We’ll save a place for you!

 

The Xybrid Vehicle – Expanding on the Hybrid

xybrid_cover

Click for more information or to purchase a copy, from Amazon.

When many people think Hybrid, they think Prius. But there are many more Hybrids on the market than just the Prius. Most car brands offer at least one Hybrid.

When I think Hybrid, I think Additional Electric Engine. But, what other advances are there to reduce our cars’ reliance on Petroleum?

In my new book – The Xybrid Vehicle – I cover All-Electric Cars, Solar, Wind, Self-Driving Cars, Hyperloop, Modular Cars, Hyperdriving, Solar Roadways, Car-Free Communities, and more.

I’ve been following green cars since 1968 and finally decided to put all my knowledge on that topic into a book.

The book is not very technical and is in large print.

Of course, just as soon as I published my book I found more information to include. So, I keep track of that new information on my website – http://yellowbearjourneys.com/resources_xybrid.html – where you can also buy the book.

Griffin Neighborhood Author – Dale Stubbart

“Ti’swaq Blanket Project” to Support this Year’s Paddle to Nisqually

Paddle_to_Nisqually_Blanket_ArtworkThis year’s annual Canoe Journey is hosted by the Nisqually tribe. For thousands of years Coastal Tribes traveled the great Salish Sea and fished its abundant waters and celebrated with the Potlatch. The Canoe Journey today awakens pride, purpose, responsibility and traditions in the youth that participate. Canoe Journey also inspires teamwork and what it means to work and pull together.

Giveaways have always been a part of the Salish people’s culture; “potlatches” called together large numbers of people, frequently from different tribes, to share giveaways.

Local residents are invited to assist the Nisqually Tribe by purchasing blankets for them to give to visiting tribes. This is an important part of the experience for everyone involved. Jody Bergsma, designer of this beautiful blanket, is offering the artwork and production capability ‘at cost’ for this project.

The Art and the Story:

  • A vision of the great canoe warriors emerge from the past.
  • Their cedar canoes and paddles are empowered with symbols of totems for the tribe. The feathers of eagle and raven are on the bow.
  • Paddles are up and signal a request to come ashore.
  • The canoes travel to the mouth of the Nisqually river whose head waters are formed from the snowy peak of Mt. Tahoma (Rainier).
  • A circle of salmon surround and protect the canoes and pullers. The Great Eagle Spirit watches over them all.
  • Behind the mountain is the milky way and the trail of stars that leads to the Ancestors.

Your contribution of $85 will purchase 10 blankets for the giveaway. Plus, you will receive one blanket for yourself. Supporters able to donate $85, $170, $255 (and so on, in multiples of $85) can receive one blanket for each ten they help to fund.

Can you help with a contribution? Interfaith Works, a not-for-profit organization, will receive funds to support the Nisqually Canoe Family with their production of this year’s Paddle to Nisqually. Kindly make checks payable to Interfaith Works, with “Nisqually Blanket Giveaway” on the memo line. You may mail your check to Interfaith Works, PO Box 1221, Olympia, 98507. Please make your contribution by May 26th. Every $85 puts them closer.  Let Right Relations Steh-chass/Olympia know you want to donate and they’ll front your donation until your funds can arrive.

The Blanket Project is offered by Right Relations Steh-chass/Olympia. Right Relations Steh-chass/Olympia is a group seeking to live in solidarity with the first peoples of the Salish Sea through education, acknowledgement, and supportive actions. Co-coordinators Pat Rasmussen or Douglas Mackey, can be reached at rightrelationsstehchass@gmail.comSteh-chass is the name of the original people who lived in the lower Deschutes River basin.

The Nisqually Tribe welcomes and celebrates all nations and visitors to Canoe Journey 2016! The Tribal Canoe Journeys – Paddle to Nisqually – will take place July 30th through August 6th, 2016.