Des Moines Creek target of clean-up

By Lezlie Wolff- Staff Reporter

Ecologist Laura Hartema has a list and it's not safe to be on it.

Come Earth Day, April 22, Hartema and her Friends of Des Moines Creek will be rooting out a long list of invasive plants that are choking out native species along the trail that runs through Des Moines' Beach Park.

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Its aim was to establish environmental protection for the Earth and was inspired by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson with conservationist Denis Hayes as coordinator. Today, Hayes is the president and CEO of Seattle's Bullitt Foundation, which focuses on environmental issues. 

Earth Day is now recognized as the world's most widely observed secular holiday and local environmental groups have a variety of events planned.

"We are focusing on doing invasive plant removal within the creek buffer," Hartema said.

The invasive weed she and other volunteers will be particularly focusing on is English ivy. 

"It's a problem in a lot of our forests," Hartema said about the tree-choking vine. 

Japanese knotweed and bamboo from neighboring properties are also plants Hartema's group wants to control, as well as Himalayan blackberry and bindweed. Oh yes, and Scotch broom too. 

"Scotch broom, with the pretty yellow flowers, that sprays its seeds all over," she said. 

But the effort involves more than just ripping plants out.

"We put in a bunch of new plants and we want to keep the grasses and weeds out of there and off [the natives] so they can flourish and grow," she said.

The native plants include "conifers like cedars and Douglas firs," she said.

"We've got trees such as cottonwood, maple, alder and a variety of shrubs. You'll see snowberry, some roses, thimble berry and salmon berry," she said.

"The improvements are incredible," Hartema said.

When she first began her work removing invasive plants in 1999, she said there were not a lot of plants established or it was 100 percent blackberries.

Invasive vegetation out-competes native vegetation that can't flourish. 

"You need the diversity and structures of the variety of trees, shrubs and ground covers that make a diverse, healthy habitat," she said.

The ivy, Hartema said, acts as a blanket on the ground floor and most herbaceous species can't survive against that.

Improvements to the creek include work upstream that reduces high, erosive flows. 

A pipe diverts peak storm runoff so as to avoid taking out juvenile fish and erode the banks, she said.

Salmon enter the creek each fall to spawn. 

"The creek has mostly Coho, juveniles and spawners," she said. 

The Coho spawn in October and November, while the Chum come a little later, she said. 

There are also cutthroat trout and they've seen some bass.

Other wildlife such as raccoons, otters, sea lions and a vast variety of birds including owls can be seen in the basin.

People get interested in learning about invasive plants and see the benefits of making their own yards more native rather than ornamental, Hartema said.

 The Friends of Des Moines Creek are about "getting your hands dirty in a park where it's everybody's ownership rather than in your back yard. We all need to care about it," she said.

But efforts to preserve nature aren't confined to the creek. 

Des Moines has always been Earth conscious, said Des Moines Parks, Recreation and Senior Services administrative assistant Janet Best. 

There are a variety of other events such as the Rotary Club of Des Moines and Normandy Park Earth Day cleanup of South 216th Street, Marine View Drive and Seventh Avenue South. 

An activity Best is leading will be putting Puget Sound Starts Here placards on all the storm drains to remind people what goes down the drain, goes into the Sound. Last year, they got almost half done, she said.

"We hope to get the rest of those done within the next couple of months, if not on Earth Day," Best said.

Private groups are also scheduling events. 

"A couple of those will be at Redondo," she said. 

"One is," she said referring to the job search company. Volunteers from that group will be on the shores and in the water, cleaning up the Redondo area.

"Earth Day is something that our company globally really takes an initiative in," said Emily Kinman, the receptionist at

"We consider ourselves to be a green company. All of our offices all over the world participate in Earth Day in some form," she said.

The head engineer is a deep sea diver and he suggested a beach clean-up at Redondo beach where he's dived before, Kinman said.

Kinman said sent out an invitation to its 140 Seattle employees to join the clean-up.

Also helping is the local refuse company. 

"Recology has been a partner for years," Best said. "Realizing we are having these activities, they offered to pick up our trash." 

To get involved or questions answered, contact Best at the Des Moines Field House at 206-870-6547 or email her at For trash pick-up meet at 8:45 a.m. at the gate of 22030 Cliff Ave. S. Saturday.

For invasive weed removal with Laura Hartema You can show up at 8:45 a.m. at Des Moines Creek Trail or contact her at

"We're all connected," Hartema said of the Earth Day activities.

"What you do, effects the people downstream from you. Ultimately, we only have one Earth and I think it's up to each of us to steward it," she said. "It's hard work, but people always leave gratified."

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A 1997 Honda Civic was stolen in the South Lot on April 13 at 1:20 p.m. Des Moines Police showed up on scene and took a report. It is unknown if the vehicle was ever found. Public Safety advises students with a 1990 to early 2000 Honda Civic or Accord models to purchase a wheel lock because those cars are easy money makers for thieves. Some Honda models have few universal keys, making those cars very accessible too.

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An intoxicated male was found by Public Safety locked out of his vehicle in the South Lot on April 14 at 6 a.m. Des Moines Police responded and the man cooperated with authorities. The man said he was having a dispute with a roommate and he was trying to get away. Des Moines Police offered to drive the man home, but he declined and a friend of the man picked him up. The man was not indicted by police.

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A person was caught stealing from multiple backpacks in the Library on Saturday, April 15 at noon. The thief was arrested by Des Moines Police and banned from Highline campus because he was not a registered student at Highline.

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