Why She Counted The Salmon

One of West Seattle’s hidden spaces is Longfellow Creek. It visibly winds it’s way through the Delridge neighborhood, but stretches several miles and rests below the border of West Seattle directly down the hill from development replacing single family homes up hill from the Steel Mill. Kim Schwarzkopf showed me the area where she volunteered to count the Salmon last year, and why she got involved.

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Kim showing me areas where you can get close to the creek and see the changes that come with changing water levels.

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Near where Longfellow creek enters the north end of the trail head.

First, we sat down for a cup of coffee so I could ask her why and how she signed up to help before our creek walk…she lives in West Seattle proper, and I was curious was pulled her down the hill. My questions are italicized:

Who are you?

“I consider myself the head of the house-hold, I don’t like the term “Single Mom.” I’m a film-maker but started as a video producer.”

Why do you volunteer? I’ve heard you do a lot more than this specific project, and I’m curious about what brings you back, doing so volunteer things?

“I don’t fully identify as a volunteer. The term is different. For me, there’s a lot of work that is not paid paid to me in dollars. A lot of work I do is driven my my interest and passions.”

Can you tell more about that? Examples?

“The latest project that I shared was for the Chief Sealth High School fundraiser for social services. I’m so excited, because I think it helped raise almost $10,000. This will provide a flexible fund that the staff can use these funds to help support the students – there are 124 homeless students at this one school, that’s over 10%.

There’s 60% of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. And, I bet there is more, because some don’t apply. But you wouldn’t know it by walking down the halls at school. There’s such a sense of community. This money will help with everything from bus tokens to personal hygiene items to socks and underwear, school supplies. And programs for students that need extra support for things like assistance in sports or music.

That happened just last night, and that was a volunteer effort. I was not paid, but they contributed to the SD Card and hard drive. But, I consider it more of service from my perspective using my passion as a way to contribute to the community. My son goes to school there.”

I do volunteer, though.”

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Longfellow Creek Trail’s iconic fish bone bridge. Near the bank here you can see Salmon winding their way up the creek in mid-September.

Tell me about the Salmon counting. How did you find out about it? Why did you decide to volunteer?

“The Salmon Survey count is one example. It happened right here in Longfellow Creek through Puget Sound Keeper Alliance. I would consider that a volunteer role. Because, I saw the flier and signed up for a training on how to do it, and I showed up once a week to count salmon. That was my task.”

“I love to research things that are happening in my community, my neighborhood, on my block. I’m a hyper, hyper local person, and I narrow it down to my block because that’s sometimes how far I can think.”

“I bought my house when I was 25-years old in 1996. And, it’s zoned mid-rise. There’s been a lot of growth on our block in the past 20 years. I’m trying to have a better understanding of what good development means. I get really stressed out by the development that has been going up. I’m trying to figure out how to get through it.”

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Water quality fluctuates with the rain and run-off contamination.

And that was what peaked her interest in the Puget Sound Alliance Salmon count. We walked along the creek and she talked about her task as part of a team. One woman walked in the creek to spot the salmon. Kim would keep the record count and any additional notes along the way. It was fascinating to see the creek a bit more closely and learn more about it’s importance to our part of the city.

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Longfellow Creek meanders along the north trail for several city blocks, then winds through back and front yards, under the street, and then back along the trail again.

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Longfellow Creek changes with each season.

If you are interested in water quality or volunteering outdoors, walking in a creek, check out Puget Sound Keeper’s volunteer opportunities page.

Kim is still volunteering in other ways to help the city and youth in particular explore the world of media to increase peace through Across The Bridge.

To visit Longfellow Creek, check out the City of Seattle’s parks finder page. It shows you an area farther south than this area profiled, but it is still beautiful and a bit smaller, meandering farther from Puget Sound. To access the north end of Longfellow Creek look up the Dragonfly Pavilion, and find the trail just down the hill from it (near 28th Avenue and SW Dakota Street).

Inspired? Do you know someone else volunteering in their Seattle neighborhood? Please nominate them for this photo project.

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