Friday, March 25, 2011

Nature Has It Figured Out

Forest ecologist Elliott Menashe of Greenbank Consulting.
In a half-wild, half-civilized place like Whidbey Island, water always seems to be getting in the way. We saw this recently when rain pounded relentlessly day-after-day, triggering many mudslides on South Whidbey and the appearance of swampy "seasonal wetlands" in people's yards including, I confess, my own hard-packed driveway.

I live in the woods and don't see this problem on my forest walks -- only near the house where I have "improved" my yard with poorly-draining lawns and gravel.

On a rainy day, the woods simply are lovelier and softer than ever, but our impervious, hard-surfaced yards often don't fare so well. Water "ponds" in low spots and, depending on the terrain, flows downslope, weakening bluffs and carrying pollutants and particles of soil toward Puget Sound.

This beautiful, absorbent wetland is in South Whidbey State Park.
This is exactly what my friend Elliott Menashe has been trying to illustrate for years to homeowners, developers and contractors. "Improve" with care. Minimize disturbance. Benefit from the forest's phenomenal, natural ability to absorb and purify water.  Think before you scrape and screw up something that's already working beautifully.

One of Elliott's favorite articles on this subject is a highly-readable, two-page piece by Tami Pokorny of Jefferson County Natural Resources, "Drip and Splat." He's especially proud of this one because Tami brilliantly translated one of his emotional speeches into readable English.

For a printable PDF, visit
If the article seems insultingly simple-minded, please don't be fooled, because most people still don't get it.

To download a printable PDF of the two-page article, please visit Elliott's website and look for "A Stormwater Story: Drip and Splat" toward the bottom of the list.

If you've bought land and are planning to build, or even if you are just looking at land to buy, consider hiring Elliott or someone like him (good luck with that) to walk the land with you and share their insights. It will be an education and could save  many heartaches and expensive fixes in the future.

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