Rare bog preserved thanks to two men’s efforts

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The Hooven Bog is 10,000 years old, is so rare that it may be the only wetland of its kind in the state and is tucked away just north of Woodinville where not many people know it exists. Thanks to the work of two men, it has a chance to remain undisturbed in the future.

Randy Whalen of Woodinville, who formed the organization Bear Creek Headwaters to help preserve the bog, and Snohomish County Deputy Executive Mark Ericks, who found county money to buy the bog, received the Environmental Excellence award last month from the state Department of Ecology.

bogMickie Gundersen (left) and Randy Whalen (right) stand in Hooven Bog, a rare wetland located just outside the Woodinville city limits. Whalen was honored along with Mark Ericks for their work to preserve the bog from development. (Photo by Briana Gerdeman)Hooven Bog has the highest level of federal protection for wetlands. It’s home to unique plant and animal species. The peat moss that forms a layer of soil over the water has formed since the ice age. The bog purifies water that eventually flows to Crystal Lake, Cottage Lake and Bear Creek, which are home to salmon.

Despite all that, a developer had been planning since the 1970s to build four or five houses on the 30-acre property. The houses wouldn’t have been built on the bog itself, which is unstable, but on the upland area. However, cutting down trees on the upland area would have killed the bog, since the entire ecosystem is connected, Whalen said.

“Bogs are unique wetlands because typically, most of the water supply comes from rainfall, but they are real acidic,” explained Paul Anderson with the Department of Ecology. “You get these really unique plant communities that you don’t get anywhere else.”

In 2012, Whalen said, the development process came to a head when Snohomish County approved the plans for the subdivision. According to Anderson, one of the biggest concerns was that the developer believed his application was vested under an earlier version of the county’s critical areas ordinance, which would have allowed a smaller buffer.
Whalen, whose property borders the uplands of the bog, sprang into action. He quit his job as a mechanical engineer and spent his own money to hire an attorney and appeal Snohomish County’s decision. There were several appeals, but Whalen’s side eventually prevailed.

“This consumed my life for about three years, full-time,” he said.

During the same time, he started the nonprofit Bear Creek Headwaters. Members of Bear Creek Headwaters started a letter-writing campaign and petitioned the Snohomish County Council to preserve the property.

Eventually, the county bought the 30-acre bog property and eight neighboring acres of uplands, thanks to a funding package devised by Snohomish County Deputy Executive Mark Ericks. (Ericks could not be reached for comment.)
“That’s rare to have somebody who’s running the county be so environmentally in tune,” said Mickie Gundersen, a board member of the Sno-King Watershed Council and Bear Creek Headwaters.

Now, Hooven Bog will be preserved as open space, and a house on the 8-acre neighboring property may be turned into an interpretive center with a good view of the bog. There won’t be public access to the bog, both to protect the habitat and to avoid the danger of people falling through the peat mat, which is like falling through ice that will close up around a person.

“This bog is unique, but it’s not without stress,” Whalen said.

There are already houses on one side of the bog, and deforestation and runoff of chemicals and waste have led to an algae bloom on that side. The developer who previously owned the bog built a concrete road, which is leaching chemicals into the water. Invasive plants such as yellow flag iris have moved in. So although Whalen and Ericks recieved an award for preserving the bog, Whalen cautioned that these problems must be fixed or the bog will die anyway.

Those involved in saving the Hooven bog hope people nearby will come to appreciate it, even if they can’t access it or build houses on it.

“We’re hoping it becomes a community source of pride,” Gundersen said.

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