Take a walk to see a prospering man-made wetland created to mitigate safety improvements at Everett's Paine Field.
Walk length: The inner trail/boardwalk loop is about .3-mile; the perimeter trail loop is 1.5 miles.
Level of difficulty: Level boardwalks and gravel path on inner loop; level-to-moderate gravel perimeter trail (which emerges twice to follow sidewalks before re-entering forest).
Setting: Set north of Paine Field and Boeing’s Everett plant, this once-neglected swamp has been transformed into an award-winning wetland model. Before Snohomish County could remove several small wetland areas near Paine Field for runway safety projects in the late 1990s, it needed to create new wetlands elsewhere in advance — known as a “wetland mitigation bank.” This 50-acre nature sanctuary was one of these new areas; land here was graded by machine to create swales (depressions) that added eight acres of new wetlands to the 14 acres of pre-existing wetlands on the site. A photo taken soon after the wetlands were created (see the Paine Field Web site, below) shows newly dug ponds, isolated clumps of preserved trees and the new boardwalk. The site today, only about 10 years later, is now shaded by dense thickets of alders and blanketed by other native plants placed here by volunteers.
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Highlights: On the inner-trail loop, interpretive signs explain the importance of wetlands (and how the sanctuary was named after a typo on a map). An observation blind in the shape of a giant beaver lodge lets you observe wildlife on an adjacent pond (plus, it’s fun inside for kids). Know what a “leaky berm” is? You’ll find out while walking this trail.
Facilities: Seasonal restrooms and portable toilets; water fountain.
Restrictions: No bikes on trails; no pets on inner trail but allowed on leash on perimeter trail. Trails closed between dusk and 8 a.m. On the east side of the perimeter trail, note signs warning of a potentially aggressive owl in a stand of large cedars (generally during the mating season).
Directions: From Interstate 5 (northbound or southbound), take Exit 189, following the lane that heads west to Highway 526. Pass the Evergreen Way exit, and take the next exit to head north on Seaway Boulevard. At the third stoplight, turn right at the large wooden park sign, then right again into the parking lot.
Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She’s currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org