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She’s the new face of the Clear Creek Task Force

Mary Earl comes face-to-face with a decorated salmon from a previous auction, one of the ways the Clear Creek Task Force raises funds for the Clear Creek Trail. - Leslie Kelly
Mary Earl comes face-to-face with a decorated salmon from a previous auction, one of the ways the Clear Creek Task Force raises funds for the Clear Creek Trail.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

She’s been a part of the Clear Creek team for more than 18 years. And now she’s ready to lead.

Silverdale’s Mary Earl has taken over leadership of the Clear Creek Task Force from Tex Lewis and is working to make the group have a bit more organization and structure than it has had in the past.

“The task force has been a very important part of this community for years,” she said. “We’ve had much success. And now it’s time for us to add some structure.”

The original task force was formed in 1993 by volunteers to create and maintain community support to preserve Clear Creek and its ecosystem as more and more retail and business development was taking place in central Silverdale. The commercial boom of the 1970s was continuing and was threatening the creek and plants and wildlife in the area, Earl said.

“It began with many of its members being retired military who had the time and the talents to support building the trail along the creek,” she said.

The task force operates under an umbrella organization, the Great Peninsula Conservatory, which is a nonprofit organization.

In the years since it began, more than six miles of trail have been added. And the former Best family barn, which was given to the conservatory by Carlton and Betty Smith, was restored for use as an interpretative center for the Clear Creek Trail.

“So much has been accomplished,” said Earl. “We have lots to be proud of.”

Earl began volunteering with the task force in 1996. When she was asked to lead the group, she couldn’t say no.

“That’s my nature,” she said. “I can’t say ‘no.’”

Prior to the trail work, Earl was a volunteer with Whaling Days. She’s lived in Kitsap County since 1977. Originally from Chicago, she came west to visit her sister and went camping at Forks. She met her former husband there and they decided to make Kitsap County their home. She worked in Seattle for large accounting firms and later was a partner in a wine shop in Old Town Silverdale.

As someone who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, Earl doesn’t consider herself an environmentalist. But she appreciates and respects Mother Nature and wants to do what she can to preserve local treasurers like Clear Creek.

To that end, she is looking for volunteers who will serve as board members for the task force.

“We’ve been so lucky to have so many people come out and volunteer when we have projects,” she said. “Now we need volunteers who are willing to be the organization behind the task force.”

Earl wants a nine member board. They will be the planners, she said. They need to be willing to give four to five hours each month.

“Even though we have the conservancy, we have to have our own secretary and treasurer,” she said. “And we do have to do our own fundraising.”

The task force has an annual budget of about $35,000, and Earl said 75 percent of that is from individual donations.

“We have a good reputation, so people are very willing to donate to us,” she said. “And a lot of what we need are supplies which we often get as in-kind donations.”

One example of that, she said, was a recent donation by Air Management Systems, which gave the labor and parts to get 34 tanks ready for salmon eggs for the Salmon in the Classroom program, which is a joint effort of the task force, the Central Kitsap and the Silverdale Kiwanis clubs, the Suquamish tribe and Kitsap County. Salmon that hatch are eventually placed in the creek.

Lowe’s has been another supporter and has given supplies for Earth Day work, the United Way Day of Caring and other creek projects.

Some funding also comes from grants such as a $5,000 grant in 2012 from REI.

Earl already has her calendar filling fast with Clear Creek activities,

On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, there will be a work day on the trail. Anyone is welcome to the interpretative center at 9:30 a.m. to help in a winter clean up. Pruning and cleaning the roof of the shed and barn are on the list, as is making way for construction near the Bucklin Hill bridge.

“We will lose some property to that project,” she said. “Construction will come about 20 feet into the barnyard.”

Moving fencing, and transplanting bulbs and plants are on the list. Earl is expecting about 50 people and because a hot lunch is being served, volunteers need to let them know that they are coming. Email ClearCreekTrail@yahoo.com to sign up for the work day.

She’s also got plans in the works for Earth Day this year in May. Students will be planting the Silverdale Community Garden which is in the area of the Markwick property north of the interpretative center.

Other work will include placement of logs to create bends in the creek to slow the flow of water in times of swift water or flooding.

Earl knows the creek and the trail have quite a following. She brags that the Clear Creek Trail Facebook page has 1,100 friends.

“Many people know about it,” she said. “We have people who walk the trail from Crista Shores. We have moms who walk as their little ones bike the trail. And lots of people walk their dogs here.”

Central Kitsap High has their alumni runs on the creek and other groups use it for races.

“It’s definitely one of the local treasurers,” she said. “The trail is used all the time and that’s so fabulous.”

To volunteer to serve on the board or to learn more, go to the Clear Creek Trail Facebook page, the task force’s website at www.ClearCreekTrail.org, email Earl at ClearCreekTrail@yahoo.com, or call 360-434-7665.

 

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