Continuing Sustainable Agriculture Initiative on the West End

  • Thu Jan 28th, 2021 10:51am
  • Life

Submitted by Roy Morris

and Nancy Messmer

Friends of Hoko River State Park, working with Clallam Bay Sekiu Lions, are a group of volunteers who work to support the Hoko River State Park and Cowan Ranch Heritage Area.

They work with multiple partners to provide opportunities to learn and practice sustainable agriculture practices.

In 2013, a small group of volunteers re-established the kitchen garden at the Cowan Ranch Heritage Area. The late Emil Person, cousin of John Cowan, dug the garden from sod and assisted in the planting, just as he had done when his cousin was alive.

He wrote a list of vegetables to grow and drew a map of how the garden should be planted. He provided seed potatoes from his garden, Ozette’s, Yellow Finns, and Multipliers, and showed the group how to plant them with a sprinkle of powdered milk.

Emil linked the past to the future, carrying on the traditions of using your labor and industry to grow your own food.

The small group of volunteers incorporated as Friends of Hoko River State Park in 2013, working with Washington State Parks and Clallam Bay Sekiu Lions. Lions Clubs across the globe are working to “Sustainably protect and restore our environment to improve the well-being of all communities (Lions Club International).” As part of their effort to meet this Lions strategic objective, the Clallam Bay Lions are the fiscal sponsor of the Friends of Hoko River State Park and Lions dedicate themselves to multiple projects in the Park properties.

Ongoing service projects include planting, maintaining, harvesting and distributing vegetables from the kitchen garden, and creating demonstration plots to experiment with different crops and using a variety of methods, like Lasagna gardening and Hugelkulture.

Volunteers re-established the pioneer orchard, and work with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and local students on the Hoko River Stream Habitat Restoration project. Other projects are assisting in the monitoring and maintenance of the Little Hoko River Trail, and hosting activities like beekeeping and Plein Air Painting, hosted by Board Member, June Bowlby annually at the farm.

In 2019, volunteers donated over 500 hours. Volunteers harvest vegetables and donate boxes of food to various groups. They donate plants and seedlings regularly to visitors and neighbors, promoting the idea that people on the West End can grow their own food. Gardeners on the West End sometimes tour each other’s farms to learn ideas and gain inspiration.

The Friends of the Hoko River State Park host tours and volunteer work groups on Sundays from 2-4 in July, August and September. Watering teams water the field plots and orchard.

Volunteers work on maintaining the flower gardens, the picnic area, welcome gardens and more. Visitors enjoy learning about the history of the Cowan Farm, and former residents and family members continue to visit and offer information and stories about the past.

The Friends group hosts the Annual Potato Dig/Seed Swap and Harvest Celebration in September. Board Member, Paul Bowlby, always welcomes the groups of potato diggers and facilitates the potato digging and distribution.

Working with the Olympic Orchard Society and Park staff in 2018, the Friends of Hoko River State Park planted ten heritage apple trees grafted from former homesteads in the Olympic National Park. In re-establishing the Cowan Farm orchard, volunteers built fenced enclosures for each tree (to protect them from elk) and planted the trees. With the advice of the Olympic Orchard Society, volunteers are caring for the new trees.

It is a goal to take cuttings from heritage trees in the West End of the Northwest Olympic Peninsula and graft these to grow at the Park. This work carries forward the spirit that John Cowan wished to have future generations understand: that cooperation, sharing, and hard work can create healthy, happy lives and communities. The sharing of apple tree grafts was common in his day.

As the Park is organized around the Cowan Heritage Area, the Friends group invites ongoing conversation and interviews with family members of John Cowan and people who knew and worked with him. The Friends group and the community lost a treasured pioneer and friend in February with the death of Board Member Emil Person.

Other Cowan family members are working with the Friends group to collect and organize written materials and artifacts, along with compiling comprehensive lists of items held by the family, the State Parks and the Sequim Museum. Board Members Laurel and Larry Burtness and Mike Doherty contribute personal knowledge and expertise in the historical projects.

Various photo albums of the gardening and restoration work are being constructed for display during visits, and possibly online. The Clallam County Heritage Advisory Board, including FHRSP Board Members, visits the Cowan site and continues to assist with advice, publicity, and helpful contacts.

Work continues to keep the Little Hoko River Trail open and maintained. Board Member, Bill Riedel, hikes and monitors the trail regularly. Bridge repair provides access for miles of the trail, and an informal picnic area provides some rest for hikers. The Little Hoko Trail is a level trail along the Little Hoko River, enjoyed by many hikers. It can accommodate more hikers as it is developed. Work has begun planning to expand the trail. It has become a New Year’s tradition for the Friends to host a First Day Walk along the Little Hoko River Trail.

Articles in the local Forks Forum, the Peninsula Daily News, and local signage invite residents and tourists to visit and learn about the Hoko River State Park. Friends of Hoko River State Park built and maintain a bulletin board along the Hoko-Ozette Road, next to the larger Olympic National Park sign on a pull-off by the Hoko River, across from the Cowan Heritage Site.

The bulletin board gives visitors information about the Hoko River State Park and other area projects like the Washington coastal cleanups and the Lake Ozette Sockeye Salmon recovery efforts. Board Member, Dr. Nancy Messmer, maintains the bulletin board and the “Friends of Hoko River State Park” Facebook page.

Check out the Facebook page for updates and announcements of upcoming activities. Friends of Hoko River State Park work closely with State Park staff to develop the Hoko River State Park as a gathering place and an attraction featuring sustainable agricultural projects. The Hoko River State Park, offers essential Olympic Peninsula features including a gentle rain forest trail along the Little Hoko River, a historic ranch along the Hoko River that includes pastures where elk roam, and land along the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

The Friends group is a dedicated group of citizens working to ensure that the Hoko River State Park will serve the public for many generations to come.

Thousands of visitors a year pass by the ranch on their way to Lake Ozette and Cape Flattery, as it is a developing park not yet open to daily use by the public. The Hoko River State Park Management Plan was approved in the fall of 2008, after many years of planning and research, the publication of lengthy thorough reports on historical features, ethnographic analysis, scientific analysis, and public and community input (http://www.- CAMP-Implementation). Friends of Hoko River State Park hope to focus attention and donations toward the Park, and work with the state legislature to allocate general funding for the State Park system.

Volunteers help complete needed work. For the last several years, the group has re-created the heritage kitchen garden at the Cowan Ranch, cleaned the folk yard art, and helped with maintenance of the Little Hoko Trail, establishing a track record as volunteers who commit to projects and complete them. The Friends of the Hoko River State Park formed a Board of Directors, adopted By-Laws, and incorporated as a Non-Profit in Washington State.

FHRSP works with the Washington State Parks in a Cooperating Association Agreement. The group has received several donations to support their work at the Park and hopes to solicit many more.

The Friends of the Hoko River State Park are ready to expand their work to restore, maintain, and develop the Hoko River State Park. They offer the following ideas to demonstrate readiness and interest to do more for the Parks and public. All projects will be developed in conjunction with and under the leadership of Park staff.

*Expand Sunday visitations, tours, and work parties by developing and scheduling programs.

The programs include Sustainable Gardening Practices, Tree Pruning and Grafting, Tool Repair, Maintenance and Sharpening, Bee boxes and beekeeping, and more.

*Organize work crews to restore and maintain the Little Hoko River Trail. Develop flora mapping for studies along the Trail.

*Repair and maintain the folk art features, including fences, gates and rock work.

*Create a kayak launching area in Spruce Field on the Hoko River

*Continue work researching and reporting the history of the Cowan Heritage Ranch.,

*Convene planning groups to develop: Areas of nature viewing for people with limited mobility, Bicycle and horse trails and campsites, Greenhouse models and displays for effective gardening in our climate, Field crops—orchards, berries, beekeeping, and Onsite monitoring—managing buildings, houses, grounds.

The Hoko River State Park is a local diamond in the rough. As it develops in the coming years, it will be a resource locally and destination along the way for tourists coming from around the world to Lake Ozette and Cape Flattery.

The Friends of the Hoko River State Park hope generations in the future will enjoy a Park experience that includes farming, recreation, and enjoyment of the natural wonders of the Northwest Olympic Peninsula.

Please join Friends of the Hoko River State Park. Your support, donations, and/or volunteer labor are needed!

All activities are conducted based on current health recommendations. For more information, contact Board Members, Roy Morris and Dr. Nancy Messmer, Friends of the Hoko River State Park, 360-963-2442 [email protected]