Nature’s Secrets Revealed

                Tom Strid tossed his shovel to the ground and eyeballed the 20 Hansville Greenway volunteers through his spectacles. Not a whiff of a breeze stirred the thigh-high grasses in Otter Meadow near Buck Lake while the July sun sank slowly on the western horizon.

                It’s a mystery!” Tom, a meadow expert, shouted like a prosecuting attorney. “This meadow shouldn’t be here.”

                And so began the Case of the Missing Trees, Tom’s foolproof method of teaching Kitsap fourth graders how terrains change. The pandemic kept fourth graders away this year, so Tom, David Vasquez, a water specialist, and John Mikesell, a native plant expert, graciously bestowed their expertise on trail volunteers.

                Waving a blackberry branch, Tom explained that many plants have dormant leaf buds below ground that spring to life to generate new leaves after an assault, such as animals munching on them. Research showed that a farmer cleared the area of trees 40 years ago so cows could graze. The farmer sold the property to Kitsap County in 1997 and the plants with underground leaf buds took over. Trail volunteers marveled like 10-year-olds at the solution.

                John continued the delight on the way out of the meadow and into the forest by identifying tall lavender flowers as Douglas spirea. He explained that the Native Americans used oval Cascara leaves along the trail as a laxative and that the hand-size thimbleberry leaf is tissue paper soft, hence its nickname: toilet paper plant.

                David provided microscopes at Upper Hawk’s Pond for viewing fly larva and mayfly nymphs, freshwater worms and nematodes, explaining their importance to the health of the rain-recharged aquifer that supplies Kitsap County’s water.

                “This was so special,” one volunteer gushed. Almost makes you want to volunteer.

                To volunteer, visit

By Cynthia Taggart
Photos by Marilyn DeRoy