Can a Golf Course Save Orca Whales?

It’s no coincidence that as Puget Sound grows (and continues to grow), the amount of green space, salmon, and orcas have been in decline. 

In the intricate, messy web of life that connects locals and transplants, salmon and orcas, and all the other creatures to this place we call home, every decision we make reverberates across seen and unseen threads, making an impact that is as large as it is lasting.

As this region grows, more natural areas will be converted to housing, roads, and parking lots. Impermeable surfaces such as these exacerbate existing pollution, as the polluted water runs across pavement rather than infiltrating through the ground. This is especially problematic around rivers as water that contains brake dust, heavy metals, petroleum-based chemicals, and a toxic cocktail enters the water untreated. Additionally, riverbanks are lined with concrete and blackberry more than native vegetation, which provides the shade and food crucial for juvenile salmon. As the health of rivers decline, so do salmon populations, and orcas as a result.

Thus, the opportunity to save nearly 100 acres of green space along the Sammamish River for the future, for the salmon, and yes, for the orcas, is one that should not be missed. Saving this area as a park allows water to be filtered through the soil before it heads downstream—which has dramatic results in reducing concentrations of pollutants in water. The shore of the Sammamish River can be restored with trees and shrubs that provide the conditions salmon desperately need as they develop and reproduce.

We fragment ourselves geographically based on arbitrary borders that denote neighborhoods, cities, and counties. However, we all share a watershed, and are overdue to acknowledge this.

Salmon and orcas are as iconic to the region as the Space Needle and Starbucks, but today, these charismatic Puget Sound residents need us. We have a challenge ahead of continuing to preserve and restore the health of our watersheds, but the community-driven campaign to save the Wayne Golf Course illuminates a path for a future where growth doesn’t mean losing a connection to the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

Can a golf course save orca whales? Probably not. But a golf course re-imagined as a lush, forested park just may!