Don Bayes

Don Bayes

Saving Washington's Church Creek and teaching the next generation

  • By: Mike Benbow
When Snohomish County in Washington State announced the beginning of its Adopt a Stream program in 1980, Don Bayes had an idea. Bayes, a teacher of agriculture and environmental science in the Stanwood School District and an avid fly fisher, thought nearby Church Creek would be an excellent Adopt a Stream project, as well as a good project for his high school students. As a small stream connected to Puget Sound, Church Creek held small runs of coho salmon and sea-run cutthroat. But in the early 1980's the creek was badly hurting from the agricultural runoff it collected as it meandered through the region's dairy farms.Bayes won a $1,200 grant from Adopt a Stream for equipment to plant vegetation along Church Creek. With this first grant Bayes also bought materials to build egg boxes designed to increase the fish stocks. But he soon decided that he didn't want his students raising hatchery fish-he wanted them to restore the stream's habitat and bolster the wild fish populations. For the next two decades, Bayes incorporated Church Creek's restoration into a variety of classes. He continued winning grants for his efforts and expanded the project from a school program to a community effort. One of his biggest tasks was convincing farmers to install fences and bridges to prevent their cattle from walking through the stream. Bayes, who grew up on a farm in Washington, was able to recruit help from the property owners because he knew their problems and had taught their kids. For his efforts, Bayes was named Washington State's Conservation Teacher of the Year as well as the US Soil Conservation Service's Pacific Region Conservation Teacher of the Year in 1986. In 1990, he and a group of students traveled to Japan to explain river stewardship. A television station there featured his Church Creek project. Today, Bayes is retired from teaching, but he still keeps an eye on Church Creek, advises the school program, raises funds and counts spawning redds each fall. Church Creek now has a healthy run of 1,000 coho returning from the sea each fall and probably even more cutthroat. Clearly proud of the restoration project, Bayes says he's even happier about the efforts of his students, many of whom have entered the environmental field or just become better landowners. "The biggest value of it wasn't saving the fish in Church Creek. It was having kids understand the value of fisheries," Bayes says. Would you like to publish an article about your own fly-fishing hero? Send your manuscript-no longer than the one above-along with a couple of good color slides or prints to Fly Rod&Reel Magazine, Ford Presents: River Keepers, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843. If we use it in this space, we'll pay you $200; otherwise, we'll do our best to publish it online at www.flyrodreel.com, with your byline.