Chico Salmon Park is a wonderful 4.5-acre park located near the entrance to the Kitsap Golf & Country Club, at the intersection of Golf Club Road and Chico Way. Each year, an average of 15,000 to 25,000 chum and coho salmon migrate through the park on their way to spawn. Some years, as many as 100,000 salmon have been counted swimming up Chico Creek and some make it all the way past Wildcat Lake.
The park is a spectacular natural resource in Kitsap County and is part of the Chico Creek watershed. In 2007, the county acquired a former gas station and an old dump site and since 2013, a group of volunteer stewards have transformed it into the public resource it is today.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people come to the park during October and November to observe the salmon on their final journey to spawn their eggs in the creek. The park has become an education center, as schoolchildren from all over the county come to view the fish and the natural habitat.
For the last 20 years, an event called Salmon Tours has taken place throughout the county for people who are interested in observing the salmon coming from the sea to the local streams. This year, the event is planned for Nov. 9. In past years, over 800 people have attended Salmon Tours at Chico Salmon Park.
Amy Lawrence, a biology teacher at Olympic College, has organized the Stewardship Group, volunteers who have offered to work with the county Parks Department to help maintain the park. These dedicated volunteers have a love for and an interest in native plants and the ecological impacts of the park on the watershed system. They meet once a month, usually on the first Saturday, for park maintenance.
Over the past six years, the Stewardship Group has been able to recruit hundreds of volunteers to help support the park. Lawrence has also involved her Olympic College students in this effort, as she sees it as a great education opportunity for her biology class.
The Chico Salmon Park has two very special missions. First is the support of the salmon habitat and second, the opportunity to educate the community about the value of this important natural resource. It has almost become a neighborhood of sorts, with groups of volunteers who work to maintain and restore the natural stretch of creek and beautiful natural vegetation. It is one of the best places in the state for kids and families to come and view close-up the life cycle of the salmon.
Chico Salmon Park will be closed for one year during the replacement of the old box culvert under the road. The culvert will be replaced with a new bridge on Golf Club Hill Road at the Chico Creek crossing in order to restore the natural flow of the stream, improving fish migration and rehabilitating some of the natural habitat. The Kitsap County Public Works department will do the new construction. The park is expected to reopen in October 2020.
Chico Salmon Park is a great example of the wonderful public spaces that will allow local residents to maintain quality of life as the population continues to grow.