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Wednesday, 31 May 2017 16:29

Living Faraway: An Ode to Rhubarb

By Brook Hurst Stephens

Saturday, 29 April 2017 12:41

Natural Yards Help Make Your Water Healthy

By The Shellfish Partners, Special to Key Peninsula News

Lakes, streams and beautiful Puget Sound beaches surround Key Peninsula. As you break out your gardening shoes to get ready for spring, remember protecting those waters begins in your own backyards. When you apply fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, you can unintentionally harm groundwater, lakes, streams and Puget Sound.

Keep your yard lush, green and free of weeds without the use of harsh chemicals. Five easy steps will help you manage your yard naturally and save money in the process:

  1. Build healthy soil. Healthy soil should contain a good balance of air, water and organic material. Avoid over-compacting your soil to ensure enough air and water can get to the roots. Mix in some compost so your plants get plenty of food.
  2. The right plant in the right place. Different plants need different amounts of sunlight, warmth and water. Most vegetables need four to six hours of full sun per day, while ferns and rhododendrons love the shade. Get to know your yard. Where is it sunny, shady, soggy or dry? Work with your local nursery or master gardener to choose plants well suited to your yard to save time, money and hassle.
  3. Practice smart watering. Too much or too little water cause many plant problems. Excess watering may run off the yard and be wasted. It can also pick up chemicals along the way. Consider installing a drip watering system to deliver water directly to the plant, slowly and right at the roots. Kits start at around $40, at local garden shops, are easy to install and can come with automatic timers.
  4. Think twice before using chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides may eliminate unwanted bugs and weeds, but they can easily end up where you don’t want them. Rain and overwatering can wash them into waterways and children and pets can track chemicals into the house. Instead, consider pulling weeds in the early spring before they get established. Cover planting areas with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to keep weeds from growing. For denser weed patches, lay down cardboard or newspaper under the mulch to smother weeds and block new ones from springing up. You can also use vinegar to kill weeds in cracks and hard-to-weed areas.
  5. Practice natural lawn care. Grassy areas are the most challenging parts of yards. They require frequent watering in the summer and any shaded area will attract moss. Instead of “weed and feed” products, keep your grass healthy by using an organic, “slow release” fertilizer. Mow often, and keep your blade sharp. Leave the clippings on the yard as free fertilizer and only water about 1 inch a week. Consider reducing the size of your lawn to a more manageable area, especially where you have moss problems.

To learn more, attend the natural yard care and vegetable gardening workshops Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Longbranch Improvement Club, 4312 Key Peninsula Highway South. Sessions will include:

  • Natural Yard Care—Less Work and Money: 10 to 10:45 a.m. Learn how to fight weeds, build healthy soil, choose the right plants and have a great looking lawn without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instructor: Walt Burdsall, Washington State University Master Gardener and Natural Yard Care program coordinator, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
  • Growing Great Vegetables: 10:45 a.m. to noon. Learn easy ways to plant, grow and harvest vegetables to enjoy. Growing your own vegetables is fun, healthy and can save you money. Instructor: Colin Evoy, AmeriCorps Farm Nutrition coordinator, YMCA Camp Seymour.

Learn more at or call 253-798-4708.


The Shellfish Partners are Pierce County Public Works Surface Water Management, Pierce Conservation District, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, community organizations and Key Peninsula residents. They have been at work to protect Key Peninsula’s beaches and shellfish resources since 2006. For more information, call 235-798-6470 or visit


By Brook Hurst Stephens

By State Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-26th)

Every biennium, the Washington State Legislature adopts three major budgets. The largest is the operating budget, which funds the day-to-day operations of state agencies, public schools, colleges and universities. The second largest is the transportation budget, which funds public transit and road maintenance, as well as motor vehicle registration and enforcement.

The smallest of the three budgets is the roughly $4 billion capital budget, funded by a combination of state bonds (the state is bound by an 8.25 percent debt limit) and cash. Capital budget funds are allocated for the building, maintenance and renovation of the following:

  • Public school buildings;
  • College and university buildings;
  • Prison facilities and juvenile rehabilitation facilities;
  • Mental health institutions;
  • State office buildings;
  • Parks and recreation facilities;
  • Low-income housing;
  • State and local museums and cultural facilities;
  • Local government infrastructure improvements, including water and sewer systems;
  • Wastewater and toxic waste cleanup facilities; and
  • Wildlife habitat conservation and open space projects.

The School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) is one of the largest and most important components of the capital budget. SCAP funds, which are allocated to local school districts for school facility construction and modernization, are provided by voter-approved school construction bonds. In 2016, voters approved a record number of school construction bond dollars, which means the 2017-19 SCAP budget will be more than $1 billion—or roughly one quarter of the capital budget.

Historically, the Key Peninsula has not received many capital budget dollars due to a lack of requests. However, we were able to secure $50,000 in funding two years ago when the Key Pen Civic Center asked for funding to fix its HVAC system.

This session has been unique in that we’ve received more capital budget requests than ever before. I worked tirelessly with my fellow 26th District lawmakers to ensure important Key Pen projects were included in the 2017-19 House capital budget proposal:

  • $515,000 for the construction of what would be the first retirement community on the KP. This partnership with The Mustard Seed Project would provide a full range of services for individuals maturing in life who would like to remain in the community.
  • $248,000 for environmental and public safety upgrades to the Longbranch Marina.
  • $60,000 for the purchase of a generator for the Key Pen Civic Center to mitigate power outages.

While negotiations are ongoing, I’m hopeful these projects will receive funding in the final capital budget.

For updates on the projects included in the final budget, go to

If there are projects you would like funded in a future legislative session, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. You can reach me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 360-786-7802.

It is an honor to serve you in the House. Together, we are making a difference for our communities.

Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-Port Orchard) is serving her second term in the state House of Representatives. She serves on the House Appropriations, Education and Health Care and Wellness committees.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 11:18

Key Concerns: SB 5239 Won’t Work

By Edward Robison, P.E., S.E.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 11:12

From the Legislature: In Support of SB 5239

By Sen. Jan Angel (R-26th)

By Jan Walker

Our state Legislature is considering a bill (SB 5069) to provide associate degree education to offenders inside our adult prisons.

Friday, 31 March 2017 14:57

From Your Fire Dept.: Community Connects

Sheila Ward Niven

Have you ever wondered what projects the fire department is working on or what a Safe Sitter class looks like?

By Councilman Derek Young (D-7th)

The Pierce County executive proposed budget amendments last month on a number of issues that are important to the Key Peninsula. 

Thursday, 02 March 2017 10:19

From the Outlook Desk

Depression Is Not a Phase

By Nathan Johnson

We often play depression off as a joke in society and in high school. We don’t see or recognize what can really happen to students who are genuinely depressed. Depression is not a phase; it is a major mental health condition that is becoming more and more common among adolescents.

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