A soft curve of pristine beach on Anderson Island now has a new layer of protection with the purchase of nearly 18 acres completed by a nonprofit land conservancy with help from other partners.
The property is a keystone acquisition to help preserve core ecological and recreation values in Puget Sound, even as the region grows, noted Gene Duvernoy, president of Forterra, a nonprofit land conservancy.
The parcel adjoins Jacobs Point Park, which with the acquisition now totals 100 acres of prime forest, wetlands and beach.
“There is not a lot of Puget Sound shoreline that could be developed that hasn’t been,” said Adam Draper, acting vice president of conservation for Forterra. The deal was tricky, with a last-minute appraisal higher than expected and a scramble for funds to raise $258,000 to purchase the property.
Funding the purchase were a number of agencies and nonprofits and a private donor. “We cobbled this together to make it happen,” Draper said.
The park is reached by Pierce County’s Steilacoom Ferry and is on the regional Cascade Marine Trail network. “It’s easy to get to, it’s beautiful and way more accessible than the San Juans,” Draper said of the island.
“This is just the kind of public access and recreation that will be needed as the region grows, it is really pristine.”
The parcel in the 1890s was home to an old brickyard. Today it is covered mostly with 80- to 90-year-old fir trees, but it also is home to at least one very large, old Garry oak, a tree native to Puget Sound but now rare in the region.
Intact wetlands are abundant on the property and abounding with frogs, said Rick Anderson of the Anderson Island Park and Recreation District. Together with the existing shoreline parcel, the new acquisition will provide more than a mile of publicly accessible beach front with views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. “And the trails are just spectacular,” Anderson said.
The intact forested shoreline without bulkhead or break to the beach and near shore is a critical resting and feeding opportunity for juvenile salmon. Overhanging trees provide a feast of insects raining down on the water that feed Chinook, chum and pinks migrating to and from the Nisqually Delta and Nisqually Reach. Spawning surf smelt and sand lance use the shoreline, too.
“The salmon component is what compelled us,” said Joe Kane, executive director of the Nisqually Land Trust, which provided crucial last-minute cash to clinch the deal.
“We need to protect any shoreline like this that is left.”
The acquisition continues work by Forterra on Anderson Island. The nonprofit helped found Jacobs Point Park with the Anderson Island Park and Recreation District when it secured the initial 82 acres for the park in 2011.
The new acquisition makes Jacobs Point Park the largest protected marine park in South Puget Sound.
The park sits on East Oro Bay, near the Nisqually River, putting it within easy reach of the urbanizing hubs of Puget Sound, just a 20-minute ferry ride from Steilacoom.
Anderson, of the park district, noted the landscape includes many features not often seen so close to urban centers. In addition to extensive elevated trails over wetlands, at least one family of coyotes frequents the area and frogs can be delightfully deafening. There is even a sea cave near stairs down the beach.
Planned now are connections from trails in the existing park to the new parcel, creating a 2-mile loop, Anderson said.
“The property is just so lovely.”