Although its eerie name suggests otherwise, Puyallup’s Dead Man’s Pond is home to many living things.
From black-tailed deer to blue herons and bald eagles, the pond acts as a home to local wildlife and is part of a larger area of forested wetlands nestled among Puyallup’s suburban developments. It’s also the headwaters of Clarks Creek.
“Places like Dead Man’s Pond are pretty rare in urban environments,” said Jordan Rash, conservation director for Forterra, a nonprofit dedicating to conserving land throughout counties in Washington state. “(The pond) is in such good shape.”
Places like Dead Man’s Pond are pretty rare in urban environments. (The pond) is in such good shape.
Jordan Rash, conservation director for Forterra
Now, 5 acres of the pond are under ownership of the city, which completed a $366,000 purchase of the parcel from Forterra in December.
The city first made efforts to protect the pond in 2013, when a private landowner sold the property.
“Like anything within the city limits, there’s a lot of potential for development in the area,” said City Engineer Mark Palmer. “It was definitely in danger for development going in.”
At that time, the city didn’t have the funds to immediately purchase the land, so to protect it, city officials enlisted the help of Forterra, asking the nonprofit to purchase the land and maintain it until the city could buy it back. Forterra purchased the land with help from The Russell Family Foundation.
Three years later, the transaction was finalized, and the property returned to the city for the same price that Forterra purchased it.
“It’ll be a nice place where people can go and enjoy a native environment,” Palmer said.
It’ll be a nice native place where people can go and enjoy a native environment.
Mark Palmer, engineer for the city of Puyallup
The purchase is good news for wildlife, especially the state’s endangered western pond turtle. The turtles may be reintroduced to the area if Dead Man’s Pond can become a secure location.
The 5-acre purchase is a big step toward that, Rash said, but there’s still more to be done. Pieces of Dead Man’s Pond are still owned by private landowners.
“Dead Man’s Pond is not a secure location — it’s not a wholly protected property,” Rash said. “If we can acquire at least one other parcel, we might be able to bring the turtles back — that’s assuming the population rebounds.”
The city is contemplating approaching neighbors that own part of the east side of the pond, Palmer said, and hopes to acquire that property down the road.
For now, the city plans for Dead Man’s Pond to be part of the proposed 5-Mile Loop Trail now under development. Forterra is interested in working with the city in the future through its Green Puyallup Partnership, Rash said.
“Working with the city of Puyallup and cities like them is really what makes our work a pleasure to do,” Rash said. “Having strong partnerships is critical to our work and the cities’ work. We’re looking forward to doing more of it.”