Gig Harbor Celebrates Environmental Conservation
Preserving land for future generations By Rachel Kelly | Photo by Lucy Zhou
Gig Harbor is celebrating the acquisition of the North Creek Salmon Heritage site for the purpose of preservation and conservation. The property is located across the street from Donkey Creek Park (8714 North Harborview Drive) and north of the Water Treatment Plant (4426 Harborview Drive). The land, which consists of pristine salmon habitat and wetlands to which the salmon still return to every year to lay their eggs, was acquired in a series of three phases.
The idea of preservation of the heritage site began in the 1980s. The land was noted by city officials as being especially pristine on the edge of a growing Gig Harbor. However, at the time, no action was taken to protect the property from development, though the property failed to disappear from the view of developers and city organizers alike.
It wasn’t until recently, with the rapid development of Gig Harbor, that locals started to reach out to the mayor and city council with a plea that the development slow to allow for some of the land to remain unclaimed. Preservation of land, water and trees is essential to the overall health of current and future generations. The voice of the community didn’t fall on deaf ears. The mayor and city council stand united in their desire to preserve and conserve the land within and around Gig Harbor. City council decided to take steps today to ensure the health of future generations through preservation of green space.
“We decided to put our money toward environmental stewardship to highlight our priorities as a city,” says Katrina Knutson, Gig Harbor city administrator.
The land across from Donkey Creek Park that was once deemed pristine by past city organizers once again came before the city council’s purview, eventually leading to the pursuit and acquisition of the land.
The first phase of acquisition began with the 11.5 acres owned by the Lyons Family Trust; when approached, they were willing to sell the land for conservation purposes. To acquire the land, Gig Harbor was in need of partners. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians partnered with the city to add an additional $50,000 to the conservation fund. The land across from Donkey Creek is of special historical significance to the tribe as the ancestral homelands of the Swift Water peoples, the original residents of the land. Preserving the land in its entirety will benefit the key salmon species that rely on its untouched state, in turn caring for the generations of many peoples who live in its vicinity.
After Gig Harbor entered into negotiations for the property from the Lyons Family Trust, the city council began to hear talk of the surrounding land. City council started to look into adjoining lands and talk to landowners, which resulted in phases two and three of acquiring land for preservation. Eventually they entered into talks of buying more property to the west. To purchase both the Lyons Family Trust property and the phase 2 property, funds were used both from the Pierce County Conservation Fund and the Puyallup Tribe. The city acquired $430,000 through the Pierce County Conservation Futures Grant. The City of Gig Harbor contributed $20,000. This resulted in a conservation easement on both properties to further protect the wetlands. The health of the salmon habitat was ensured.
For phase 3, the council was aware that the property across the street from Harborview Drive was being developed into housing. Since this land adjoined the previous two properties, the city approached the developers and bought the land outright for preservation—ensuring slower development. Because phase 3 was bought outright with city funds, and without Pierce County Conservation funds, the land didn’t have a conservation easement. Through the pro-bono work of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, the conservation easement was arranged and the property acquired.
In the future, we can look forward to a property with light development of natural trails, and a very small parking lot. The natural trail will eventually meet up with the Cushman Trail. The North Creek Salmon Heritage site will be a place where salmon and trout can continue to procreate in the river and local native plants can grow, providing nourishment for an entire ecosystem inland and eventually out to the ocean. In short, it will be a place where local nature can thrive and the land can rest. For us it will be a place where we can breathe in the forest air and unwind. It will be a place to wander and get lost, only to find our way again back to downtown Gig Harbor. In that way, the North Creek Salmon Heritage site will allow us to come full circle.