New state park waiting for permits
A new state park in south Pierce County could still open this summer, but later than planned.
Nisqually State Park, which has been on the drawing board in one form or another since 1987, is awaiting final authorizations for construction at the 1,300-acre site that’s seven miles west of Eatonville off State Route 7.
“We were hoping to begin construction in April, but we are a little delayed on that” because officials “are waiting on permits,” said Virginia Painter, a spokeswoman for Washington State Parks. “Construction is expected to take 60 to 90 days. At this point, it still looks like we are on track to be done some time this summer, but the permit stage can take longer.”
Officials said in mid-2014 that they hoped to open the park to the public by this July.
Plans for the park’s initial development, to be funded by a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant, call for a trailhead that will include a parking lot and a restroom.
Development is expected to continue through 2028, with a total price tag of $85 million – $50 million in state funding and $35 million from sources that include the Nisqually Tribe, which has formed a development and management partnership with the state. A store selling Native American-made products and crafts eventually would be part of the park.
The park site is at the confluence of the Nisqually and Mashel rivers and Ohop Creek. The land has steep-sided forest valleys, high ridges and reforested plateaus. Once its fully developed, state officials expect the park could draw more than 480,000 visitors per year.
The vision for the park began taking shape in 1987 with the Legislature’s approval of the Nisqually River Management Plan, which called for a destination park where the Nisqually and Mashel rivers join and included trails along the Mashel as a park feature. The state acquired land for the park between 1991 and 2013.
Development plans were made with the help of a committee of representatives of Mount Rainier National Park, the town of Eatonville, the University of Washington Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest, Tacoma Power, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pierce County Parks and Recreation, the Nisqually River Council, and local citizens. Input also came from the Nisqually Tribe.