Old Fort Townsend Park is expanding —

Old Fort Townsend Park is expanding

The Leader, August 20, 2008
Old Fort Townsend Park is expanding

This photo taken Aug. 14 shows the land that, thanks to Port Townsend Paper Corp., is now part of Old Fort Townsend State Park.

Thanks to the Port Townsend Paper Corp. and a consortium of conservation organizations, Old Fort Townsend State Park has nearly doubled in size.

Located only two miles outside Port Townsend, the park is already the most natural old-growth forest experience on the Quimper Peninsula, and this land transaction enhances that recreational opportunity.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), in partnership with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Jefferson Land Trust and Port Townsend Paper Corp. (PTPC), has protected 250 acres of what is being termed "biologically rich" land. The agreement was sealed Aug. 1.

"It goes along with our vision for land stewardship, and it is a high quality addition to Old Fort, which is classified as a natural forest area," said Kate Burke, who as manager of Fort Worden State Park is responsible for Old Fort Townsend. "It really does meet the established base for what Old Fort is all about - a natural forest area, more of a passive experience, not like Fort Worden, where there is a high activity level."

In 2005, Port Townsend Paper asked TPL to help conserve the land between Old Fort Townsend State Park and the mill, along the shore of Port Townsend Bay. To do so, TPL arranged for Washington State Parks to purchase 30 acres outright as an addition to the park and place a conservation easement on the rest of the property, permanently protecting the land from development.

More than $3 million was raised from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Coastal Wetland Conservation Program, the State Recreation and Conservation Office's (RCO) Salmon Recovery Funding Board (operating in conjunction with the Hood Canal Coordinating Council), the RCO Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, and TPL.

"For more than 80 years, these sensitive lands have been cared for by the mill, and we are pleased that future generations will benefit from what we have entrusted to these conservation partners," said Eveleen Muehlethaler, PTPC's vice president of Environmental Services. "This agreement will ensure that the lands will be preserved for years to come."

Conservation
A conservation easement protects 170 acres of uplands, allowing for sustainable timber harvesting and forming a natural buffer between the mill and Old Fort Townsend State Park. The easement is held by Washington State Parks, and the Jefferson Land Trust will contribute stewardship expertise. The full easement also encompasses 45 acres of tidal flats that have abundant eelgrass beds and provide critical habitat for juvenile salmon.

In addition, 30 acres of old-growth forest and bluff habitat will be added to Old Fort Townsend State Park, providing additional public shoreline access. Old Fort Townsend currently has 367 acres; this transaction now essentially makes it the second largest state park in Jefferson County at about 667 acres. Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island remains the largest at 784 acres.

Old Fort Townsend, sited on the first permanent military post (1856-1895) in Jefferson County, became a state park in 1958. It includes 40 campsites, 43 picnic sites, a kitchen, shelters and a group camping area, as well as moorage buoys, an amphitheater and about seven miles of trails. The park gets an estimated 132,000 visits a year.

"The State Parks and Recreation Commission is thrilled to expand Old Fort Townsend State Park," said Joan Thomas, commissioner from Seattle.

In addition to offering shelter and foraging areas for salmon, the new park acreage offers important habitat to a variety of animals. Seen in the area have been cougar, coyote, deer, otter, eagles and kingfishers.

"The mill has made a huge contribution to the community by permanently protecting the scenic beauty and habitat of this property," said Erik Kingfisher, stewardship director for Jefferson Land Trust. "The Jefferson Land Trust is proud to play a role as steward for this important area."

The project contributes to the mission of the Alliance for Puget Sound Shorelines - a partnership of TPL, The Nature Conservancy, and People for Puget Sound - to save, protect and restore the shorelines for everyone to enjoy.

"We are excited to add Glen Cove as one of the 10 new parks and natural areas the Alliance will create by 2009," said Elizabeth Butler, TPL project manager. "Glen Cove is a great example of how we can work with private interests to help preserve critical habitat and give the public more access to important natural areas."

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