Hi, I’m Nikki Fields, a Parks Planner for State Parks, and I’d like to give you an update on Nisqually State Park.
Probably most of you are familiar with the park, but for anyone who isn’t, I will give a little background information. Nisqually State Park is about halfway between the mountain and the sound, near Eatonville, and adjacent to Pack Forest.
State Parks currently owns 1,230 acres. It is bordered by three streams, the Nisqually River, the Mashel River, and Ohop Creek.
The park acquisition started because of the Nisqually River Management Plan, which identified this site as a future destination park. State Parks began acquiring land in 1991, using grant funding from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. In 2005, the legislature funded a master plan for the park.
So we started the planning process by holding two public workshops to hear of people’s hopes and concerns for the park, and to review alternative land classifications and long-term boundaries for the park. The second meeting included a park tour for members of the public, and both meetings were well-attended.
Then in 2007, we hired a consultant team to assist with developing the park’s master plan, and it was decided to roll the earlier land classification and long-term boundary planning process into the master planning process. The team developed a site analysis of the park, then developed three alternative master planning approaches.
Throughout the process, we received input of the public and other stakeholders, including some of the people in this room. There was support for the People’s Center alternative from all groups. During the process, the Nisqually Tribe formed a committee to decide what they would like to see in the park, and how the tribe would like to be involved. They have expressed interest in partnering with State Parks on the acquisition, development, and management of Nisqually State Park, and would like to develop a formal partnership agreement with us. We are about to start working on that agreement.
The park’s final master plan includes a land-use plan, an interpretive plan, a stewardship plan, design guidelines, and a business plan. In March, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved the land-use plan, and also the park’s land classification and long-term boundary. They also officially named the park. You may recall us calling the park “Nisqually-Mashel” at earlier meetings, but with the help of the Nisqually Tribe we named it after the river and its people. The master plan recognizes that this site is very important in the story of the Nisqually people. They have lived with this land for over 10,000 years. Chief Leschi’s village was in this area, and this was the location of a massacre of a group of Nisqually people in the mid-1800s. The cultural values of this site are central to the park plan, and are what will make this a destination park. One of the most exciting parts of the plan is down here, on the hill in the center of the park.
We are calling this area the People’s Center, and it is planned to be an interpretive center where park visitors can learn the story of the Nisqually people and their use of this land for the last 10,000 years. The People’s Center is also associated with an area called the Observatory, which is located at the high point of the park. The Observatory is a place for viewing the park and its surroundings by day, and by night, it would be a good place for stargazing or storytelling.
Another important part of the land use plan is called the Village Center. It includes the park office and store, and an amphitheater and gathering spaces. The park’s main day-use and camping areas are proposed near the Village Center, which helps to concentrate development and leave more of the park in a more natural state. Also nearby the Village Center is the Ohop Equestrian Center, in a historic barn, where people can rent horses from a concessionaire for rides in the park.
On the other side of the Mashel River, in what is currently part of Pack Forest, the proposed plan calls for group camping and horse camping, and also a mountain bike challenge course. South of the Nisqually River, the proposed plan calls for an area that could be used by Native American people for cultural and environmental education of their young people. This area is called the Traditional Knowledge Camp.
You’ve probably noticed that the proposed long-term boundary, as shown by the green dashed line, is larger than our current ownership. The proposed park will be a little over 3,400 acres. This map of the major landowners shows that this central parcel, owned by Manke Timber, is essential for the development of the People’s Center. In fact, without the acquisition of at least part of the Manke property, there is no access to part of our current ownership. Another important large acquisition is the portion of Pack Forest west of Highway 7. Pack Forest has considered selling us this property so that they can buy a more productive piece of forest land somewhere else. They might also be interested in a land trade if we had a parcel that would support their education and forestry missions. This map also shows that although we do have several large acquisitions ahead of us, several large parcels within the long-term boundary are already protected, having been purchased by the Nisqually Land Trust. The Land Trust has been supportive of these parcels someday becoming part of the park. The blue parcels are also already protected. They belong to Tacoma Power, and are being managed for wildlife habitat. In addition to the Nisqually Tribe, Pack Forest, the Nisqually Land Trust, and Tacoma Power are all seen as potential partners in park development.
In fact, Pack Forest has already partnered with us on a Forest Health Plan for the park. The plan aims to managed the forest through selective thinning to enhance forest diversity, improve habitat, and develop old growth characteristics more quickly than it would if we left it alone. One particularly exciting piece of news is that we used this Forest Health Plan in order to get Forest Stewardship Council certification for the park, making Nisqually the first State Park to be certified.
We’re really excited about the process we have made so far, and we’d like to progress with development and stewardship as soon as possible, but we don’t currently have funding. And with the budget situation the way it is, I’m not sure when we will. We’re not totally stopped, though. I recently applied for a WWRP grant to acquire some of the property in the middle of the park. Whether it gets funded will depend on the overall WWRP funding level. We are also working with the Tribe to develop a partnership agreement. Aside from funding, another challenge at the park is in its management between now and when it is developed. It has been managed through Federation Forest State Park, which is over an hour away, and the management will soon be changed to Millersylvannia State Park, which is a similar distance from Nisqually. In either case, we don’t have dedicated staffing for the park, so our rangers haven’t been able to visit as often as they would like. We would like to develop some kind of stewardship group for the park. Some of the things we could use help with are: Keeping an eye on the status of our gates and access points, and letting us know if something is amiss. Kind of a “neighborhood watch,” if you will. It would be great if this could be done semi-regularly. Cleaning up dump sites. We believe we have money for tipping fees, but we don’t have the staffing to cleanup as often as we would like, and lately there has been more dumping than there had been in the past few years. We would also like to do some removal of invasives. Both the park clean-up and the invasive removal could be done by individuals, or we might be able to set up volunteer work days in the park. If you have ideas for how we could organize a group to help with park stewardship, I’d love to hear them, and pass them along to our Operations team. Thank you so much for all your help through this process. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.
Nisqually State Park Update 2010
Nisqually State Park