$2 million in state money to fuel restoration at Maury park

Thanks to an infusion of state money, the Maury Island Marine Park will soon see a major restoration effort.

The large, county-owned park, a former mine site near the old Glacier property, was recently chosen as one of several sites across the region for a yearlong habitat restoration project by the Puget SoundCorps — a division of the Washington Conservation Corps that employs young people and veterans. The project, funded to the tune of $2 million, will employ 24 people full-time to continue restoration efforts that have already begun on a smaller scale at the park — removing invasive plants, improving soil, planting native foliage and building trails.

Greg Rabourn, Vashon’s basin steward for King County, said he believes the undertaking represents the largest restoration project to take place on the Island. The county, which purchased the property in 1994, has long hoped to restore the native ecosystem at the site, an ecologically valuable shoreline habitat that has been marred by years of mining.

“I can’t think of any (project) we’ve approached on this scale before,” Rabourn said. “It’s just a tremendous boost for an important habitat.”

Rabourn and other county officials were quick to credit People for Puget Sound, an organization that has done significant restoration work at Maury Island Marine Park’s shoreline in recent years. But People for Puget Sound, they noted, has been limited by tight funding and relied heavily on volunteer workers, who are sometimes hard to recruit. The SoundCorps, which will begin work at the site this fall, is expected to do habitat restoration work on at least 100 acres of the 300-acre park, said Tina Miller, a volunteer coordinator for King County Parks who is helping to plan the project. She said the county hopes Vashon residents will apply to work on the job as well. The state Department of Ecology will hire the SoundCorps crew members, who must be either 18 to 25 years old or a veteran. There will also be openings for three or four supervisor positions, which do not have an age restriction.

“It’s a great opportunity for Vashon residents,” Miller said.

The work will focus first on the mining “scar” at the site, the most disturbed part of the park where Scotch broom and blackberry bushes have all but taken over. Work will extend to the shoreline and will also include the construction of three miles of trails.

“This is huge,” said Rabourn, who is advising the county on the project. “Without this kind of influx of labor and resources we would never be able to take on the scale of project that is needed here.”

The funding for Puget SoundCorps was approved by the state Legislature last spring as part of a $78 million jobs creation bill.

Miller said the Maury park was chosen as a site for work by SoundCorps because of its long stretch of undeveloped shoreline — habitat that is vital for salmon, orcas and other marine life — and the restoration groundwork that has been completed by previous volunteer efforts.

“It has a big connection with improving and restoring the shorelines of Puget Sound,” Miller said.

Adam Atwell, a member of the Friends of Maury Island Marine Park, said the Friends group was thrilled to learn about the work that will soon begin at the park.

“It’s just a humungous, crazy, big thing,” Atwell said. “They could potentially rid the park every Scotch broom and blackberry plant.”

Since 2008, the advisory group has worked to improve both the habitat and recreational opportunities at the park. The Friends secured funding to construct the viewing platform now perched above the expansive park as well as interpretive signs for visitors. They recently submitted plans to the county for an open-air picnic platform near the park’s shoreline.

Atwell, who walks at the park several times a week, said he’s already seen native trees such as madrones, alder and cottonwood become more established at the park. The SoundCorps work, he said, will only speed up a restoration process that could have taken years.

“On the periphery, it’s coming back pretty nice,” he said. “This will just accelerate that. I think it will be a really neat place.”


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