County takes first steps to join two popular parks on Maury Island

Joe Henke, a member of the county’s Conservation Futures Citizens Committee, walks through the Maury property the county hopes to purchase, providing a gateway to the marine park. - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Joe Henke, a member of the county’s Conservation Futures Citizens Committee, walks through the Maury property the county hopes to purchase, providing a gateway to the marine park.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

King County officials hope to purchase 20 acres adjacent to the Maury Island Marine Park, their first step in an effort to create a forested, upland corridor linking the waterfront park to the county’s new holdings at the former Glacier site.

The 20 acres — four madrone-studded parcels owned by the same family — are located off of 75th Avenue S.W. Should they be purchased, the properties would add a new and much more accessible way to enter the sprawling, 320-acre regional marine park, a county-owned property that now can is reached via S.W. 244th Street, a small, gravel road.

“If it all goes through, it’ll become a gateway,” Joe Henke, a member of a King County commission that recommended the purchase, said as he walked the property recently.

David Kimmett, a project manager at the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, said he, too, was pleased by the possible addition to the marine park. Like Glacier, it’s a former gravel mine that carries the scars of its former use. The addition, he said, “would add another forest element to the marine park, which it’s lacking.”

But Kimmett, Henke and others have a bigger vision, as well, hoping the addition becomes the first step in a multi-phased project that would create a corridor linking the 320-acre marine park with the 250-acre Glacier site.

If successful, Maury would boast a 600- to 700-acre swath of publicly owned lands, the largest protected area on Vashon, and a trail network that would enable hikers and equestrians to go from one marine park to another.

County Executive Dow Constantine’s budget, now before the county council, includes $700,000 for the project, money that comes from two funds — the Conservation Futures Fund and a park expansion levy — both of which are dedicated to land protection.

Henke, who serves on the citizens’ commission that recommends projects for the Conservation Futures Fund, said the project was endorsed by the commission because of its potential and magnitude.

“We have these two magnificent preserves,” he said of the marine park and the Glacier site. A corridor connecting the two “would be wonderful.”

The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust has been trying to find ways to link various protected parcels for several years — efforts that are driven by ecological considerations as well as recreational ones. Beth Bordner, the land trust’s operations manager, said it’s a concept that garners a lot of enthusiasm.

“People want to be able to take a hike and not leave the Island,” she said. “If those two parks were joined, it puts it on a scale and size that’s pretty significant. It begins to look like a regional park and would have the draw of a regional park.”

The four parcels off of 75th Avenue are critical to the vision, Bordner said, as they form a bottleneck — the only undeveloped swath on the west side of the marine park.

“Once we secure those four parcels, that buys us time to piece the rest of a route together. There’s a lot of vacant land available,” she said. “But the only option to get into the marine park are these 20 acres. We have to get those, or the whole plan is lost.”

The four parcels are considered developable and were recently on the market. County officials have talked to the owner, who has indicated a willingness to sell to the county, once both sides settle on a price established by an independent appraiser.

Kimmett said the rest of the project would likely take years but added that he and others in the county hope to see it through to its completion.

“I think it’s one of the neater visions on the Island at the moment,” he said.

John Gerstle, a member of the Friends of the Maury Regional Marine Park and an avid walker on the Island, said he, too, finds the project inspiring.

“There are diminishing opportunities, and they get tougher as the years go on and the budgets get tight,” he said. “It’s really remarkable that we might be able to do this.”


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