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Maury park gets a makeover

A young pine was planted by volunteers as part of ongoing restoration efforts at the regional park. - Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo
A young pine was planted by volunteers as part of ongoing restoration efforts at the regional park.
— image credit: Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo

On a drizzly afternoon late last month, Karlista Rickerson stood at the overlook above the scenic and expansive Maury Island Marine Park.

Once an abandoned mine site much like the former Glacier Northwest property, the 320-acre King County park is slowly becoming a more appealing recreational site, thanks to Rickerson and a small group of Islanders who saw its potential and decided to take action.

The large platform Rick-erson stood on, which is perched above the park’s madrone-covered bluffs and provides breathtaking views of the Sound and Mount Rainier, was constructed shortly after the Friends of Maury Park — an advisory group to King County that guides development at the park — formed in 2008 and requested it. Now, the platform is also home to two new interpretive signs.

Rickerson, who chairs the group of about half a dozen volunteers, said she has seen many more people stop at the viewpoint since the platform was constructed. The new signs, created by Island artist Sandra Noel with information compiled by the friends group, are for both Vashon residents and visitors alike, as few people, Rickerson said, know much about the park.

“It’s about education,” she said. “We have people who come to this island from Tacoma and Seattle for bike rides, and that is a very common place that people will stop. You walk out there and what are you looking at?”

The signs, which cost about $3,000, were funded with a $7,500 county grant that the friends group secured in 2008 for such improvements.

The signs are but one element of a far-reaching effort by the county, the friends group and the Seattle-based People For Puget Sound to enhance the property, the largest county-owned park along the shores of Puget Sound. Also planned is a sign that would present a map of the expansive park and an open-air picnic shelter near the beach.

Efforts are also underway to restore the native ecosystem along the park’s nearly one mile of shoreline and to improve the park’s trail system, a network that is limited and inadequate and that makes the park a relatively little-known community asset, group members say.

Currently, the park boasts only two paths — a gently sloping gravel road that winds down to the shore and a steep, narrow trail that ends in the same place.

Joe Yarkin, a member of the Friends of Maury Park, said the group has been working with county park specialist Joe Van Hollebeke to scout out new trails in an effort to open up parts of the park now inaccessible to the public.

“There are some beautiful hidden forests in there, and a walking trail would be a great way to let people see it,” Yarkin said.

Van Hollebeke said that he hopes to see the county complete new trails by the end of the year. Both he and the friends group, he added, are also excited about the possibility of one day connecting Maury Island Marine Park trails with those at the former Glacier property recently acquired by the county.

“Everybody wants to get contiguous trails that continue from one end of the Island to the other,” he said. “We are definitely looking at that. As we buy things we like them to connect.”

Meanwhile, People For Puget Sound has been working for a couple of years on an effort to restore the park’s native ecosystem, especially along its long shoreline, where invasive plants such as Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry have taken hold.

Adam Atwell, another member of the Friends of Maury Park, said that a state grant People for Puget Sound received in 2009 allowed it to begin its efforts at restoration. Since then, they’ve held half a dozen work parties a year and invited other volunteer groups to aid in their efforts to remove invasive plants and plant native ones. County workers have tended to the young plants at the site.

The goal, he and others said, is to repopulate the area with native plants and trees that will help to restore a food chain; insects from overhanging trees that fall into the water, for instance, provide food for juvenile salmon.

Atwell, who has volunteered his time at work parties at the site, said the friends group is grateful to the county and People For Puget Sound for their efforts to restore the shoreline — work he believes will be completed next year.

Yarkin said he hopes the changes happening at the park will encourage more Islanders, as well as visitors to Vashon, to take time to experience what it has to offer.

“There’s a small group that thinks this is a treasure and just wants to fix it up so others can see what a treasure it is,” he said.

A work day sponsored by People For Puget Sound will be held at on Saturday, March 12, at the Maury Island Marine Park. Volunteers can work from either 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tools, gloves and light refreshments will be provided. RSVP to restoration@pugetsound.org or call 456-3813.

For more information about the Friends of Maury Park, e-mail Karlista Rickerson at karlista@mindspring.com.

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