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Land trust secures two more properties along Judd Creek

By NATALIE MARTIN

The Vashon Maury Island Land Trust recently purchased two more properties along Judd Creek, a step forward in its effort to protect Vashon’s largest watershed and eventually build a hiking trail there.

“I’m pretty confident that this will come together over time,” said Tom Dean, executive director of the land trust.

For years the land trust has been working to outright purchase or purchase conservation easements on properties along Judd Creek, Vashon’s largest stream and one of two salmon-bearing creeks on the island.

Late last year the effort saw a huge boon when the nonprofit was able to purchase a 10-acre plot at the mouth of Judd Creek from Jim and Elaine Scott, a couple who lives at the property. It paid $735,000 for it.

This month the land trust closed on a 0.6-acre parcel also at the mouth of the creek owned by Gary Scott, Jim and Elaine’s son. It also purchased a 5-acre forested plot, a parcel farther up the stream, from Cheryl Rein. The purchases totaled $201,250.

All three purchases were funded by a $4 million state budget allocation secured by state Sen. Sharon Nelson last year for open space preservation on Vashon.

“What a gift to the island,” Dean said of the funds, which have allowed the land trust to move more quickly on purchasing properties. “We’re not just saving the best salmon stream on Vashon, but really trying to open it up so people can enjoy it and learn from it.”

Dean said the land trust is currently in talks with several more property owners in the area and is making contact with others.

“I think a lot more purchases will go forward in the next two years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support and a lot of positive conversations with landowners.”

This summer the land trust plans to do major work at its Paradise Valley preserve farther upstream, thinning alders and removing invasive species such as Scotch broom and blackberry and planting native conifers. It is currently applying for permits from King County to build a new hiking trail there, which Dean hopes will be complete within two years.

Within six years, Dean said, the land trust hopes a long trail will run from the Burton Adventure Recreation Center, along Judd Creek and possibly into Island Center Forest. He said the trail would likely cross the creek multiple times and would be topographically diverse, similar to the trail built a few years ago at Shinglemill Creek.

“We’ve spent a lot of money buying these natural resources, and we feel where we can provide public access that isn’t damaging to the habitat, the public should have a right to enjoy these properties,” he said.

The trail will likely take a half-dozen years to accomplish, he said, because it will take time to purchase a wide swath of properties along the creek and get trail easements where necessary. Trail building, too, requires time and funding.

“It’s not something you do without a lot of thought and consideration for how to do it with the lightest hand possible,” he said.

As for the two recent purchases, Dean said the 5-acre plot is a fairly healthy forest. The smaller piece, however, contains a small cabin that will likely be removed. The cabin is historical — it once belonged to Artemus Judd himself — but it is in disrepair and covered with ivy. It’s beyond restoration, Dean said, and is a liability for the land trust.

“It’s a dangerous structure to leave up,” he said.

The land trust is checking with the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation before taking it down.

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