Raab’s Lagoon purchased by King County

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King County has purchased two parcels at Raab’s Lagoon off the western shores of Maury Island, a move that county officials say will help to protect the once-abundant Olympia oyster and other native marine life.

The county, using funds from the so-called Maury Island Conservation Initiative, purchased 15.7 acres of mostly lagoon bottom from one landowner for $176,000 and another parcel of shoreline — a little less than one acre in size — for $148,500, said Gary Blanchard, senior real property agent for the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks. The deals closed last month.

The county will now likely look into restoring the lagoon, which has a man-made jumble of rocks at its entrance that keeps it from flushing naturally, said Lori Larkin, the Vashon/Maury Island basin steward for the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks. That effort, she added, would only occur with the involvement of neighboring landowners.

Tom Dean, executive director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, said his organization is pleased by the purchase. Only last year, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, which works to restore Olympia oysters, spent hours laying oyster shell along the beach in an effort to give a boost to a remnant population of the native filter feeder.

The small, native oysters — a delicacy that once formed the basis of the region’s early oyster industry — have been depleted over the past century by over-harvests and habitat destruction, according to Betsy Peabody, director of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Dean said the county purchase will likely enhance recreational opportunities, too, an important issue on Vashon, where only 4 percent of its shorelines are protected.

“It’s got great public access,” he said.

The Maury Island Conservation Initiative is a county effort to protect key parcels along Maury Island and Quartermaster Harbor, using funds that at one point were set aside to purchase Glacier Northwest’s 240-acre sand and gravel mine. When Glacier balked at the sale, the county, working with regional and local conservation groups, decided to redirect the funds towards the purchase of other critical shoreline stretches.

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