With county purchase, a new trail will link big parks on Maury

King County Parks is closer to realizing a longtime goal: a trail linking its two big parks on Maury Island.

With the recent purchase of several key properties, King County Parks now is a big step closer to realizing a longtime goal: A trail linking its two big parks on Maury Island.

The waterfront parks — 324-acre Maury Island Marine Park and the 470-acre Dockton Forest complex — both have extensive trail networks, but they don’t connect. Until recently, a quarter-mile of private property separated the parks.

In December, King County Parks completed the acquisition of 18 forested acres bridging that divide.

“This connection is huge,” said David Kimmett, Parks’ lead on the project.

It’s been a long time coming: The last sale closed 10 years after Parks and its ally, the Vashon Maury Island Land Trust, first approached the seller.

Work on a connector trail already is underway. The segments east of 75th Avenue Southwest — the road to the Gold Beach neighborhood — could be finished this year, Kimmett said. The segment west of 75th — the Dockton Forest side — could be completed in 2023.

Tom Dean, the Land Trust’s conservation director, said the connector trail will offer hikers and other users something Vashon now lacks: An opportunity to take a really long walk or ride in the woods.

“I want to be able to go for a meaningful hike on Vashon,” Dean said, “and for me, that means packing a lunch.”

Once the connector trail is built, he looks forward to walking from Dockton Park on Quartermaster Harbor east through the Maury Island Natural Area — the former Glacier gravel mine site — then beyond, to the Puget Sound beaches and madrona forests of Maury Island Marine Park.

It’s about eight miles, round-trip. “That’s a meaningful hike,” Dean said.

Loop trips that traverse both upland forests and beaches at low tide are another possibility, Kimmett said. He envisions hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers parking at Parks’ large new lot on Southwest 260th Street near Upper Gold Beach “and going off in lots of different directions.”

How it happened

To make all this possible — to create the bridge between the parks — the county bought four contiguous parcels, each about 4.6 acres. They extend from the western boundary of Maury Island Marine Park to 75th. Dockton Forest is on the other side of that street.

The parcels were owned for 30 years by Gerard LaSalle of Seattle, who also owns a popular wedding venue near Point Robinson. He sold one of the four properties to the county in 2020. Sale of the other three closed on Dec. 10.

“I think he always wanted to sell to us,” Kimmett said of LaSalle. “He shared that vision. It just took time.”

LaSalle received a total of $925,000, county real-estate records show. Money for the purchases came from the voter-approved county parks levy and from Conservation Futures, a tax-supported, countywide program that funds acquisition of open space.

King County Parks plans to employ volunteer crews from the Washington Trails Association to build the connector trail, Kimmett said. It will be built in three phases, from east to west.

The first phase, through the now trail-less western part of Maury Island Marine Park, already is under construction.

The route for the second phase, mostly through the LaSalle parcels, has been flagged. Kimmett is preparing an application for a needed permit.

The third phase will run west of 75th to connect with the Maury Island Natural Area’s trail network. All but 300 or 400 feet of the planned route is in Dockton Forest. Parks plans to acquire a trail easement from the owner to build across the short stretch of private land.

But with acquisition of the LaSalle parcels now a done deal, “everything from here is pretty easy,” Dean said.

A walk in the woods

On a sunny-foggy afternoon last week, Dean led about 20 members of the advocacy group Friends of Maury Parks — and three dogs — on a celebratory walk along the planned trail route through the LaSalle parcels into Maury Island Marine Park.

The group followed pink and blue ribbons marking the future route. They waded through salal and ferns, past Douglas firs and madronas, clambering over the occasional downed log.

They stopped briefly at a viewpoint several hundred feet above Lower Gold Beach and Puget Sound. Mount Rainier peeked above the haze.

Joe Yarkin and Cliff Marks were among the hikers. It was a day they had been anticipating for years.

“This greenbelt is a third great thing to happen on Maury Island since I moved here in 2001,” Yarkin said later in an email.

“First was the acquisition of the Glacier gravel mine. Second was community-built mountain bike trails [at Dockton Forest], and now the greenbelt connecting our best waterfront parks.

“This trail will add many miles and new variety to the runs and bike rides that island clubs that meet in the park can do. It will also allow hikers to walk half the length of Maury Island in woods with beautiful views without seeing a car (if they cross the road when it’s quiet).”

Marks said in an email that Friends of Maury Parks has been working for years to encourage more park use. The connector trail should help with that.

“Connecting all of Maury’s parks and public forest areas will result in a system that is ‘bigger than the sum of its parts,’” he said. “It will make these valuable public spaces even more of an attraction than they are now …

“I believe this will result in the greatest trail system on Vashon.”

Eric Pryne is a retired Seattle Times reporter. He lives on Maury Island.