The Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District hopes to acquire a shoreline property that would be used for a passive recreation park. The 39-acre property, located at the head of Taylor Bay, is one of the last large undeveloped pockets of land on Puget Sound water.

KPMPD commissioners Kip Clinton and Elmer Anderson watch Haylie Gallacher and Kealin Shrewsberry play during a recent visit to the Taylor Bay Park Property. Photo courtesy Scott Gallacher

In collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, a national conservancy group, KPMPD is seeking $1.6 million worth of grants to acquire the land in three phases (one-phase acquisition, if funds can be raised in time, would cost less).

The Trust for Public Lands has been working for several years to protect key Puget Sound shoreline properties, and has been collaborating with The Nature Conservancy and People for Puget Sound. The three-member coalition, called The Puget Sound Alliance, has identified five properties for protection, and plans to identify five more. The alliance launched a three-year, $80 million shoreline-protection campaign in June 2006 with a $3 million donation from the Gig Harbor-based Russell Family Foundation.

Currently, the Taylor Bay land is the only property on the west side of the Tacoma Narrows in Pierce County (two others have been identified in Kitsap and Jefferson counties).

“We are seeking multiple funding sources (including) federal and state,” said Peter Dykstra, The Trust for Public Land Washington state director. “We are working with as many funding sources as we can identify.”

Taylor Bay. Photo courtesy Scott Gallacher

So far, grant requests have been submitted with the Salmon Recovery Funding Board ($500,000) and Pierce County Conservation Futures ($1 million). At its regular August meeting, KPMPD commissioners adopted a resolution dedicating $50,000 to “Taylor Bay Park,” and Executive Director Scott Gallacher said most likely a large portion of those funds would be used to pay for back taxes (which will result once the property changes its use).

The site has 1,000 feet of beachfront, a fish-bearing creek and wetlands that spill into the mouth of an estuary. The creek is home to several protected species of salmon, including Coho, Chinook, Chum and Steelhead. Other species observed at the site are herons and kingfishers as well as various sea life like clams and oysters. A preliminary evaluation showed that the property may also be home to significant fern species.

“When I first visited the site, I really wasn’t prepared for how beautiful and unspoiled the land would be,” said Rinee Merritt, project manager in charge of the assignment for TPL. “It’s amazing how a small piece of land can be surrounded by housing and still maintain its natural character.”

A presentation was made to the SRFB in July, and at press time commissioners were expected to make their presentation before the Pierce County Conservancy board at the end of August. The board has received 19 applications for this funding cycle, with $1.3 million in total funding available so far. The board has had delays due to low member attendance at meetings, but is expected to make its recommendation to the Pierce County Council by the initial timeline of October.

The TPL has secured an option to purchase the property, and the first piece, 32 acres, must be purchased by January 2008. The other two pieces have separate deadlines of late 2008.

“If we’re successful in our grant applications, we can give the owner fair market value for the property, and pass the property over into the care of the property to Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District,” Merritt said. “We think Taylor Bay is pretty much a perfect fit for both of these grants, so we’re hoping to get the green light and be able to announce that we’ve protected this magnificent piece of land for everyone to treasure by the year end.”

If the acquisition is successful, this would be the second park with waterfront access in care of the local park district. The other one is Maple Hollow, which is expected to be transferred to KPMPD next year under a 50-year lease agreement.

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