Devil's Head, a 94-acre jewel in the South Sound, will be preserved for public use thanks to a coalition of conservation partners that acquired the stunning waterfront property.
Located at the south end of the Key Peninsula, the property includes about a mile of high quality Puget Sound shoreline. Other site characteristics include two bald eagle nesting sites, wetlands, active feeder bluffs for salmon, old growth timber, forested riparian habitat and a pocket estuary.
"This is an incredible achievement for the people of this region," said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "People who are interested in conservation and recreation have dreamed for years of preserving Devil's Head, which provides incredible views of the natural landmarks that make this such a special place to live. Thanks to a lot of hard work, those dreams are now a reality."
The property acquisition is the result of years of cooperation among public and private partners. Key players include Executive McCarthy, County Council Member Terry Lee, Cascade Land Conservancy, the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, the Nisqually Tribe of Indians, the Greater Peninsula Conservancy, the Key Peninsula Parks District and the Washington Water Trails Association.
"All of this is being made possible for future generations and the health of our environment because of the leadership of many people," said Ryan Mello, Pierce County Conservation Director for the Cascade Land Conservancy. "The trust in our partnership and tenacity to keep moving forward has gotten this project through very uncertain times. Now we have this jewel in the Sound for the people of this region to enjoy forever."
The Conservancy's role included securing the grants, negotiations with the land owner and bringing all parties together. The property was purchased from Inspiration Inn, LLC, a limited liability corporation set up by Tim Jopp, who had envisioned a retreat and conference facility on the site.
The Devil's Head sale closed on July 13 for a purchase price of $3.4 million. A majority of the funding came from the state, with the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program providing $1.65 million and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board contributing $500,000. The remaining $1.25 million came from the Pierce County Conservation Futures program, which is funded by a portion of property taxes that are dedicated to protecting certain lands from development.
Plans are in the works for a public celebration of the acquisition. Details will be announced soon.
"The acquisition of Devil's Head has been a goal of mine for four years," said Councilmember Lee, whose District 7 includes the Key Peninsula. "With a lot of persistence and great help from the Cascade Land Conservancy and the state, we are preserving nearly one mile of outstanding shoreline. Local citizens will be grateful to see Devil's Head protected by Pierce County ownership for the enjoyment of all."
The landowner will be the Pierce County Parks and Recreation Department. The property has been logged in the past and currently there is no direct access, parking or other facilities. The long-term intended use will be a regional park for passive recreational use, including shoreline access for non-motorized boats and kayaking, trails, hiking and beach walking, and protection of wildlife and habitat.
Future plans include some small development on the uplands portion of site for a picnic area, viewpoint and an easily accessed trail on the west edge of property leading down to the beach. A scenic viewpoint will offer views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains.
"This is one of those transformational projects that reflect the power of the Cascade Agenda," said Gene Duvernoy, president of Cascade Land Conservancy. "Parks are important for our quality of life. Habitats for all kinds of wildlife are protected. A landscape with a mile of shoreline on Puget Sound will not be developed. This will enhance the work of the Puget Sound Partnership and its efforts to restore and protect the Sound, which is so important to our local economy. A win-win-win."
Two important trail systems will be enhanced by the acquisition.
The southern terminus of the planned Key Peninsula Head-to-Toe trail will be at the park. Estimated at about 20 miles in length, the Head-to-Toe trail will provide passive recreation opportunities and link to Joemma Beach and Kopachuck State Park.
The Cascadia Marine Trail extends from the waters at the Canadian border to Olympia. The public will greatly benefit from another site for water access. The $1.65 million from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program came from the Water Access Category.
The Devil's Head acquisition is part of a growing effort on the Key Peninsula that will result in the conservation of more than 200 acres and the opening of nearly 1.5 miles of Puget Sound shoreline to the public. Here is a summary of other recent acquisitions:
-- The Great Peninsula Conservancy purchased 24 acres known as the Johnson South Sound Refuge, located on the western shore of Key Peninsula, just north of Devils Head.
-- Great Peninsula conserved an additional 45 acres that include 1,500 feet of Puget Sound shoreline, two small streams and extensive forested wetlands.
-- Key Pen Parks purchased the 39-acre Taylor Bay Park property, which includes more than 600 feet of shoreline access as well as wetlands, forest and meadows.
"These kinds of projects are tremendously important to the Sound," said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency charged with protecting the Sound. "The Recreation and Conservation Office played a key role here, and cooperation like this will help us reach our goal of a healthy Puget Sound by 2020. Acquisitions such as Devil's Head are important markers on the road to success because protecting the property and limiting development is much better and cost effective than having to restore properties that have been disturbed so close to the Sound."