Northwest Trek awarded $850,000 to complete purchase of 100-acre property

An $850,000 grant from Pierce County Conservation Futures has been awarded to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park to complete the purchase of 100 acres of property critical to the park’s future.

This is the largest single acreage increase for the 615-acre park since Dr. David and Connie Hellyer donated the original property to the Metropolitan Park District in 1975. In addition to this and other public commitments, Trek raised $179,203 from private sources. This latest award caps a two-year effort to secure the $1.4 million total.

“We are grateful to our partners, the Pierce County Council, the Cascade Land Conservancy, and private donors, for supporting this important project,” said Aaron Pointer, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners, owner of Northwest Trek. “Not only does it allow us to honor Trek’s original vision by keeping the park unspoiled, it protects the land for future generations.”

Located along Trek’s northwest border, the land had been platted for intensive residential development that would have resulted in housing developments backed up to Trek’s signature tram tour route. In 2003, Cascade Land Conservancy acquired the property on Trek’s behalf, with the proviso that the loan be paid in full by August 2005.

“We are proud to have been a key part of this transaction,” said Ryan Dicks, Pierce County Conservation Director for Cascade Land Conservancy. “It is good for the park and it preserves important natural lands for the public.”

Conservation Futures is a Pierce County program that annually purchases property to help protect local land and water resources from development. Funds come from a property tax of 6.25 cents per $1,000.00 of assessed valuation. Properties are held by the County as well as cities, towns, land trusts and public agencies within the County.

Typically, around $2.4 to 2.8 million in taxes are collected and disbursed each year. This year, the Pierce County Council may award up to $20 million in grants, if a plan to bond against future revenues is approved.

Regardless, Conservation Futures moved forward with the Northwest Trek land purchase using existing funds, because the Trek property had already been acquired by Cascade Land Conservancy. “Paying the loan off now reduced the overall cost of the transaction,” said Dicks.

The 100-acre property adjoining Trek is a diverse ecosystem comprising forests, wetlands and meadows. Working with the community, Trek staff and Advisory Council members are exploring several possible uses for the land, including endangered species research and breeding programs; environmental education; and outdoor recreation.

“Trek is celebrating its 30th birthday this year so it’s especially fitting that we’ve achieved this milestone now,” said Pointer. “Thanks to our public and private donors, Trek will be able to enhance its conservation education mission for the benefit of local citizens.”