City, Port partner on open space property acquisition

Two local government organizations are expected to finalize a deal that will protect 31 acres of forested greenspace near Northeast Tacoma from future development, according to a presentation yesterday at Tacoma City Hall.

The City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma have agreed in principle to pool funds to purchase the land, known as Julia’s Gulch, and hand over stewardship to Cascade Land Conservancy. Port Commissioners will vote on the plan this afternoon. City Councilmembers are expected to vote on the issue later this month.

The $2 million purchase will be funded largely by the Port, which will spend $1.7 million. The City will spend $300,000 from its open space fund to complete the purchase. If approved, property will be held jointly by the Port and the City, and both parties will enter into a stewardship agreement in perpetuity with Cascade Land Conservancy. The Port will pay for stewardship through an endowment. The City will be responsible for surface wastewater fees on the site, which is approximately $1,700 annually.

Similarly, the Port is expected to purchase a 36-acre former gravel pit for similar conservation goals. Both properties are owned by highway contractor Woodworth & Co.
The purchases are aimed to bolster the port’s delicate relationship with neighbors in Northeast Tacoma concerned about rapid port growth. Both parcels create a small buffer zone between the residents and port activity on the tide flats.

During yesterday’s meeting, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma supported the idea because it addresses those concerns over “gentrification and port development.”

Councilmember Jake Fey, whose district includes the tide flats and Northeast Tacoma, hoped the Julia’s Gulch open space would be modified to allow public access to trails.

Pierce County Conservation director Ryan Mello said the move “breathes new life in to Tacoma becoming a Cascade Agenda Cities program partner.” The program, which counts Kirkland, Issaquah, and Tacoma as partners, strives to create more healthy, viable, and vibrant cities.