Coalition preserves Pierce County 'jewel'

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.

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.

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 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.

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.