Submitted by Capitol Land Trust
Capitol Land Trust (CLT) recently took the giant step toward purchase of 100 acres for the ‘Inspiring Kids Preserve’ on Henderson Inlet in Thurston County. Launching a new approach to protecting key habitat while creating access for local education and outdoor experiences close to Thurston County communities, CLT purchased the first of two properties that will create the preserve via a bridge loan from The Conservation Fund.
Capitol Land Trust will acquire two adjacent parcels that are near North Thurston schools and Olympia and Lacey. Protecting the 100 acres of complex habitat—a mile of Puget Sound shoreline and tidal marsh, old and managed forest and forested wetland, heirloom orchard, and historic tribal midden—will protect Puget Sound water quality and habitat for sea life, mammals, and thousands of migrating birds; as well as protect the deep cultural history of this place.
“As with other Capitol Land Trust-protected properties, the ecological values of these parcels are vast,” said Amanda Reed, Executive Director. “This acquisition meets our goal to protect natural areas and working landscapes in southwest Washington, and our new initiative to provide access to these protected properties where appropriate.”
“This will be a great place to explore sustainability education, offering our students lessons in ecology, biodiversity and conservation,” said Raj Manhas, Superintendent of North Thurston School District.
New tool in the CLT toolbox, and collaboration in two phase project
Collaboration is a core value for Capitol Land Trust. Phase I (2016 and 2017) of the Inspiring Kids Preserve project includes acquiring the two adjacent parcels and relies on support by many partners such as tribes, private parties and public agencies. With the bridge loan on the Stillman Tree Farm parcel, CLT is using a new tool to be more agile and move forward more quickly on purchases.
This is the first time CLT has financed a land acquisition. Unlike borrowing from banks, The Conservation Fund is a like-minded organization and not only offers a reduced interest rate but also provides expertise for the completing the project and raising funds. The bridge loan allowed CLT to secure the property, but now the hard work begins. In order to complete Phase I and finalize the purchase of the Stillman Tree Farm—as well as purchase the adjacent Harmony Farm—CLT must raise $1.2 million, seeking $1.1 million in public grants and $125,000 from private donations.
During Phase II, CLT, with youth and educational partners, will create activities for play and education—using the preserve’s unique ecological and cultural attributes. Activities will help families explore on their own, and CLT will work with schools to develop learning opportunities that meet STEM and Common Core standards. Students will learn Washington South Sound history; study effects of active forest management, marine and wetland stewardship and restoration and human interaction with the land; and conduct grade-appropriate science projects to learn about ecological systems in a natural setting.
Even as the purchase of the parcels takes place, CLT is engaging partners to better understand educational needs and options, and wants to ensure that all kids, no matter their background, can experience all the preserve has to offer.
Guided by the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan
For nearly 30 years Capitol Land Trust has been working with community partners to conserve valuable natural areas and working lands—forests, marshes and estuaries, farms and prairies— lands that offer diverse habitats for animals and fish while helping sustain our local food sources and improving water quality. However, long-term success of our conservation efforts depends on close connection between people and the lands themselves.
There’s a growing new phenomenon – nature-deficit disorder. It’s a condition suffered today by many youth—and likely adults, too. A growing body of research links the lack of opportunities for children to play in nature with diminished use of their senses, attention difficulties, obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.
So, our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan calls for more engagement with communities, fostering a connection with our conserved lands, and growing the next generation of conservation leaders.
This concept of creating access to appropriate preserves for education and enrichment is not entirely new to Capitol Land Trust. In 2014 we acquired Bayshore Preserve, in Mason County, with its rich ecological, social and cultural histories. While restoring its wealth of forest, prairie, creek and marine ecological features, it already provides educational opportunities in the greater Shelton community. Our partner, Pacific Education Institute (PEI) brings Shelton students to Bayshore for hands-on Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning. Students study the effects of our restoration work, learn how ecosystems function and explore the links between people and the environment.
Bayshore Preserve and the Shelton FieldSTEM Initiative is our first major project connecting kids and families with nature to inspire conservation leaders who will actively care for the environment. The Inspiring Kids Preserve will do the same for its communities.
Arial footage of the Stillman Tree Farm and Harmony Farm
(Video footage provided by Justin Roberts)