Olympia is flourishing with essential natural resources that promote the ecological success of our local region. The dense and diverse forests are home to many critical species and largely contribute to the prosperity in our water ecosystems. Unfortunately, commercial development and manufacturing efforts sometimes have detrimental effects on the environment. The Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation has made it their mission to salvage, restore, and protect critical areas throughout Olympia. Recently, they closed on the Cooper Crest property and have a great vision to bring this land back to life for the community and the ecosystem.
Properties Protected by OlyEcosystems
The Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation, locally nicknamed OlyEcosystems, originally began as a group of neighbors on the westside of Olympia. They wished to protect the blue heron nests in the West Bay Woods located on West Bay Drive. In 2014, OlyEcosystems obtained ownership of the property and recently closed on additional parcels nearby. There are many trailheads that meet the edge of the property, and the board currently has plans to continue to develop the newly acquired land by removing invasive species and planting new life. Through the help of their dedicated volunteers, they hope to soon be welcoming the community into the new trailheads.
OlyEcosystems also manages and protects the banks of Green Cove Creek on Kaiser Road just outside the city limits. This area is critical for salmon recovery in the area, evidenced by Thurston County’s extensive plans to upgrade and repair the collapsing culvert at Country Club Road next year. “Green Cove Creek is a priority for us, so we have been working on restoring what has been degraded over many years,” shares OlyEcosystems Board Vice President Diane Carney. “This is a really important watershed and we know we need to take care of the salmon runs.”
OlyEcosystems Begins Restoring Newly Acquired Cooper Crest
In early June, word came to OlyEcosystems that a private land owner had been granted a Forestry Practice Permit from the Department of Natural Resources to clear cut 25 acres on Cooper Point Road and 20th Avenue NW. “This was just a shock to all of us because this is an area that is marked as a critical area by the county,” Diane recalls. “Green Cove Creek has an arm that starts on this property and flows out to the sound, so this property ought to have been protected.” OlyEcosystems quickly scrambled to see if anything could be done to save the trees before they were cut down. The board went back and forth with the property owner on a price to purchase the property, and were racing against the clock to raise enough funds to save the land before it was too late. “We tried very hard and came very close, and we were devastated that we ran out of time,” shares Diane. “We tried to appeal the permit, but the tree cutting wasn’t halted during that period so they were all cut down.”
OlyEcosystems still knew there was enormous conservation value in the property because of its connection to Green Creek Cove, so they continued to correspond with the owner to see if he would be interested in selling to them. With the Forest Practice Permit, the property could not be sold to a developer for the next 10 years, so they were able to purchase the property at a reduced price. They closed on the property on August 1 and immediately put up signage to advise the community that restoration efforts would begin right away. “We would have rather saved this property intact,” Diane says. “Our vision now for the property is to replant the forest, and we are also trail building. It will be a great commuter route for walking and biking, and we plan to build some nice trails while we do the replanting.” To stay updated on the property’s progress, visit the virtual fence around the property and scan the QR code to read the latest about Cooper Crest.
Executive Director Daniel Einstein expresses great concern for the livelihood of our local species, specifically the salmon, who will undoubtedly be impacted by the recent loss of the trees at Cooper Crest. “Forests provide many things, among them cold, clear and constant water. In summer time, the slow delivery of surface and ground water across the watershed
guarantees sufficient flow in the creek to support salmonid survival. However, with the loss of forest cover, the land dries out. Water rushes through the watershed in the winter scouring salmon roe and dooming the next generation.” OlyEcosystems is striving to restore the property as quickly as possible to minimize this potential impact.
Growth and Opportunity Abound with OlyEcosystems
OlyEcosystems is eager to continue to spread their conservation efforts in the local ecosystems that make our region so unique and special. The organization is run by a 9-member board and a team of committed volunteers. With the Cooper Crest project underway, the board has recognized that it is time for OlyEcosystems to expand beyond a strictly volunteer workforce. They are currently looking to bring aboard their first employee. OlyEcosystems has put out an ad for an ecological restoration technician as part of a work study program through local colleges and universities, including the Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and St. Martin’s University. It will be the perfect opportunity for an aspiring ecology or environmental student to apply their knowledge to real, meaningful projects in the community.
These recent circumstances have pushed OlyEcosystems into a new chapter of growth and development. As they look to the future, they see an abundance of opportunity to continue to protect our local environments and pave the way for conservation to flourish in our region. To support their wonderful efforts and cause, donate online or become a volunteer!
Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation
1007 Rogers Street NW, Olympia