The landowners interviewed for this article requested to share their story anonymously. This article is written (with permission) in their voice to communicate their thoughtful observations about living along the shoreline of South Puget Sound.
“We are stewards of almost two acres of land, with about 300 feet of 'no bank' shoreline adjacent to a salt water lagoon and gravel spit. Nearby a new gravel spit is forming impacted by a small stream visited by migrating salmon. The trees on our land include several majestic Garry Oaks growing amongst Big Leaf Maples, Pacific Madrone, and Douglas Fir. Eagles, osprey, deer, coyotes and at least one fox frequent the area.
It was love at first sight when we purchased this place in the early 1990's. We both had parents in the marine industry, so we grew up near saltwater. To us, smelling the sea and watching the light play off of it feels like home. Our old cabin by the water also harkens to a family Scandinavian heritage. It is an amazing place to swim and kayak, especially when friends and family come to visit in the summer. The rich history of the land was also a draw. Deposits of buried oyster and clam shells suggest a Native American presence in days past. We have been told stories of people taking day trips by paddle steamer in the 1900s here from Olympia to enjoy picnics on the meadow. That draw and feeling of camaraderie persists today, with many a summer day fading into night as visitors come to call. We have tried to preserve the land and its history as much as possible, sensing a spiritual quality in its natural beauty.
Living on a rocky beach makes us fully appreciate the constant change brought to it by currents, tides and wind. A visit from a friend who works with U. S. Fish and Wildlife got us thinking about natural mitigation techniques to prevent further beach loss. Bulkheads located on neighboring properties also contribute to the scouring of the beach. In the 25 years we’ve lived here, we’ve lost from 10-15 feet of our shorefront. We wanted to protect our Garry Oaks and our meadow, but we wanted to do it naturally. We joined Capitol Land Trust and saw an ad for Mason Conservation District’s native plant sale with grants available for planting natives on shorefront property, so we pursued it.
Mason Conservation specialist, Karin Strelioff, visited our property several times to discuss options for reducing erosion. Surveyors also visited the property to assess how the beach was eroding as compared to shoreline management of neighboring properties. It is a slow process because we want to make the best informed decisions. It’s a tough question, how much should you do? The gravel beach is always shifting with our low bank, and with climate change the tides keep getting higher. We wanted to keep the property as pristine as possible. In the end, Karin wrote up a native plant-based planting plan and suggested moving our small boat house back and arranging driftwood on the meadow above the shoreline as a natural barrier enhanced by the native plantings.
We are in the first stage of our project. We received a mini-grant from Mason Conservation to purchase and plant native shoreline plants. The grant process was seamless and a good incentive for us - what did we have to lose? We’ve planted many native plants in the last year, including three Garry Oak saplings, and are now waiting to see what takes and what effects this has on our land.
South Puget Sound is facing big problems. In our area, for example, we’ve seen eel grass and kelp beds disappear, and with it habitat for small fish. The natural beauty of the area is also at risk, with more large suburban style houses being built with lawns that seep chemicals into the Sound. We are, however, optimistic about the fate of Puget Sound. It won’t be easy. Insufficient funding and a resistance to regulations are a few barriers we see. But, based on our experience, we think enough people are trying to do something good and if we keep going in this direction, we could make an impact.
We recommend that people get involved. Join groups such as Capitol Land Trust and Mason Conservation District that are trying to restore natural habitat. Know your native plants and add them to your property. Protecting Puget Sound takes effort. Each of us are stewards of where we live and we should all take responsibility for the good of the whole.”