Chai-yahk-wh Preserve

UPDATE: The property was purchased in October 2018 and will be open to the public in late June 2019. You can sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear updates, just scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up.

Locator Map Indicating Fite Property

This map shows the location of the future preserve on Marrowstone Island.

A Rare Opportunity for the Community

A large undeveloped parcel on Marrowstone Island and adjacent waterfront property came on the market in early 2018. Thanks to a groundswell of community support, Jefferson Land Trust was able to raise the funds necessary to purchase these properties in order to create a community nature preserve. Located next to Twin Vista Ranch and Sound View Cemetery,  the preserve will feature a pedestrian walking trail through a lush forest, outdoor education space, and excellent wildlife habitat.

The property was purchased by the Land Trust on October 31, 2018. Over the next few months, Land Trust staff will be assessing the property, and developing a management plan. Community input will guide the initial steps of trail building and other amenities to prepare for a formal public opening in Spring 2019. Volunteer work parties to help ready the property for public use will take place during this period.

Aerial View of Fite Property

View of property showcases the rare Marrowstone Island mature forest in the foreground. The open space in the background is Washington State University’s 26-acre Twin Vista Ranch, which neighbors the property to the south and is protected by a Jefferson Land Trust conservation easement donated by Lisa Thayer Painter.

Project Milestones

  • Completed – October 31, 2018: Property purchase.
  • Completed – November 2018 – January 2019: Community survey and neighbor meetings to help inform priorities for ecological, educational and recreational opportunities.
  • Completed – Winter 2019: Develop preserve management plan and site plan.
  • Completed – March 18, 2019: Present draft site plan to the community at the Marrowstone Island Community Association meeting. All interested individuals are welcome to attend. The MICA meeting will take place at 7pm at the Nordland Garden Club clubhouse at 320 Garden Club Road.
  • Completed – April 2019: Preserve named Chai-yahk-wh Preserve based on the S’Klallam word meaning “to be in the forest up away from the water”
  • Ongoing: Volunteer opportunities to participate in improving forest health and trail maintenance. Upcoming work party dates, details, and RSVP information can be found on our Upcoming Events page here.

  • Late June 2019: Ribbon cutting ceremony and official opening of the new Chai-yahk-wh Preserve!


Interested in Volunteering?

A schedule of upcoming work party dates can be found on our Events page.

Out of respect for both the land as well as our preserve neighbors, we are limiting the size of upcoming Chai-yahk-wh Preserve work parties to not more than 25 people. If you wish to volunteer, we ask that you please RSVP in advance using the link provided on the webpage for the work party dates you are interested in attending. We kindly ask that all volunteers follow Land Trust instructions regarding carpools and parking at the preserve site. If the work party is full, we invite you to consider signing up for the next available date.

Chai-yahk-wh Preserve Benefits

Proposed Preserve Outline

The red outline above provides a rough perimeter of the proposed community preserve.

  • Island wildlife are drawn to the lush mature marine forest and wetlands.
  • More than 400 feet of bluffs nourish the shoreline and marine environment below and offer refuge and a pathway for wildlife to reach the forest.
  • As a protected preserve, the property can be used for light recreation by the community, and continue as an outdoor education site for groups like CedarRoot Folk School.
  • In combination with neighboring properties, this preserve will be part of a habitat and agricultural corridor in central Marrowstone stretching from the shoreline much of the way across the island.
  • The two wetlands on this property collect water that feeds local aquifers important to neighboring homes, farms and forests. (The area is classified as a Susceptible Aquifer Recharge Protection Area and is located in the Coastal and High Risk Saltwater Intrusion Protection Zones.)
  • Creating a community preserve on this property will ensure that Sound View Cemetery (the pioneer cemetery) remains a place of quiet solitude and serenity.

Biological Survey Report

During late July and August, a number of Marrowstone Island residents conducted a ground survey of the potential community preserve. They mapped the property, identifying five major habitat types and cataloging more than 100 species of plants and animals. You can see what they learned in their Initial Biological Survey of the property.

Property History: Honoring Marilyn Fite’s Legacy

This property has been part of the Fite family holdings on Marrowstone Island for several generations, going back to Marilyn’s great grandfather, Peter Nordby, who founded the first settlement on the island in 1892. Marilyn Fite, who passed away in 2010, was a dedicated conservationist.

During her lifetime, she modeled environmentalism at home, while also working to protect irreplaceable wildlife habitat internationally. Establishing a preserve on this property to benefit wildlife and the community honors a longtime island family and the values Marilyn personally lived by.


Frequently Asked Questions

When can the public begin accessing the preserve?

The Land Trust purchased the property on October 31, 2018. Land Trust staff will need a few months to assess the property, develop a management plan, and begin to put recreational infrastructure in place before officially opening the preserve for community use. As this occurs, we will schedule volunteer work parties and other opportunities to get involved and on the land! A public opening will be held in late June 2019.

What is a preserve management plan and how is it developed?

Every property owned by Jefferson Land Trust has a management plan that details priority ecological functions or features, a desired future condition, and long-term goals, objectives and short-term actions. Land use history, surrounding land use, priority ecological features, the presence of unique/threatened/sensitive plants or wildlife, threats to desired future conditions, known stewardship needs, and community priorities are considered in the crafting of each plan.

Collecting this information typically involves many parties and may include reviewing public records, gathering stories from previous landowners or neighbors related to land use history, working with relevant expert biologists, hydrologists, geologists, or foresters, working with restoration professionals, trail professionals, and of course Land Trust staff. These plans are reviewed and updated regularly to incorporate new information gathered during regular monitoring visits and management activities, and to adapt management approaches.

How can the community get involved in preserve design and management?

Community conservation – facilitating connections to the natural world and our collective sense of place – is one of the Land Trust’s core values. In order to understand community desires for the future of this Preserve, we reached out to Marrowstone Island residents and beyond with an online survey in late November 2018. The survey solicited community ideas, interests, and feedback regarding land management and desired public access amenities (parking, trails, volunteer preserve stewardship roles, etc.) The survey was closed on January 13, 2019.  170 responses were received, representing a wide array of preferences and viewpoints.

The survey results, along with other sources of community feedback, play a valuable role in informing our preserve management plan. Community input is being used to help us evaluate:

  1. The prescribed types and level of public access
  2. How people want to connect with this place
  3. What kinds of threats to the desired future condition are on people’s minds
  4. Types of thoughtful site design or signage we may want to employ to designate allowed activities and wildlife areas

It is inevitable that individual preferences on these matters will vary, sometimes quite strongly. It is also very clear to us from the input received that we are all aligned around a shared desire to see this preserve thrive – for the benefit of both wildlife and people. We trust this shared commitment to place will serve as common ground and the basis of strong community stewardship of this preserve far into the future.

Land Trust staff will present the draft preserve site plan, including parking and trail design, at the upcoming Marrowstone Island Community Association (MICA) meeting on March 18 at 7 PM at the Nordland Garden Club clubhouse at 320 Garden Club Road. All interested individuals are welcome to attend!

Marrowstone Island Preserve Sign

One of the new signs designed for the new preserve on Marrowstone Island.

How did the preserve get it’s name?

We often name preserves in a way that reflects something — often a geographic or ecological feature — about the place. We looked at the features that define the new preserve and it is really the mature forest on a bluff that stands out for us. Meaning “to be in the forest up away from the water,” the S’Klallam word “čáy̕əqʷ” seemed to fit this special place perfectly.

After discovering the word in the Klallam language dictionary, we worked with S’Klallam tribe language experts to develop an English (Anglicized) version of the word that we could use to name the preserve. What they came up with is “Chai-yahk-wh” and they also explained that the final “wh” is a gentle sound like that made when blowing out a candle.

What’s the status of the fundraising campaign? Has enough funding been secured to establish and maintain this preserve?

Thanks to the enthusiastic and generous support of more than 250 community members, the funding goal of $210,000 was achieved on October 4th.  Together with nearly $800,000 in funding from the Navy REPI program, we secured the resources necessary to purchase this property, develop initial public access infrastructure, and invest in the long-term stewardship of the preserve!

All contributions received in excess of the campaign goal will be dedicated exclusively toward the long term management of this property and its public access amenities. As of October 2018, sufficient resources have been raised to purchase the property, develop public access infrastructure, and meet our long term stewardship funding obligations on the property in accordance with guidelines set forth by the national Land Trust Association.

What is the Navy’s role in this project?

The Navy funding was awarded through the REPI (Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration) program, a land conservation funding source provided through the Department of Defense. As a partner to this program, the Land Trust determines what lands within the REPI agreement area are priorities for protection. The Land Trust will own and manage the property. Navy funding is provided to establish a conservation easement on the property that will permanently remove subdivision and development potential. REPI funding does not grant any affirmative rights to the military for use of this property.

Have questions that haven’t been answered here? Please contact the preserve manager, Carrie Clendaniel, at 360.379.9501 ext 109.

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