Chai-yahk-wh Preserve

Meaning “to be in the forest up away from the water,” the S’Klallam word “čáy̕əqʷ” seemed to fit this special forest perched upon a high waterfront bluff. After discovering the word in the Klallam language dictionary, we worked with S’Klallam tribe language experts to develop an English (Anglicized) version of this word that we could use to name the preserve: they suggested “Chai-yahk-wh.”

Aerial View of Fite Property

This view of Chai-yahk-wh Preserve 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.

A Bird’s Eye View

In the heart of Marrowstone Island lies Chai-yahk-wh Preserve. This 51-acre preserve is part of a habitat and agricultural corridor which stretches from the shoreline much of the way across the island. Local wildlife seek the lush and mature marine forest and wetlands of the preserve. More than 400 feet of bluffs nourish the shoreline and marine environment below, while offering refuge and access for wildlife to reach the forest. A walking trail meanders through a vibrant, light-filtered forest and outdoor education space offers students opportunities to connect with nature in this tranquil refuge.

The preserve’s two wetlands collect groundwater that sustain neighboring homes, farms, and forests. Mature Western redcedar and Douglas fir are abundant on the preserve and provide shelter for birds such as the Swainson’s thrush, Barred owl, and Pileated woodpecker. Amphibians like red-legged frogs, and mammals such as coyotes, cougars, and Columbia black-tailed deer have been seen at Chai-yahk-wh Preserve. The forest and wetlands are also home to many native plants, including Pacific Trillium, Salmonberry, Nootka Rose, and Western Skunk Cabbage.

The Preservation Story

This property was brought to the Land Trust’s attention years ago as a property worth protecting. It was part of the Fite family holdings on Marrowstone Island for several generations, going back to Peter Nordby, who founded the first settlement on the island in 1892. Marilyn Fite, Peter Nordby’s great granddaughter, was a dedicated conservationist.

During her lifetime, Marilyn modeled environmentalism at home, while also working to protect irreplaceable wildlife habitat internationally. She acted locally by recycling, searching out biodegradable soaps, gardening without chemicals, and battling non-native invasives at a time when it was neither convenient nor popular to do so. She also acted globally through her support of and active participation in many charitable and environmental organizations including The Nature Conservancy, The Woodland Park Zoo, and The Cascade Land Conservancy. One organization particularly dear to her heart was the International Snow Leopard Trust where she served on the board of directors for 24 years saving irreplaceable habitat and creating dignified and sustainable livelihoods for some of the world’s most impoverished. Establishing a preserve on this property to benefit wildlife and the community, was an exciting way to honor a longtime island family and the values that Marilyn lived by.

In the spring of 2018 the property was offered for sale. Due to its size, undeveloped nature, wetlands, and high-bluff shoreline, the land was considered to be of significant conservation value. Neighbors contacted Jefferson Land Trust about the sale to see if protecting the property was possible. In the summer of 2018 a group of Marrowstone Island residents conducted a ground survey of the land and catalogued more than 100 species of plants and animals and five distinct habitat types.

In a very accelerated timeline, Jefferson Land Trust sought and acquired federal funding through our partnership in the Hood Canal Navy Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. This funding covered a significant portion of the total purchase price, but required a matching fund source to cover the remaining land acquisition and stewardship costs. The Land Trust began a community fundraising campaign, and in just four months, more than 250 donors and organizations contributed more than $210,000, allowing us to finalize the purchase in fall of 2018 and open the preserve in 2019.

Naming this preserve: We often name preserves in a way that reflects something — often a geographic or ecological feature — about the place. To name this preserve, the mature forest on a bluff was what stood 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.

The Protected Property Today

The goals for Chai-Yahk-wh Preserve are to provide wildlife habitat and public access, as well as to foster and support human connections to nature.

Chai-yahk-wh Preserve is home to two wetlands, mature forests, and high bluffs. Island wildlife may roam 51 acres of protected land In combination with neighboring properties, the preserve is a part of a habitat and agricultural corridor in central Marrowstone stretching from the shoreline much of the way across the island. It is bordered on one side by Twin Vista Ranch — farmland protected with a conservation easement donated by Lisa Thayer Painter.

The preserve can be used for light recreation by the community. The almost ½-mile forested Greg Lailsh Memorial Trail (named for a well-loved local trail enthusiast and advocate) winds through mature forests of Douglas Fir, Western redcedar, sword ferns, and seasonal wildflowers.

The preserve also offers space for an outdoor education and nature studies area for groups including CedarRoot Folk School. Here students have the opportunity to observe plant life, soil, wildlife and their signs and tracks, insects, amphibians, and more.

Visiting the Preserve

Chai-yahk-wh Preserve is open from dawn until dusk and can be accessed via the entrance on Flagler Road across from Griffith Point Road. The entrance lies two miles past the “Welcome to Marrowstone Island” sign and is on the right side of the road. A small parking area lies just beyond the WSU Twin Vista Ranch. Please refrain from parking along East Marrowstone Road to ensure public safety.

Trail Map

Chai-yahk-wh Preserve Trail Map

Click the map to view a full-page version.

Our Vision for this Special Place

Our long-term vision for Chai-yahk-wh Preserve centers around stewarding a resilient and diverse habitat of native species. This special place will sustain groundwater for neighboring homes, farms, and forests, while the protective, forested bluffs of the preserve filter runoff on its way to the shore. This structurally diverse forest will also provide seed bank niches and habitat for wildlife.

Additional Information

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.