Report from Ashford: The Upper Nisqually Community Forum


From:  Sarah Scott, UNCF Chair

Thanks to all of you who attended the Upper Nisqually Community Forum at the Nisqually Lodge conference center, in Ashford, at 7 pm on Nov. 16.  We had a good turnout and agreed to meet sometime in the new year to update our common goals.  More on that below.  

Here are the minutes:


Nicole Hill of the Nisqually Land Trust gave a Power Point presentation on efforts to secure federal scenic byway designation for Highway 706 and that portion of Highway 7 between Highway 702 and Elbe.  (Highway 702 is the turnoff to McKenna and the Eatonville Cut-Off Rd, which now has a much needed stoplight.)  Receiving such a designation can help obtain tourism-related federal funds.  Nicole is spearheading this effort involving planning and community input, a process expected to be complete in 2013.  This process is necessary before applying for the federal scenic byway designation.

 Editor’s Note:  SR 7 is already a designated Washington State Scenic Highway, from 224th St in Graham to the Mountain.


Mary Foster of Ashford reported on the progress of efforts to address flood control and possible Channel Migration Zone (CMZ) designation along the upper Nisqually River.  Additional comments were from Kathy Hatcher and Burke Garrett who also have been active on this issue.  Mary reported that proposed CMZ regulations developed a few years ago by Pierce County did not take into account the protection afforded by the levee, did not address needed protection against flooding or channel migration, and would have imposed severe restrictions on property.  Lately, however, Pierce County has shown a willingness to work with local residents in modifying the proposed CMZ regulations.  Another encouraging development is the county’s work done this year to shore up the levee by the national park entrance.  Ashford residents have created a non-profit group called the Citizens Supporting the Upper Nisqually Valley.  Earlier this year, letters were sent to 1000 local landowners asking them to join the group.  So far, 255 have become members.  This corporation was created to provide a cohesive voice for Ashford residents.

 Editor’s Note:   Channel Migration has been a very contentious issue for residents of the Ashford area, and the Pierce County Council has been embroiled in the matter for some time.  Simply, with heavy rainfalls come serious flooding, which causes the Nisqually River to carve new river channels.  Hence, the property boundaries of residents along the river are profoundly impacted, including both actual acerage and the resulting tax assessments.  Further, the above-mentioned levee is a joint project between the county and the National Park Service to shore up the banks of the Nisqually River from just inside the Mount Rainier Park’s west entrance into the areas maintained by Pierce County downstream.


Bryan Bowden, Outreach Coordinator for Mt. Rainier Natl. Park, talked about progress in the early planning stages for the Nisqually Community Forest.  A steering committee, including several local people, the Nisqually Land Trust, the Nisqually River Council and other interested parties has been meeting regularly in Olympia.  The group is looking at the feasibility of setting up a nonprofit to oversee a large tract of land, probably in the Upper Nisqually area, that would be used for sustainable forestry, recreation, wildlife preservation and other uses.  The steering committee will meet through the end of next year, and there also will be meetings for community input.  The final product of this process will be a business plan for the community forest.  Community forests have been tried successfully in other parts of the country and provide both economic and environmental benefits to the local area.


Kathy Hatcher of WA Dept. of Transportation told us the Elbe rest area is nearing completion with a tentative opening in December.  Plans are for it to be open 7 days a week, April-October (closed at night), and weekends and holidays November-March although those dates could be modified.  Money needs to be secured for maintenance and caretakers hired.  The very extensive remodel was able to use some of the original timbers.  Travelers will now have a public restroom in Elbe, although parking will be limited with no space for RV’s. 


We got an update on the Ashford County Park from Rick Adams and Brad Moore of the Friends of the Upper Nisqually (FUN) which has been instrumental in establishing the park on the western edge of Ashford.  The park is moving into Phase 2, which includes an outdoor amphitheater, additional parking and infrastructure to help support a future Phase 3 (the cultural/community center).  Pierce County, with lodging tax dollars, is the overseer of the project with additional funding coming from the state.  Weather permitting, Phase 2 will be complete in fall of 2012.


Sarah Scott reported with sadness on the demise of Pierce County Library’s bookmobile.  Due to a budget shortfall, the library is canceling 11 of its 15 runs, and will no longer stop in Elbe or Ashford.  The runs end at year’s end.  The closest library services will be Eatonville or Packwood (editor’s note: or your Kindle – as many e-books are available through the library). 


Steve Pruitt spoke of the need for our community to be able to speak with a strong voice on issues of local concern as a way of having our voice heard in matters that affect us with, for instance, Pierce County or the Nisqually River Council.  Ashford resident Debby Crosetto, Chair of NRC’s Citizens Advisory Committee, also spoke to the importance of doing this.  Steve helped guide us through the initial formation of our common goals when UNCF first began meeting.  Those four goals were: preservation of scenic views; a community center; rest areas; and keeping Columbia Crest school open.  We have reached or are making significant progress on all of these objectives.  Those at this month’s UNCF agreed it would be good to meet sometime after the first of the year to set additional common goals.

 Editor’s Note:  Mr. Pruitt has addressed similar themes at his many appearances in Graham during the past two years as the Graham area grapples with finding a stronger political voice and exploring ways to either form a community council or incorporate as a city.

 The meeting adjourned at 9 pm.

This entry was posted in Ashford, Culture, Environment, Mount Rainier, Nature, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Report from Ashford: The Upper Nisqually Community Forum

  1. brucesmith49 says:

    Dear readers,
    The Mountain News seems to have acquired a glitch from Facebook, and our upper right-hand column, known as the widget column, has been affected. If it doesn’t resolve itself by Saturday late am, 11.19.11 via Facebook tech assistance, I’ll ask for tech help from the Mountain News crew.

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