BELFAIR — For the past three decades, local land trusts and state agencies have worked hard at restoring and preserving more than 700 acres of estuary habitat in lower Hood Canal’s Lynch Cove wetlands. Now, in partnership with the Beard’s Cove Community Organization, Great Peninsula Conservancy is completing restoration on the missing link of the greater Lynch Cove estuary.
The project fills in the last remaining gaps of what will be 1.7 miles of unbroken high salt marsh habitat along the north shore of Lynch Cove, said Kate Kuhlman, project manager and operations director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy.
“We started talking with the Beard’s Cove community about 15 to 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until November 2011 that I came on site and we really started to talk about what we could do to partner and help salmon recovery in Puget Sound,” Kuhlman said.
The Great Peninsula Conservancy, based in Bremerton, works on estuary restoration projects in Kitsap and Mason counties and has owned around 20 acres in Beard’s Cove since the late 1980s.
In 1973, the property in question had been filled with dirt across the road to create development for the Beard’s Cove community.
A swimming pool, bath house, playground and picnic shelters were put in, but over the decades the park was not well-maintained, said Loeuna “Louie” Yelverton, president of the Beard’s Cove Community Organization.
In the 1990s, the swimming pool rose out of the ground because of saltwater erosion and could not be replaced, and the picnic shelter also suffered damage, Yelverton said.
“It was in a big disarray,” she said. “There was no vision for a larger purpose for the park. The picnic shelter had these concrete pillars holding it up, and the concrete had started to crumble. We have a lot of dog walkers that use the area, but not many people come here.”
The Beard’s Cove Community Organization owns 2 acres out of the 20-acre project site.
Once the project is complete, the site will be open again only for Beard’s Cove homeowners.
To date, the project engineers, Engineering Services Associates, have removed more than 34,000 cubic yards of fill from the site, returning it across the road.
The engineers also have planted shoreline, removed invasive species, including Scotch broom, and will plant native vegetation.
Great Peninsula Conservancy received $697,500 to fund the project from the state Recreation and Conservation Office Salmon Recovery Funding Board and $409,000 from the EPA Marine and Nearshore Grant Program.
The conservancy will put in trails, including an accessible trail, and the Beard’s Cove Community Organization will install restrooms near the entrance to the property early next year.
Beard’s Cove homeowners have been kept up-to-date on the project. While some have expressed concerns, the majority are excited to be part of something larger, Yelverton said.
“We’re not taking away any of the former use, we’re just making it better,” she said. “A few can’t see the vision, but most of our members can’t wait to see their new park and are excited to be part of the restoration. It’s a pleasure to be a part of something bigger than our community.”