Sometimes a small thing can create big change. That’s certainly true of Metro Parks and Nature’s most recent purchase of land. At 3.67 acres, the parcel in unincorporated Washington County might not seem impressive. However, the land connects two existing Metro natural areas – the 35-acre North Coffee Lake Creek Wetlands and the 52-acre Tonquin Scablands – creating a mile-long stretch of protected creek that is surrounded by more than 90 acres of wildlife habitat.
The impact is even bigger than that: Because another Metro natural area, the 265-acre Coffee Lake Creek Wetlands, lies just across SW Grahams Ferry Road from the Tonquin Scablands, the new acquisition establishes a 350-acre complex of Metro natural areas in the Coffee Lake Creek Basin.
“Opportunities for Metro to connect its natural areas like this are rare and important,” said Metro Parks and Nature Director Jon Blasher. “It creates a protected corridor that allows fish and wildlife to travel freely through a large natural area, leading to healthier and more-resilient populations. Also, large-scale conservation strategies can be more efficient and effective than multiple management plans for smaller individual natural areas.”
Metro officially took possession of the parcel on November 30. Now Parks and Nature staff can begin to plan for the site’s restoration. This plan will include replacing invasive weeds with native plants and improving habitat complexity.
The newly connected complex of natural areas has significant ecological value. The North Coffee Creek Lake Wetlands, Tonquin Scablands and adjacent Coffee Lake Creek Wetlands are all home to numerous native species of fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Additionally, they provide seasonal habitat to migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Conserving this area helps with flood mitigation, as it contains wetlands and kolk ponds that can absorb stormwater runoff. It also increases the region’s climate resiliency and will create a stunning natural backdrop for people using a future extension of the Ice Age Tonquin Trail.
The purchase was made possible by funding from the voter-approved 2019 parks and nature bond measure.
“What’s exciting about this acquisition is how it shows that Metro is doing what the voters entrusted us to do for them,” said Blasher. “We’re wisely using our resources in a way that turns a small investment into a huge step forward for regional conservation efforts.”