Woodard Bay reserve reopens

Closed since October, conservation region focus of $700,000 project

ckrotzer@theolympian.comMarch 16, 2013 

The Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is now open after being closed for the winter as contractors completed $700,000 worth of restoration, part of a long-term project to restore the closed log dump to its natural state.

The conservation area was purchased by the Department of Natural Resources from Weyerhaeuser and transformed from its timber-harvest operations to a natural resource reserve. The state declared the area eight miles north of Olympia a wildlife sanctuary in 1987.

The area closed to the public in October while contractors removed 16,000 cubic yards of earthen fill and 500 tons of creosote-soaked materials at Woodard Bay and Chapman Bay Pier.

Earthen fill left behind after an old train trestle was removed in 2010 was removed to improve water circulation at the bay. The 500 tons of creosote material consisted of 200 pilings and 9,000 square feet of a pier, as well as two trestles that were burned by an arsonist a decade ago.

Both projects were part of the state’s 2012 Jobs Now Act aimed at creating jobs around the state.

The area had a quiet reopening Friday, and includes new public access areas and new views of the bay. More public access is anticipated.

“There are some gorgeous views, and we just made the site a little more gentle on the eye by removing some of the industrial concrete abutment at Chapman Bay,” said Michele Zukerberg, Department of Natural Resources natural areas manager.

There still is work to be done.

Creosote soaked materials remain in the area, but one piece will stay for the foreseeable future. Part of the pier has served as a summer roosting habitat for the largest known maternal colony of bats in the state.

Members of the Black Hills Audubon Society have a field trip scheduled this spring to Woodard Bay, and can’t wait to see what work was done.

“It’s a combination of a beautiful walk through the woods and in the springtime you can hear quite a number of song birds,” said Sam Merrill, president of the Black Hills Audubon Society. “If you go out there at night in the summer, you can sit there on the bank and have all these bats swirling by you, and they seem really good at flying right at you, then turning at the last moment.”

The bats fly from Woodard Bay over to Capitol Lake to feed on insects.

Some of the nonnatural features, such as the pier and some of the booms used by harbor seals will be left in place.

“We had to do a feasibility study and modeled what if we remove this and how it would affect that,” Zukerberg said.

“We are going to be building an environmental learning shelter out there, and we are going to be upgrading our whole interpretive process so you get the full interpretive picture of the Native American history, the historic landscapes … ,” Zukerberg said. “There is a lot of historic features from the log dump.”

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 ckrotzer@theolympian.com theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer

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