About the Park
The City of Olympia’s Mission Creek Nature Park (MCNP) is 36.8 acres of undeveloped park land located in the Northeast Neighborhood of Olympia, two blocks east of Roosevelt Elementary School ( City of Olympia – Mission Creek Park).
Acquired in 1995, the original 7.6-acre park property, now referred to as the northern parcel, was intended to serve as a neighborhood park with swing sets, basketball court, etc. In 2001, the Park was greatly expanded when the City was able to purchase the 29.2-acre southern parcel from developers who had long sought to subdivide and construct well over 100 residential homes and townhouses on the property. An unopened street right-of-way (Massey Avenue) separates the two parcels.
Mission Creek and its associated Class II wetlands pass through a large portion of the southern parcel and the southwest corner of the northern parcel. The northern parcel is comprised mostly of mature bigleaf maples and red alders with a few large second-growth conifers. The southern parcel is a mix of deciduous forest, wetland and open meadows with a few coniferous trees. Recognizing the significant natural value of the combined parcels, and with input from the surrounding neighbors and park users, the City now manages it as a natural open space. A roughly two-mile network of City-constructed trails provides access to its many scenic and ecological features and greatly improves walkability in and connectivity through in the neighborhood. Park access is provided through five entrances: pedestrian only at San Francisco (west), Lybarger (southwest), and Marion (northwest) Streets; and as a shared bike path between Edison (southeast) and Fir (northeast). No parking or developed facilities are otherwise provided.
Wildlife relies on the Park for nesting, rearing, foraging, hunting, and connecting to adjacent natural areas and water sources. Ever-increasing numbers of walkers use the Park’s network of trails throughout the seasons – for regular exercise, to walk their dogs, and to observe and enjoy the solace of the park’s varied natural settings and open spaces. Students and school groups periodically visit to partake in environmental education activities. And on warm weekends and summer days, kids and young adults often use the Park for play or just hanging out.
The Park is managed by the Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department (OPARD). Regular park maintenance is required to address the heavy use the park receives, trim back seasonal growth along trails, clean up after storms and fall leaves, repair vandalized park facilities, pick up garbage, and clear the occasional homeless encampments. Faced with much-reduced resources and maintenance staff, OPARD has sought the assistance of the neighborhood to help with ongoing park maintenance needs. Together, OPARD and interested neighborhood park stewards, with the support of the Northeast Neighborhood Association (NENA), have drafted a plan under the City’s Adopt-a-Park Program. The plan identifies responsibilities to be assumed by each party. The City will supply and empty garbage cans at three entrances, mow fields, provide tools and trail surfacing materials for work parties, perform maintenance requiring chainsaws and heavy machinery, and address public safety issues. The neighborhood park stewards will organize and lead work parties, resurface trails, trim vegetation along trails, address invasive vegetation, pick up garbage, coordinate between users/neighbors and OPARD, schedule and sponsor community awareness activities.
As you can see, we can always use more help. To volunteer to help with stewardship activities or participate in an upcoming work party, contact Tom Badger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Creek Watershed
The 37-acre park encompasses much of the headwaters of Mission Creek, an important tributary to South Puget Sound that historically supported salmon. The Mission Creek watershed (you can look at a map of South Puget Sound watersheds here: Streams & Shorelines – Mission Creek Watershed) encompasses about 359 acres and discharges into the Sound on the southeast shores of Budd Inlet, just south of Priest Point Park. About 30% of the watershed is forested, including much of Mission Creek Park, but nearly 20% consists of impervious surface area in the urbanized portion of the watershed.
Mission Creek Watershed Map The Mission Creek Stewards have sponsored two forums – one in 2013 and one in 2015 to provide the community an opportunity to learn more about this beautiful and important watershed.
During the summer of 2013, a critical restoration project was completed to restore the small pocket estuary at the mouth of Mission Creek, which involved the removal of an old road fill and culvert that had blocked its entrance for decades. “The Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG), Squaxin Island Tribe, a funding group called Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and other agencies to a lesser extent, have been working together for ten years to get approval for this restoration (read more – Squaxin Island Tribe’s – Natural Resources).” The estuary provides much-improved habitat value for wildlife, salmon, and forage fish. While several significant barriers remain that inhibit upstream migration and access by salmon to spawning and rearing reaches, this project is a critical first step in restoring the ecological value of Mission Creek watershed.
Urban land uses in the upper portion of the watershed, around and within the Park boundaries, pose other challenges in improving the ecological conditions of Mission Creek and preventing further degradation of Puget Sound. Surface-water runoff from developed areas is a primary contributor of non-point source pollution that includes, among other things, petroleum products, heavy metals from vehicles, herbicides and pesticides, and fecal contamination from pet waste.
Flags mark locations of uncollected pet waste near the Lybarger entrance of Mission Creek Park for an August 2012 public awareness event, highlighting the extent of the pet waste problem and its adverse impacts to the water quality of Mission Creek and Puget Sound, as well as public health (photo courtesy of OPARD).
Opportunities to alleviate some of these impacts include cleaning up after our pets, constructing more rain gardens to reduce and treat stormwater runoff before it reaches Mission Creek, and partnering with other organizations to increase awareness of Mission Creek and other watersheds important to our South Sound waters. To learn more about rain gardens and how you can evaluate the feasibility and construct a rain garden on your property, click here (http://raingarden.wsu.edu/).