Morse boardwalk opens access to wetlands

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comMay 26, 2013 

The boardwalk and viewing platform take visitors over the wetlands at Morse Wildlife Preserve.

MORSE WILDLIFE PRESERVE

At 600 feet, the boardwalk at Morse Wildlife Preserve is somewhat short. But it allows access to a part of the 230-acre preserve that was difficult for visitors to reach.

Forterra and Tahoma Audubon Society, who jointly manage the preserve, will celebrate completion of the boardwalk and new trails Saturday.

The preserve was created in 1995 after Lloyd and Maxine Morse donated 48 acres of land in Graham. It sits at the headwaters of the north fork of Muck Creek and is a mix of forests, wetlands, oak savanna, meadow and remnant prairie.

The area is managed by a group of volunteers known as The Morse Force. It holds monthly work parties to restore the wetland, prairie and upland habitats.

The preserve is Forterra’s premier site in Pierce County for outdoor education. The group hosts school and community groups each month for activities ranging from bird-watching to trail construction.

The process of obtaining the necessary approvals and permits, and developing designs, began about five years ago, said Tom Galdabini, chairman of the Morse Force.

The construction, done on weekends, began in 2011 and ended last year. The project, along with interpretive signs, cost $134,000.

“We did it all by hand and with all volunteers. About a dozen people worked on it, including some professional contractors who put in pro bono time,” Galdabini said.

Assembled in 6-foot modules, the boardwalk is made of galvanized steel frames and footpads, and Trex decking. Adjustable steel legs allow the structure to adapt to the soggy conditions.

“It crosses Muck Creek, tributary of the Nisqually River, then goes into a dry forest that has several wet spots,” Galdabini said. “It gives access to the broader wetlands and a pond in the middle of the preserve.”

Visitors walking the boardwalk can see beavers working nearby, hear woodpeckers, look for a barred owl and see signs of deer and coyotes. There have been 115 bird species identified at the preserve.

“Right now, there is an ocean of skunk cabbage out there,” Galdabini said.

“(The boardwalk) has opened up new habitat that was previously inaccessible. It opens an area that is different habitat, with different wildlife, different plant species.”

The wetlands also are being considered as a location to reintroduce rare spotted frogs.

The boardwalk provides visitor access to the 70-acre wetlands and adjacent forest, and serves as the starting point for a loop trail.

“The completed boardwalk and related trails will advance the educational value of the preserve immeasurably,” said Krystal Kyer, executive director of the Tahoma Audubon Society.

MORSE WILDLIFE PRESERVE:

When:1-4 p.m. Saturday

Where: 25415 70th Ave E., Graham

What: Walk the trails through the forest and prairie, get a close look at wetlands habitat from the boardwalk, then explore the trail loops and newly accessible habitats beyond. First-time visitors will be able learn about the volunteer opportunities at the preserve.

Monthly events: The preserve is open for Second Sundays at Morse, on the second Sunday of the month, from 1-4 p.m. April through October.

Cost: Free

RSVP: Contact Tahoma Audubon by Thursday at 253-565-9278.

Of note: Carpooling is encouraged because parking is limited. Because this is a private nature preserve, pets are not allowed.

Historic Barn: Forterra and the Morse Force are raising money to fix the historic barn at the Morse Wildlife Preserve. The barn is part of the education program, but it was deemed structurally unsafe and had to be closed until it can be renovated. To learn more, go to tinyurl.com/pxu5kvh

Information: 253-565-9278 or morsewildlifepreserve.org

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure

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