Fort Townsend Nearshore Restoration
Northwest Straits Foundation, Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) and Washington State Parks partnered to restore nearshore habitat and improve beach access at Fort Townsend State Park. The beach is along the base of a feeder bluff on the southwest shore of Port Townsend Bay. The project restored natural feeder bluff processes and beach habitat for shorebirds, forage fish and other marine animals. The project was completed in October 2016 with the installation of two beautiful interpretive signs designed by artist Larry Eifert.
This project restores natural erosion and sediment transport along and across the shoreline, improving habitat for juvenile salmon, forage fish spawning, marine and shore birds while improving public access to the beach. Monitoring has confirmed that Pacific sand lance and surf smelt, two important species of forage fish, use this beach as spawning habitat.
Fort Townsend was originally established as a military installation in the 1850s. The trail to the beach, dock and landing can be seen in old photos from 1885. Times have changed and our understanding of unintended consequences has grown tremendously. We now know that bulkheads and landings often bury the beach in the tidal range used for forage fish spawning; disrupt sand movement along the shoreline; and disconnect natural interactions between native vegetation and beach.
Over 1700 cubic yards of fill and rock were removed. The project significantly reduced the size, scale, and impact of the existing fill pad area. Most of the rock armoring and fill was removed and an easier public access route was added on the north side of the landing. Large woody debris mixed with the riprap on the edge of the remaining landing will help disperse wave energy, provide potential habitat for small invertebrates and substrate for native beach grasses. A much smaller landing tucked further back on the beach creates more and better spawning habitat for both sand lance and surf smelt as well as marine invertebrates that are food for shorebirds.
Come experience it for yourself the next time you are at Fort Townsend State Park. From here, almost four miles of quiet, beautiful, bluff-backed beach await you.
The Northwest Straits Foundation managed the project, partnering with WA State Parks and the Jefferson MRC. This restoration project was funded by the Puget Sound Marine & Nearshore Grant program, which is a partnership program of the WA Departments of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and Natural Resources and the WA Estuary Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP), using funds from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect and restore habitat and ecosystem functions. The Jefferson MRC continues to work with the Point No Point Treaty Council on post-construction forage fish spawner surveys. DFW included this site in a multi-year study of beach changes following shoreline restoration; that report should be available by summer 2019. The MRC also used visitor surveys to evaluate effectiveness of interpretive signs and beach access.
See the 2017 Fort Townsend Visitor Survey Summary Report here.