Point Wilson Conservation Project, Fort Worden State Park
Small-flowered blue-eyed mary (Collinsia parviflora) flowers April-May.
The plant history of Point Wilson is rich and unusual. So much is there under your feet if one looks carefully to view it.
There are few protected places in Puget Sound that have large areas of sandy coastal beaches with as rich with diverse native flora as Point Wilson, within Fort Worden State Park. It is particularly amazing because as an earlier military base a wide variety of manipulation has happened to the beachfront, yet, astonishingly, the native plants have prevailed. It was recognized as a special treasure by the late Olympic Peninsula botanical researcher Nelsa Buckingham, in the eighties and early nineties. However, the average park visitor is unaware of the delightful native plant community they inadvertently trod upon while crossing the delicate strand environment to Fort Worden’s stunning beaches.
The conservation of Point Wilson has been ongoing for years with the removal of Scots broom and other invasive weeds. The increasing popularity of the park has put considerable pressure on this plant community as the number additional trails accessing the beach increased every year. This damages the native plant community because the sandy soil is so susceptible to the disturbance that foot traffic creates. In 2006, members of the Olympic chapter became aware of this growing problem and formed the Point Wilson Conservation Workgroup. We created a work plan focusing on areas of highest habitat value and approached Washington State Parks for cooperation. We obtained a conservation grant from the Washington Native Plant Society with additional funds from the Friends of Fort Worden. The three part plan we developed includes: protection of the sandy coastal area along the beach from further degradation, control of invasive species, and restoration of impacted and eroded areas.
Trail hiker sign directing traffic to designated trails… Blocking off and protecting others.
Protection from Degradation
The most important immediate goal was to focus the foot traffic to designated trails and close off the excessive miscellaneous trails to the beach that had been created haphazardly. With funds obtained from a Conservation Grant from the Washington Native Plant Society and some additional money from the Friends of Fort Worden we purchased barrier material, signage, and jute mesh. Five main trails were kept open and signed visibly by the Park Service to direct visitors to designated beach paths. The remaining extraneous trails were closed off and protected by jute mesh to begin restoration.
Scotch broom pullers.
Control of Invasive Species
Volunteer work parties have been held regularly to control invasive species. Three specific invasives have been the primary focus of most of our efforts. We try to keep the Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), European Dune grass (Ammophila arenaria), and the introduced mossy stonecrop (Sedum acre) at bay.
Scotch broom removal began in earnest in the early eighties with organized work parties by Forest Shomer and is a regular endeavor ever since.
We enlist the help of several volunteer groups. The energy of Greywolf kids have helped with the removal of some of the remaining large 'old growth' scotch broom.
The nonnative European dune grass, although planted in other areas many years ago for bank stabilization, is only in a few select areas in our study site. It is a tenacious plant, though, and its removal requires persistence. With help of Christopher Overman’s youth hostel weed warriors, we have kept the battle at bay. Removal and covering with mill felt to weaken the root system has reduced these areas of encroachment.
Volunteers removing sedum acre.
Sedum acre and its removal
Sedum acre is an escapee garden plant in the stonecrop family. Its ability to survive well in sandy areas have made it devastating to this sandy environment as it takes over the stabilizing mossy substrate. Shown here are two diligent volunteers carefully removing the small plant.
Work parties continue to be held for upkeep of signs, protection and control of invasives. For volunteer information contact Sharon Schlentner firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rolling out jute mesh on a closed trail.
Once traffic was diverted from the closed trails and three target restoration areas, jute mesh was rolled out to begin stabilization of the sandy soil and promote re-growth of the natives present.
Jute mesh has enabled the well trod sandy soil to stabilize and allow plants like the deep rooted Yellow sand verbena (Abronia latifolia) to re-establish. Within a very few years, the jute mesh itself disintegrates and without further disturbance, the area recovers very well.
A real surprise has been the observation of how quickly the native plants such as sand verbena and black knotweed (Polygonum paroynchia) have re-established from the root systems that were still intact. Additionally, seeds were collected in the summer from adjacent plots and spread in the fall.