After a busy construction season, Jean Takekawa and her staff at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge finally have some time to catch their breath.
The refuge has completed the first year of work on the major estuary restoration project. When completed in two years, if things stay on track, the $12 million to $13 million project will restore more than 760 acres of the Nisqually River estuary.
Crews this year built the new exterior dike.
"It needs to settle and firm up over this winter so it can withstand the tides," Takekawa said.
Next year, crews will add the final foot to two feet of the dike, remove some water control structures and some interior dikes. In the third year, the boardwalk portions of a new 3 3/4-mile trail will be built in the northwest corner of the refuge. That trail will replace the popular 5 1/2-mile Brown Farm Dike Trail that looped around much of the refuge.
In the meantime, crews are to complete work this winter on the new education center. The building will have two classrooms, an orientation area, a large outdoors deck and an outdoor activity area.
The cost is estimated at more than $1 million.
"We’re excited about the outdoor activity area. Kids today don’t seem to have the opportunity to get dirty," Takekawa said. "Here they will be able to do things in an unstructured way, get off the trail. It’s an important way for kids to connect with nature and make that important lifelong connection with nature.
"We’re excited, there’s some good things going on despite the grim budget," she added.
The refuge is located between Tacoma and Olympia, at Exit 114 off Interstate 5.