Salmon Project Spawns New High School Campus

STEM Site Ajoins Ohop Restoration

(Source: 2016 Summer Newsletter, cover)

Burwash Farmyard

The old structures from the Burwash agricultural site will be given new life in the Eatonville School District’s STEM program.

The historic structures from the Burwash farmyard will be given new life in the Eatonville School District’s STEM program.

In a collaboration believed to be the first of its kind in the state, the Land Trust has transferred a three-acre farmyard and historic buildings to the Eatonville School District for development as a high-school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) campus.

The campus site was carved out of the Land Trust’s 414-acre Ohop Creek Restoration project. Eatonville students will use the site to grow and produce farm products for the school, other students, and a local family agency.

Over a century ago, dairy farmers ditched Ohop Creek to drain the Ohop Valley, which had a devastating impact on salmon that use the creek. As part of the Nisqually Salmon Recovery Plan, the Land Trust, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and a host of local, state, and federal partners have converted 1.8 miles of ditch back into 2.4 miles of meandering, salmon-friendly stream.

In partnership with the Nisqually River Education Project, hundreds of elementary school students—many from Eatonville— have helped replant the Ohop restoration site in the last few years. Students will grow food for the Eatonville community on the STEM campus.

In partnership with the Nisqually River Education Project, hundreds of elementary school students—many from Eatonville— have helped replant the Ohop restoration site in the last few years. Students will grow food for the Eatonville community on the STEM campus.

The project included purchase of the 114-acre Burwash Farm and its historic home and outbuildings, which were slated for demolition.

The school district will restore the buildings and develop a hand’s-on agricultural curriculum with Pacific Lutheran University, the Eatonville Family Agency, and the GRUB program at Olympia High School. Pierce County funded purchase of the farmstead through its Conservation Futures program.

District Superintendent Krestin Bahr and Land Trust consultant Eric Erler spent over a year working out the intricacies of the transfer.

“This is a story of cooperation, creativity and commitment at every level,” Eric said. “Krestin had a unique vision of what this site could be, and it inspired all of us to help make it happen.”

Superintendent Bahr said the district will work with Pierce County, the Eatonville Historical Society and the town “to preserve not only the structures but the stories of a farm in rural America,” with special attention to Native American influences. “This site has been very important to Eatonville residents, and we look forward to incorporating the past into our students’ futures.”

Related: Historic Ohop Valley farm getting new life as school campus (Tacoma News Tribune, 2016)