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Fox Island Nature Center

Fox Island Nature Center & Wildlife Preserve
NEW Nature Center Trail Map! 
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716 9th Ave, Fox Island, WA 98333

The Fox Island Nature Center was founded in October 2004, through a vision of former FICRA President John Ohlson, members of the FICRA Board and the Fox Island Building Trust.  In the months that followed, volunteers from local Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Troops, FICRA, and the various Fox Island Garden Clubs contributed significant efforts to convert this formerly overgrown property into a nature trail and showcase of native plant life and climactic zones of Washington State. 

Thirteen different Eagle Scout projects and one Girl Scout Bronze Award project have been completed between 2004 and 2011, to transform the property into a wonderful community asset.

The Fox Island Nature Center includes several wetland areas, a marsh including a small stream, a rain forest area including several spectacular examples of first-growth nurse logs, second growth trees, a mixed coniferous and deciduous forest in the upland area, park benches, a 60' footbridge and several raised walkways, and a native species garden near the trailhead.

Activities at the Nature Center include hiking, bird watching, plant identification trail, picnicking, and nature photography.  Park hours are dawn to dusk, 7 days a week.  The Fox Island Nature Center is located at 716 9th Ave, Fox Island, WA 98333.

Watch our Wetlands Virtual Tour

An update on our projects at the Fox Island Nature Center Wetland Park.  Thirteen Eagle Scout projects have been completed at the Nature Center, since its opening in 2005.

Scouts build Footbridge
to span groundwater stream.

Sravan Konda completes the extension to the raised boardwalk linking the main trail loop to the Western Loop Trail.

Dallas Thornton added a brick pathway around the Native Species Garden, permanently incorporating the engraved bricks commemorating the donors who helped fund the purchase of the Nature Center Property in 2004.

Eagle Scouts Alex Ohlson, Jesse Long, and Grant Toepfer of Fox Island's Troop 27 have built three picnic areas in the undeveloped "Western Loop Trail" area.

Eagle Scouts Jensen Bond and Max Reetz  of Fox Island's Troop 27 have completed trail improvement projects.

Eagle Scout candidate Ryan Eason of Boy Scout Troop 212, has completed the Native Species Garden in the far left hand area of the diagram.

Eagle Scout candidate Garrett McKinney  of Boy Scout Troop 212, has built raised walkways across the marshy areas of the nature trail.

Ian Johnson of Boy Scout Troop 217 recently completed his 'Western Loop' trail-building project, which expanded the Nature Center's trail system, and installed plant identification markers along the trails.

Zach Briggs of Boy Scout Troop 282 completed construction of three picnic tables, and a picnic area.

The Cub Scouts have built and installed birdhouses in various areas of the park.

Click here to see more of the Girl Scout GardenGirl Scout Troop 290, led by Leader Lise' Ohlson completed a flower & shrub garden in the circular area at right.  They completed this service project in 2007 to help earn their Girl Scout Bronze Award.

Pam Britschgi created the garden design shown below.

Click for larger view

Our to-do list is growing shorter;


Complete construction of Kiosk Sign - John & Lise' O. Done!


Bird house installations - Cub Scouts Done!


Finalize landscape plan for trailhead area - Pam Britschgi Done!


Work Party to clear blackberries - Done!


Plant native species garden - Boy Scouts: Ryan Eason - Done!


Clean up storm debris and fallen trees from December 14th windstorm - Cub Scouts Pack 202 Done!


Build additional boardwalks over marshy areas - Boy Scouts: Garrett McKinney - Done!


Build new trails on western half of Nature Center & install plant identification markers - Ian Johnson - Done!


Build Picnic Tables around main entry area - Boy Scouts: Zach Briggs - Done!


Install Donor bricks near trailhead area - John O.: Done!

Contact John Ohlson at 253-549-2701 for more information about these projects.

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FICRA Purchases Wetland, Scouts Help Make it a Park

August, 2005 - By John Ohlson
2004 marked the beginning of a new era in recreational opportunities for the Fox Island Community & Recreation Association (FICRA), with the acquisition of 5 acres of wetland and rainforest property now known as the Fox Island Nature Center and wildlife preserve. 2005 will see the grand opening of the new park, which opens this Saturday, in conjunction with the annual FICRA Fair.

This property was purchased with donations from Fox Island residents through a wildly successful fund raising drive following the 2004 FICRA Fair in August 2004. Over $40,000 was raised in just over 90 days, in one of the most successful fundraising efforts in recent Island history.

Volunteers helped clear overgrown trails and fallen trees to create the walking paths. Cub Scouts from Fox Island's Pack 202, Girl Scouts from Fox Island's Troop 290 and Boy Scouts from Gig Harbor Troops 282 and 212 also contributed significantly to the development of our new park, by volunteering for work parties and special community service projects.

Footbridge Project
Keith Buchanan (pictured above, and below right), an Eagle Scout candidate from Gig Harbor's Troop 282 took on the most challenging of the projects; building a 60' footbridge and viewing platform over the stream that runs through the property.

This project fulfilled his Eagle rank requirement to perform a project that benefited the community. After an arduous 3-month experience with the Pierce County Planning & Land Use department, which included a six week waiting period just to apply for the permits, the environmental review was completed, permits for the bridge were secured, and construction began on June 18th. Working conditions proved to be less than optimal; while digging in the muddy soil to place the concrete piers, the holes filled in with water as fast as they could bail them out.

Keith’s parents Bryan and Margaret Buchanan donated a third of the cost of the bridge, purchasing 143 bags of concrete and hardware for the bridge piers, which were hand-carried out to the work site by scout volunteers. A fundraising drive in July provided the funds to purchase the balance of the materials for the bridge, and the project was completed in time for the FICRA Fair on August 13th.

As an added incentive to boost the fundraising effort, Keith pledged to cut his long, red hair if he reached his fundraising goal of $2000. Donations exceeded $3000, and while Keith did get his hair cut, enough extra money was raised to pay for the park's informational kiosk, which will recognize those who have donated exceptional amounts of time and money to the park.

The Boy Scouts require Eagle candidates to complete their badge requirements prior to their 18th birthday. Although Keith started his project well in advance back in February, the delays in the permitting process caused the project to be completed with only three days to spare. He turned 18 on August 9th.

FICRA President and Eagle Scout John Ohlson served as Keith’s project advisor for the 6 month long project, providing planning assistance, carpentry expertise, and plenty of sweat equity in the bridge construction.

Many scout volunteers joined Keith in getting the bridge built.  Numerous work parties over the seven week construction period helped dig holes for the foundations, clear brush, haul concrete bags, drill holes and nail boards together.

The bridge was the final link that completed the nature trail loop, spanning the creek and crossing over several fallen trees.

On Saturday, August 6th, it all ended as it had begun; Keith and fellow scout Paul Sayre who broke ground back in June, put in the final 400 deck screws to attach the decking, to complete the project.

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Park Bench Project
13 year old Eagle Scout candidate John Uehlin, (pictured below and at right with his father Cliff) from Troop 212 in Gig Harbor, headed up the second Eagle service project. He constructed and installed 10 park benches that are located alongside the trail at various points of interest through the wetland. The benches will bear the names of donors who contributed $500 towards the purchase of the wetland property last fall.

John pre-fabricated the benches in his garage using donated materials, and assembled them on site in assembly-line fashion.

The bridge and the benches are made of pressure treated lumber, Trex composite decking and legs of heavy concrete, to help them withstand the Northwest’s rainy winters.  The benches were built with 40 - 80# bags of concrete, 300 linear ft of decking, 680 deck screws, 93 board feet of treated lumber and 40-12 inch galvanized bolts.  Each bench weighs over 400 pounds.  All of the materials were donated by area businesses and other donors.

Teams of scout volunteers hauled the heavy concrete legs through the woods on garden carts and makeshift stretchers, often through tight turns and muddy trails.  

John's completion of his Eagle requirements at 13 years old is an unusual accomplishment. Most scouts use a bit more of their scouting career to earn their Eagle; most achieving Scouting's highest rank when they are 16 to 17 years old.

The Fox Island Garden Clubs have also pitched in to help shape our park. Plantings of natural plant species are planned to help landscape the main trailhead area. Bird houses and bat houses have been constructed from donated lumber, to be installed by Cub Scouts from Pack 202.

FICRA has supported the Scouting program in helping many other Fox Island Scouts attain their Eagle rank, by sponsoring their community service projects at the Nichols Center.

Cedar picnic tables from Matt Wiley, the Fire Pit by Matt Randle, and refurbishing our flagpole by Mark McKinney are just a few.

FICRA would like to extend a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers, donors, and FICRA members who came together as a community to make our Nature Center a reality, and preserve a pristine, natural part of Fox Island for generations to come.

A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the park was held during the FICRA Fair at Noon on Saturday, August 13, 2005.

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Ryan Eason - Native Species Garden Project
February, 2007 - Eagle Scout candidate Ryan Eason of Boy Scout Troop 212 recently completed his Eagle Scout service project - a Native Species Garden, showcasing the various plants & trees that grow in the various climate zones of Washington State.

Above, Scouts Ryan Eason, Garrett McKinney and friend put the final touches on the garden

Left: Ryan and Eagle Scout John Uehlin begin the preparations for the garden project.

The garden features five distinct climate zones; Lowland Western Washington, Montane Forests, Sub-Alpine Forests, Alpine Forests, and the Ponderosa Forests of Eastern Washington.

Congratulations, Ryan on a job well done!




Ryan Eason, standing next to the completed Native Species Garden

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Cub Scouts Help Clear Trails

On Saturday, March 3rd, Cub Scouts from Fox Island's Pack 202 spent the day cleaning up fallen trees, branches and other debris from the trails at the Fox Island Nature Center.

The December 14, 2006 windstorm toppled more than 20 trees at the Nature Center, including this big Hemlock tree, near the trailhead at 9th Avenue.

The Cub dads cut up fallen trees, and the boys helped roll the logs out of the trails.



Above: Spencer, Nicholas Nerli, Max Batanian, Alex Ohlson and Zach Batanian explore the roots of the fallen Hemlock tree.

Below: Nicholas Nerli, Zach Batanian, Alex Ohlson and Nicholas Prindiville roll a log off the trail.

Below: Alex Ohlson, Nicholas Nerli, Max & Zach Batanian clear a trail of fallen branches.





Thanks to all of our Cub Scout volunteers: Tim, Zach, Max & Lucas Batanian, Paul and Nicholas Nerli, Connor and Nina Spencer, Kurt and Nicholas Prindiville, Alex & John Ohlson, Dave Alberding, Bryan Perkins, and Nicole Perkins.


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Garrett McKinney - Raised Walkways on Nature Trail
April 8, 2007 - Troop 212.  Garrett's Eagle project consisted of building several raised walkways over the wetland's marshes, protecting the area from the impacts of hikers traveling through the area.  The project was made especially difficult by the muddy conditions.

The walkways were prefabricated offsite, and installed on concrete pier blocks, to ensure resistance to rotting.




Garrett McKinney, standing on one of the newly completed walkways.

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Ian Johnson - 'West Loop' of the Nature Center's Trail System

April 15, 2007 -
Ian's project completed the 'West Loop' of the Nature Center's trail system, allowing hikers to explore the westerly half of the 5-acre nature preserve. 

Volunteers from Troop 217 cleared new trails, placed log slab stepping stones, and installed plant identification markers along the route.

Highlights of the new trail include 'Stinging Nettle' meadow, (left) ancient nurse logs, and examples of the various plant species that grow on Fox Island.



Ian Johnson admires one recently completed  section of the 'Western Loop' trail, covering the undeveloped 
2 1/2 acres of the Nature Center.

Girl Scout Troop 290 Plants Nature Garden

Girls from Fox Island's Junior Girl Scout Troop 290 recently completed their Nature Garden as part of earning their Bronze Award. This award is the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can earn.

The girls admire the completed garden.

Tess, Sarah Aliya, and Heather stand atop the pile of dirt to be spread over the garden area.



Parents and members of Troop 290 add the finishing touches to their Nature Garden, which include a small dry creek bed, rhododendrons, forsythias, violets, poppies, vinca, flowering almond, primroses, and other perennial flowers.

Thanks go to Purdy Topsoil for their donation of 7 yards of dirt; The Fox Island Garden Club for their $100.00 donation (used to purchase plants) and FICRA for their donation of leftover plants from the Annual Fox Island Plant Sale.


Some tired moms at the end of the day,

Scouts Build New Picnic Tables for Nature Center
2007 - Eagle Scout candidate Zach Briggs of Gig Harbor Boy Scout Troop 282, recently completed his community service project by building three new picnic tables and clearing out a new picnic area for the Fox Island Nature Center.

The tables were built from lumber left over from the footbridge project two years ago, and were just the perfect fit for Zach's project.

Built from heavy duty pressure treated lumber, they will last for years to come.

Work on the project included clearing invasive weeds and brush, leveling the picnic area, and spreading wood chips to help prevent weeds from returning.

Zach (back row, far right) joins his fellow scouts and dads in admiring the completed picnic tables.


FICRA would like to give a big Thank You to Zach and his fellow Scouts.

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Fox Island Eagle Scouts Build new Picnic Areas for Nature Center

September, 2010
Eagle Scout Alex Ohlson of Fox Island's Troop 27 completed one of three picnic areas for the Fox Island Nature center as his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project.

Using picnic tables brought home from the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, the boys created activity areas where dense tangles of invasive species once grew.

Alex was the first Scout from
Troop 27 (since its formation in 2007), to earn the Eagle Rank.

Volunteers work to clear blackberries.

"Cobra Camp" was the name given to his project, in honor of Troop 27's first Patrol.

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Eagle Scout Jesse Long of Fox Island's Troop 27
built the "Cougar Camp" activity area, clearing out dense underbrush, blackberries and fallen logs, to form a shady picnic area framed by logs and natural features.

Jesse was the second Scout from Troop 27 to earn the Eagle Scout Rank.

September, 2010

Volunteers work to clear blackberries to make way for the picnic area.

Picnic Tables from the 2010 National Scout Jamboree were brought back home
to Fox Island and re-assembled at the Nature Center.

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September, 2010

Eagle Scout Grant Toepfer of Fox Island's Troop 27, completed the third of three activity areas for the Fox Island Nature Center.

"Venture Camp" was created on a partial slope, with the area terraced off by using logs to create flat areas to sit and enjoy nature.

Grant was the third Scout from Troop 27 to earn the Eagle Scout Rank.

Picnic tables from the 2010 National Scout Jamboree were re-assembled at the site.

Hardy woodsmen plying their trade!

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Trail Improvement Projects

November, 2010
Eagle Scout Jensen Bond of Fox Island's Troop 27 completed a staircase and raised walkway over a particularly muddy stretch of trail, that had become impassable due to the muddy conditions.

Jensen became the fourth Scout from Troop 27 to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

His project was further complicated by not one, but two fallen alder trees, one landing across the exact area where he had planned on building the staircase.

Had he started a month sooner, his staircase would have been smashed by the fallen tree.

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December 2010
Eagle Scout Max Reetz of Fox Island's Troop 27 rebuilt a well-worn section of trail leading to the footbridge at the Nature Center. 

After years of blackberries training the path on various routes, Max created a wood chip surface with bender board edging that will keep the trail on track for many years to come.

Max is the fifth Scout from Troop 27 to earn the Eagle Scout Rank.

Wood chips were spread over weed blocker fabric, and bordered by synthetic bender board, to keep the trail well defined, and prevent weeds from growing in the path.

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Brick Pathway Improves FICRA's
Native Species Garden

March 2011

Eagle Scout Dallas Thornton of Fox Island's Troop 27 wanted to give the Native Species garden a more formal look, and installed a brick path along the center of the raised garden area.

After four years of weed growth, the path in front of the garden had become overgrown with weeds and grass, covering up the engraved bricks that commemorated the names of the donors who helped purchase the Nature Center.

Dallas dug out all of the weeds and sod, and laid concrete pavers around the engraved bricks, making a formal, yet rustic path along the gardens.  Future Eagle Scout projects will complete the path along the full length of the raised garden area.  Dallas is the Sixth Eagle Scout for Troop 27.

Cutting the pavers to fit.

Before and after the path was installed

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Raised Walkway Extension Eagle Project

December, 2011
Eagle Scout Candidate Sravan Konda of
Fox Island's Troop 27

The extension to the 2007 raised walkway project, added a new section to the Western Loop Trail entrance.

Volunteers lay the beams that will hold up the new walkway.

Sravan and his father, work to attach the final boards to the walkway.

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Scouts Build Footbridge for FICRA's Nature Center

A companion project to the Raised Walkway Extension was recently completed on December 29, 2011, by Scouts in Fox Island's Troop 27, where they built a 10' long footbridge over a groundwater stream. 

This bridge, made of pressure treated beams and Trex decking, resulted from re-routing the original trail that used to follow the streambed with stepping stones, and now crosses the stream.

Thanks to the Troop 27 Scouts, who put in a combined 35 hours in building the bridge, while working towards their next rank in Scouts.


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