Letter to editor: What’s best use for WSDOT property next to Edmonds Marsh?



Now that we know the old UNOCAL property (owned by WSDOT) isn’t going to be used for a new ferry terminal, Edmonds residents need to work together to ensure that the property is put to good use. These 22 acres just south of the Edmonds Marsh could be made into a parking lot for a ferry holding area, it could have high density housing built on it, or it could become a wildlife sanctuary that extends the benefits of the Edmonds Marsh and brings back salmon.

Making this area into a wildlife sanctuary would have extensive benefits to our community and to our planet. Rather than paving it over and developing the area, we could use it to enhance the health of the marsh, as well as the 190 species of birds and the other wildlife that use it. Keeping the area as open space would also assist with the planned “daylighting” of Willow Creek, which has been determined to be necessary to the health of the marsh and of restoration of salmon in Puget Sound.

The result would not only be a valuable urban oasis of nature for Edmonds area residents; but also be a greater eco-tourist attraction, with accompanying economic benefits.  The resulting greater health of the marsh could support salmon runs, with benefits for fishing and endangered salmon, as well as for the endangered Orcas. The few remaining saltwater estuaries such as the Edmonds Marsh play an important role in the general health of Puget Sound.

We have just until Oct. 25 to comment! Let the Washington Department of Transportation know what you think about this.

Let your voices be heard so that the long-term benefits, rather than short term gain, will be considered when the decision is made about this land. Comments can be made online at https://wsflongrangeplan.com/

Marjie Fields

8 Replies to “Letter to editor: What’s best use for WSDOT property next to Edmonds Marsh?”

  1. I understand the state of Washington bought the property 10 years ago and it has been in escrow ever since. If that is so, how will the state close the purchase?

    The property is much more valuable now then it was 10 years ago. How much will it cost and where does the money come from?


  2. The best long-term use of the UNOCAL property is still most definitely the use for which WSDOT purchased it – a vehicle parking and loading area for an eventually relocated Edmonds to Kingston Ferry Terminal. I know that is not the preference of many Edmonds residents. However, in case you haven’t noticed lately, the congestion on SR 104 and nearby local streets (I really feel for the Pine Street residents), has become noticeably worse this year. We had a bit of relief for a while during the Great Recession years but now ferry related traffic congestion is surging again. Backups at peak times on SR 104 are now nearly to Westgate. It is only going to get much worse in the next decades as population and tourism in Kitsap County and on the Olympic Peninsula continues to grow. There are no other practical and effective options to address this problem in our community. We returned home last night (Sunday) from seeing friends at Port Ludlow, and when we arrived in Kingston after 9pm, ferry traffic was still backed up all the way through the town and further west up SR104 (even though the Kingston holding can accommodate well over 300 vehicles – double that of our current Edmonds ferry holding area.) For the sake of protecting our future quality of life in Edmonds, we need to retain the option to use the UNOCAL property for this purpose.

    We need to remember that the Edmonds/Kingston ferry connection is an essential element of the only major state highway corridor (SRM104) between the Seattle metro region and the Olympic Peninsula.
    And for that reason, the state and the rest of the region will do whatever is necessary to expand and improve that corridor to accommodate the expected growth. The needs and interests of Edmonds will be only secondary at best in their decision making. We need to protect ourselves all we can and that includes keeping the UNICOLA property holding area option in order to eventually get expanding ferry traffic off our local streets.


    1. At WSDOT’s Open House on the Ferries Long Range Plan, they advised that WSDOT was no longer considering moving the Edmonds Ferry Terminal because it was cost prohibitive. One of the other means they are considering to deal with increased vehicle traffic is to increase the number of ferries running between Edmonds and Kingston from 2 to 3 ferries. They said the Kingston terminal can hold 3 ferries overnight, so this potential approach has the necessary terminal infrastructure.

      Thus, this means the WSDOT property next to the Marsh (the old unocal site) could be put to better use for the community and all of Puget Sound by making it a wildlife reserve with outdoor community use with trails for wildlife viewing, etc. It also would allow for the placement of stream channels across the property to connect the Edmonds Marsh to Puget Sound (Called the “Willow Creek Daylighting Project”) to allow salmon to again utilize the marsh habitat for juvenile salmon rearing and provide passage for coho and chum salmon migrating to Edmonds creeks. The City has been in the feasibility/design mode for the Willow Creek Daylighting Project for many years, and making the WSDOT property available for the necessary tidal channels will bring that project to fruition.


    2. I agree. Not sure anyone thought about the Positive impact to the businesses in Edmonds. This would give people waiting for the ferry time to shop or eat in Edmonds before heading out to their final destination, all with out parking in downtown.


  3. Much of my professional work for the past four plus decades involved working with cities and ports in our region to address complex permitting and environmental review requirements for large waterfront and in-water projects. WSDOT/Ferries is likely to encounter great difficulty gaining all the needed approvals for construction of any major expansion of the current ferry dock facilities for a variety of environmental and community impact related reasons. And even if those hurdles can be overcome, the immense problems created by a likely doubling (or more) of BNSF rail operations in the next 20 years will make it virtually impossible to maintain the needed very tight loading/unloading schedules required by use of three ferries at the current at-grade crossing.

    The greatly increased ferry traffic volumes likely to occur on the Edmonds/Kingston route in the next decades will force WSDOT to get the needed financing from the legislature for relocation of the Edmonds ferry facilities to the south end of the marina. There is no other workable option which can provide the the required grade separated crossing of the BNSF mainline and local Edmonds streets for rapidly growing ferry traffic. This new location was refined, and carefully vetted through 10 years of intensive study and alternatives analysis. All five affected Tribes signed off on it as well. The long-term cost to the region’s economy (as well as to Edmonds’s livability) of not doing this will far outweigh the cost of ferry dock relocation.


  4. Good Government is best when it engages the citizens early in the planning and decision making process. The process leading to the purchase and development of Civic Park is a great example. Surplus land started the whole discussing and community engagement was great. The only thing that was missing from the completed design was an open discussion of the parking issues the park will create.

    With the states decision to not use the land in the near future ( 20 yrs? 30 yrs?) we have a unique opportunity to come together as a community and figure out some uses for this property. The state legislature has some laws about how surplus property can be used by other governmental agencies for various purposes. Understanding those options would be the first step in gathering public input in to what can be done with this surplus site.

    Another issue that is already moving forward is Sound Transits plan to provide funding for Edmonds and Mukilteo to the tune of $40m to improve parking and stations. There may be ways to use some of this funding to provide parking and shuttle service to and from the few trains we have a day and utilize that parking and shuttle service at other times for the needs of Edmonds.

    It would be productive if we all put on our thinking caps and begin discussing ideas. I would bet some would be willing to share ideas but I would also bet some would just want to criticize the ideas of others.

    Bottom line, this property is far to valuable to let the discussion of its use to be behind closed doors. We should all want to input, share ideas, and discuss what might be the best public use of this property.


  5. The governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force is working to insure a healthy ecosystem to support a thriving orca population. Restoring salmon populations across Washington is an important part of saving the orcas. The Edmonds Marsh once had salmon. Acquisition of the former UNOCOL property could help make salmon recovery possible. The City of Edmonds has already declared the Marsh a Wildlife Sanctuary and has formally studied the possibility of “Daylighting” the stream from fresh water to saltwater so that salmon can enter. That would be hope for our resident orcas and it is something that the people can do.

    The governor’s Task Force is also charged with reducing the toxicity of the ecosystem to improve the health of salmon and whales. How would putting another parking lot near the Marsh help in the salmon and orca recovery?

    We have an opportunity to help our environment. Why waste it on a huge parking lot?


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