Who was Farrell and why was a marsh named for him? The question never has been fully answered, but the 62-acre woodland southwest of Steilacoom still bears the name of some long-ago traveler.
Wagon ruts, carved into the ground on the property more than 150 years ago, are still visible. Anyone who takes time to meander the Marsh’s several pathways can locate them.
In the 1830s a road that was the route between Fort Steilacoom and Hudson Bay Company’s Fort Nisqually cut through the land.
In 1975 the Town of Steilacoom purchased the land, intending it as an undeveloped natural park. In the 90s, Bruce Dees and Associates developed a long-range plan for the area, entitled “How Do We Keep it Natural? A Management Plan for Farrell’s Marsh Park.”
This heavily wooded area, with its many trails has long been the destination for many school field trips, walkers, bicyclists, and others. The park contains approximately 3,500 feet of fresh-water shoreline, three viewpoints, and is home to several varieties of waterfowl, such as blue herons and kingfishers.
The Marsh also has served as inspiration for poets such as the late Hilda Skott, dozens of boy and girl scouts, and even for residents who visit the area to harvest the annual blackberry crop, or just to experience the woodland.
Within the last three years, the property has benefited from the focus of a quartet of Troop 71 Eagle Scout projects and two 42nd MP Brigade projects.
Recent Eagle Scout projects include Riley Carter’s 2010 enhancement of a major trail. This is the first trail to the right (West Trail) after entering the park from the Chamber’s St. entrance. It involved eliminating trail hazards such as roots and placing wood chips as far as the site of the bridge. It also included placement of trail signage and trail enhancements done in 2011 by Daniel Cook; installation of a new kiosk at the Chamber’s Street entrance, completed in the Fall of 2012 by Jacob Averkamp, and construction of a kiosk at the Farrell’s Drive entrance, completed by Brandon Spearow as his 2013 Eagle Scout project.
Maps of the park have been placed at the kiosks to help orient newcomers to the site. Park safety also has been enhanced now that names have been attached to the numerous trails.
MP BDE projects have focused on major wood chip resurfacing to most of the trails in the park.
Over several years’ time Parks and Trails Task Force volunteers have participated by removing invasive vegetation, removing litter, improving footbridges and reopening trails following the Jan. 2012 ice storm.
In addition, “generous Town residents, who have requested anonymity, have donated funds to pay for installation of the doggie bag station at the Chambers Street entrance,” said Nancy Henderson, Town Councilmember, who oversees the Parks and Trails Task Force efforts.
“I recently encountered a trio of senior citizens deep in the park who raved about the beauty that surrounded them and the peacefulness of the trails,” Henderson added.
“There are many local residents who have not yet discovered this treasure in our midst, but when they do, they are enchanted. As an added bonus, a pair of barn owls have recently taken up residence and are occasionally spotted. Their silent flight makes this a challenge.”
Whether the Marsh trails are a frequent “in-town” destination or you’ve never visited the area, add it to your “to do” list.
Good luck, though, looking for the wagon ruts.
Just one piece of advice: be sure to douse yourself with insect repellant when you go.