Submitted by Washington State Department of Enterprise Services.
The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) recently transferred a deed for Fort Steilacoom Park to the City of Lakewood.
The 340-acre park and popular Waughop Lake is across the street from Western State Hospital at 8714 87th Ave. SW and was previously under the custodial care of the Department of Social and Health Services. It once operated as a farm for the hospital.
“The hospital was self-sustaining, and raised its own food for residents at the hospital,” said DES Acquisition & Disposal Manager Stefanie Fuller, who handled the transfer. “They raised their own animals – cows, pigs and chickens.”
Park supporters have been advocating for a transfer of its ownership for decades.
Pierce County began leasing the property in 1968. Once the City of Lakewood became incorporated in 1996 it assumed the land lease from the county and made numerous improvements on it, including picnic shelters, a trail system, ball fields and playground areas.
During the 2018 session, with the approval of SB 6090, the Legislature directed DES to facilitate the property transfer by June 30, at no cost to the city. The property has an assessed value of more than $28 million.
“Many people worked hard to make this transfer happen, including our current and former 28th District legislators,” said Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson. “We are proud that Fort Steilacoom Park is now officially owned by the city of Lakewood.”
The park and surrounding land was used by the Nisqually and Steilacoom Indian tribes as a food source and gathering place before settlers and fur traders moved into the region. Later, it was part of Fort Steilacoom, a military fort that was established in 1849 and decommissioned in 1868.
The federal government transferred the land to Washington Territory on April 15, 1874, with a restriction that stated “For the use and purpose of an asylum for the insane of said territory and for no other purpose.” In 1988, the state received permission from the feds to use the property for public recreation, education, cultural and historical programs.
Stefanie said the project took about 10 months to complete.
“As part of the title transfer, it will continue to serve as a park in perpetuity, which means generations of people can continue enjoying it,” she said.
In addition, some of the park’s neighboring parcels will be transferred at no cost to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, which will hold custody of the property for Pierce College’s use.