Local Adventures: Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship

Last New Years Day we were buried in snow, so with today a balmy upper 40’s and not raining, what a perfect morning for a First Day Hike for the start of 2023. We didn’t want to drive a long distance, we don’t have a lot of usable hours of daylight in Washington State in winter, so we discussed options. I always forget about visiting Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship, which is outside of Coupeville, Washington, on Whidbey Island. Coupeville sits in the central part of the island, and is often drier than other areas thanks to the Olympic rain shadow from across the Salish Sea.

Long ago, the area that the Pacific Rim Institute sits on, it was operated as the State of Washington’s Whidbey Island Game Farm. The state purchased these 175 acres from private landowners in 1945 for $15,000. Most of the buildings seen today were constructed by the end of 1946. All for the purpose of raising ring neck pheasants to be released around the state for hunting. The small white buildings – brooder houses (or coops) where used to house day-old pheasant chicks and were heated with large propane burners until the birds were old enough to thermoregulate themselves.

In 1999 The Au Sable Institute became interested in the land, and bought the land in the 2000’s, and in 2014 the land was purchased outright by the PRI. The land is run as a non-profit living laboratory, to restore the highly endangered prairies and so much more.

I drive by far too often, and never think “Hey, we should pull in and go check it out”.

With my Washington State Park Pass expired on the New Year, and nowhere to buy a new one, I figured it was a good day to pick an area that didn’t require a parking pass. And to go somewhere new!

Exiting Highway 20 onto Morris Road, then a left onto Parker Road, the driveway is by the very visible white outbuildings. It has a large parking area to use.

We set off on the dirt road that is just off the parking area (it follows Parker Road, so yes is very visible). The trails are not marked, and there is not a map. But if you go on Google Maps on your phone, and use satellite view, the paths are easy to figure out. There are visible cell towers nearby.

We walked the main road trail, passing an old snag, as we crossed open fields, towards the woods. There are park benches along the way, to sit and enjoy the quiet – and some loud crows chattering.

The main road crosses another road trail and keeps going. It goes into the woods and becomes a well maintained forest hike.

PRI has done well with maintaining the forest sections. It is easy hiking.

As the forest section pops back up into the prairie/farm lands it comes up to a barn.

In this open lawn area by the barn is a picnic table and a bench. A pleasant area for sure. There were a couple paths here, we followed the most visible, and went wandering.

The road trail goes around a corner (that private property is beyond) and follows the property lines.

If you read up on the links above, this section is about 5 acres big and is home to many native plants. Trails go through it, also visible on the sat view.

The Prairie Remnant is to the left of the fence.

The open areas have many bird houses on poles, that act as snags for raptors to sit on. As we walked, the one visible had a hawk sitting on it.

We finished our double loop. Next time I will walk in the prairie part and explore it.

You can easily get up to 4 miles if you use all the trails (hiking paths and roads). The trails are mostly flat, with a few minor ups and downs.

No parking passes or fees needed. Dogs are allowed, on leash and all poop picked up. However, be prepared to see a LOT of coyote scat on the trails. We had our two dogs with us, and it was a good workout for them, as we are trying to trail train them.


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