More information about Millersylvania State Park
Preliminary master plan recommendations
Approved Millersylvania master plan
The planning project for Millersylvania State Park was completed in December 2002. The information provided is for reference only, but comments about the project are still welcome.
What's in this document
This document first provides a brief history of the park and outlines the individual
steps in the current planning process. Then, it describes four distinct planning scenarios,
or themes, the agency has crafted to provide structure and direct the public participation
process. Finally, for those interested in providing feedback, it describes how to contact us,
how we will use the information you provide and ultimately how final plan decisions will be
made and by whom.
Miller's wooded glade
Lands that make up the majority of Millersylvania State Park were originally homesteaded
by Squithe Lathum in 1885. Some years later, Mr. Lathum sold his interest to John H.
Miller, an exiled head of the Prussian King and Queen's bodyguard. The Miller family
farmed and selectively logged the land until the death of Mr. Miller's last remaining
heir in 1921. According to the elder Mr. Miller's wishes, the property was gifted to the
newly formed State Parks Committee. Formal development of Millersylvania (Miller's wooded
glade) began in 1936 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Depression era "New Deal"
with work completed by young men enrolled in the federal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Following early park development, State Parks acquired a number of additional properties
including the 40-acre Ferguson property and the 70-acre Taylor Farm property - now the site
of the park's Environmental Learning Center (ELC). The 1950s saw a second surge in park
development, including the addition of several cabins and a lodge facility for the group
camp area, as well as several new utility campsites and major infrastructure improvements
in preparation for the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.
Most recently a new contact station, 48 additional utility sites, and a restroom with
showers have been constructed where the park's ball field was formerly situated.
Millersylania State Park now boasts 840 acres of forests, streams, wetlands, pastures,
and recreational developments; approximately 3,300 feet of freshwater shoreline on Deep
Lake and an annual attendance hovering at about 500,000 day-use and overnight visitors.
Following original CCC design and construction of Millersylvania, facilities development
has occurred primarily in reaction to identified recreational needs of the day. Very
little attention has been given to setting a long-term, comprehensive vision for
facilities development or management of park resources. Consequently, the park is now
made up of a relatively disjointed collection of park facilities (some in very poor
condition) that may or may not be consistent with the types of opportunities the park
could or should provide. Resource management has similarly been conducted in a largely
reactionary and hands-off mode. In the current era of competing government priorities
and shrinking agency budgets, "fixing what we have" without regard for future recreational
trends or needs for resource protection is simply no longer an option. The challenge facing
this planning process is to establish a long-term vision for the park that: 1) is responsive
to the needs and desires of the public, 2) appropriately balances recreational use and
development with the protection of park resources, 3) is actively supported by park
stakeholders, and 4) is feasible given the agency's financial limitations.
The planning sequence
In July 2001, agency staff held an initial public workshop to gain some insight as to
what issues currently face the park and in very general terms, what features are important
to park stakeholders. Since that time, staff has crafted a set of park objectives and four
alternative planning themes to help structure public comment (see planning themes, page 4).
Following this participation, staff intends to develop some preliminary recommendations that blend
individual elements of the four themes together in a way that incorporates the desires of
park stakeholders and is feasible for the agency and the broader community to implement.
Ultimately, a final collection of recommendations will be put before the Washington State
Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration and adoption. Staff intends to continue
to actively solicit ideas from park stakeholders during each phase of the planning process.
Protecting the park's legacy while providing quality recreational experiences
During the initial planning phase, agency staff worked with public participants to
develop specific park objectives. These objectives will form the foundation for
decisions about developing park facilities and managing park resources as planning
- Identify, analyze, monitor, protect, and interpret sensitive plant and animal species
associated with coniferous forest and wetland communities of south Puget Sound and the
ecological functions they perform.
- Identify, monitor, protect, and interpret natural geologic and hydrologic systems
associated with Deep Lake, its streams and wetlands and the ecological and societal
functions they perform.
- Identify, monitor, interpret, and protect significant cultural features of the park
including Native American archaeological sites, cultural landscapes and traditional
cultural practice areas as well as historic structures and landscapes associated with
early homesteading/agriculture and Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps park
- Collect, record, and interpret oral history, folklore, and artifacts related to the park
and its cultural role in the greater South Sound community.
Interpretation and Environmental Education
- Provide an array of compatible, quality day-use and overnight recreational opportunities that
are inspired by and in harmony with the park's natural and cultural resources.
- Combine the skills and resources of agency staff with other organizations and individuals to
develop and maintain environmental education and interpretative facilities and programs that
establish the park as a regional focal point for resource-related learning.
- Utilize interpretation and visitor education as essential approaches to managing visitor
impacts on the park's natural and cultural resources.
Administrative Facilities and Infrastructure
- Recognize the social and economic importance of the park to the south Puget Sound region.
- Actively solicit citizen participation in park planning efforts.
- Participate in other regional and community planning efforts as advocates for the park, its
resources, and its visitors.
Concessions and Park Enterprise
- Rehabilitate, maintain, and, where appropriate, develop durable, functional, and attractive
administrative facilities and infrastructure to maximize operational and cost efficiency,
as well as attract and retain high-quality park employees.
- Provide park visitor services through public/private partnerships and other entrepreneurial
programs that are clearly compatible with other park management objectives.
- Allow for revenue generating, non-recreational uses of park lands only if proposed uses
provide a demonstrable, broader public benefit and do not compromise the agency's ability
to meet other park management objectives.
- Establish a long-term park boundary that, from a landscape perspective, identifies lands
that are essential to support the significant recreation and resource stewardship functions
of the park.
- Identify agency-owned properties that are not essential to park functions and consequently
appropriate for disposal.
The foregoing park objectives provide broad parameters within which planning decisions
will be made. But what happens when these seemingly high-minded ideals conflict or are in
direct competition with one another? And how do you translate them into development plans
and management actions? To help answer these questions, agency staff has developed a
planning technique that enables planners and participants to identify potential conflicts
and make conscious choices about which objectives should take priority in various areas
of the park.
The technique involves developing four distinct themes for how the park could be
developed and managed. Each theme emphasizes a major park objective identified in the
initial planning phase. The themes developed for Millersylvania State Park include:
|Natural Resource Conservation||Cultural Resource Conservation
|Interpretation and Education||Recreational Opportunity
By considering what the park might look like if each theme were uniformly applied
throughout, new possibilities emerge as to the park's ultimate potential. Assuming no
individual theme is universally dominant across Millersylvania's existing landscape,
the next step is to look at the themes and determine which is most appropriate for each
specific area within the park. This allows planning to emphasize conservation in some
areas, recreational opportunity in others, and so on.
We ask that you study the individual themes - again not to choose just one - but to find
the individual elements in each that appeal to you. From your responses, agency staff
will then set about blending the preferred elements of the themes together into a unified
whole that minimizes potential conflicts between objectives and makes sense for overall
administration and management of the park.
Natural Resource Conservation Theme
This theme elevates protection and restoration of natural resources and biological
functions to the highest priority of the park (Figure 1). In this case, "development"
actually means reducing the amount and intensity of recreational facilities and, by
extension, the overall intensity of recreational use. Recreational developments that
remain are concentrated and centralized in areas where interference with natural resource
functions is minimized. Recreational opportunities under this theme are limited to those
not requiring extensive facilities and focus on maximizing a visitor's interaction with
the natural environment.
The park becomes a natural oasis with three primary trailheads providing access to an
extensive network of walking trails. A new day-use area that serves primarily as a
visitor gathering point or picnic stop is located where the ELC is currently situated.
Vehicles access this area via a new entrance from Maytown Road through the adjacent
Significant property acquisitions, primarily around the south end of Deep Lake and
conservation easements, would be sought by the agency to maximize protection of wetlands
and other natural systems.
Cultural Resource Conservation Theme
Preservation and enjoyment of significant historic features and landscapes form the
primary drivers in this theme (Figure 2). Consequently, park development and resource
management embrace the architectural characteristics and development patterns of the two
distinct historic periods now represented in the park: Late 19th and early 20th century
westward expansion/homesteading and Depression era CCC park development projects. Group
oriented recreational opportunities currently provided by the Taylor Farm area
(Environmental Learning Center) are allowed to continue; however, facilities are
redesigned and configured in a manner that is consistent with the original farm site.
For example, existing structures are replaced with new structures of period architecture
and moved to the periphery of agricultural fields. Recreational opportunities offered by
the original CCC era park design also continue to be provided; however, modern
opportunities are either removed or are relocated outside of historically significant
In this theme, the park becomes a showpiece for historic preservation and supported
recreational uses are directly related to enhancing the enjoyment and understanding of
the parks historic properties. The park also becomes a center for preservation of
vanishing trades where students are trained in the art of rustic construction techniques
and are put to work on preservation projects throughout the state park system.
Interpretation and Education Theme
This theme emphasizes the park's role in providing quality opportunities for
interpretation and environmental education (Figure 3). Learning through experience
and active participation is a central principle in effective educational programming.
Consequently, facilities are located in close proximity to important natural and cultural
features and designed to maximize contact between people and the educational subject
matter. Recreational opportunities, while subordinate to interpretive and educational
opportunities, are primarily geared towards passive learning or physical fitness.
The park essentially becomes a regional focal point for environmental and cultural
learning. The park's Environmental Learning Center (ELC) under this theme is extensively
upgraded to provide flexible classroom, laboratory, and meeting space; improved overnight
group cabins; and a separate dining hall.
Throughout the park, new construction emphasizes state of the art, eco-friendly
construction techniques and smart technology to maximize energy efficiency. Property
acquisition under this theme is limited to obtaining conservation easements for
protection of adjoining wetland systems. Park property north of 113th AVE SE and west
of Tilley Road, because of its physical separation from the rest of the park and its
limited potential for interpretive and educational opportunities, could be considered
surplus to the needs of the park.
Recreational Opportunity Theme
Under this planning theme, the park is significantly reconfigured and the extent of
recreational development is dramatically increased (Figure 4). Facilities are designed
to provide maximum convenience and located in close proximity to popular recreational
attractions. The park would provide a greater number and diversity of recreational
opportunities including, a full range of overnight accommodations from primitive camping
to cabins; expanded day-use picnicking and water oriented activities at the quarry
property and ELC site; an extensive new ELC/conference facility and
administrative/maintenance center at the McIntosh Farm site; and reservation group
areas at the existing Deep Lake day-use area. Recreational equipment rental, food and
beverage, and other recreation-oriented concessions would also extend the current range
of recreational opportunities and amenities.
Under this theme, the park entrance is relocated to Maytown Road to enhance safety and
allows for clear separation of day-use, group, and overnight use areas. The emphasis on
maximizing recreation requires extensive acquisition of adjacent privately owned property,
but also presents the possibility of exchange or surplus of existing park holdings that do
not currently provide any developed recreational function. These properties are mainly
located at the northern park boundary, north of 113th Ave SE.
Contact Planning by:
Phone: (360) 902-8500 ask for Planning
Mail: Planning, PO Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650