By Susan Callender
The Walker family, whose deep ties to Washington and Mount Rainier National Park go back to the turn of the 20th century, has donated to the Nisqually Land Trust a historic 14-acre site near the park’s main gate.
Situated along State Route 706, the property’s towering fir and cedar trees have long lent a cathedral-like atmosphere to the approach to the park. The property is bisected by Tenas Creek, whose crystalline waters cascade out of the park on their way to the Nisqually River.
Five generations of the extended Walker family have grown up using the property, which now will be managed by the Land Trust, a non-profit nature conservancy organization that holds about 6,000 acres of the Nisqually watershed between Mount Rainier National Park and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The areas include habitat for salmon and threatenend wildlife.
The Walker property was first purchased in about 1900 by Calvin Heilig, who was based in Tacoma but made his fortune building and operating theaters in the major cities of the West Coast.
Toward mid-century, John A. Cherberg married Hellig’s niece, Betty, and together with Heilig’s nephews, Gile and Edward Walker and John Walker, purchased the property and later made it the first site to be enrolled in a statewide greenbelt program that permanently protected its stately trees.
Cherberg served as Washington’s lieutenant governor for more than 30 years, and the building that houses the state Senate is named for him.
John Walker was an early partner with the Virginia Mason clinic in Seattle and was chairman for 12 years until his retirement.
Robert Walker, president of the family corporation created to hold the property given to the Land Trust and an adjoining 38-acre parcel, said his family donated the property “because we know that the Land Trust will manage it just as we always have – to protect its natural beauty, which has been so important to our family for so long.”
The Land Trust will manage the property as part of its Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve, which now totals some 2,500 acres of high-priority, permanently protected wildlife habitat between the national park and Elbe Hills State Forest, which is near Ashford.
Susan Callender is Nisqually Land Trust’s development manager. She wrote this article for the organization’s website.
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