- Preserves the site for community benefit.
- Conserves one of the last remaining undeveloped shoreline habitats in Federal Way.
- Supports rearing juvenile salmon and maintains critical habitat corridors for herons and bald eagles.
- The site will serve as a youth camp in South King County that can improve access and health outcomes of youth in the area.
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Forterra, a Washington-based nonprofit land trust, purchased Camp Kilworth, one of Federal Way’s last high bank forests and only youth camps. Forterra will conserve the site in perpetuity. The YMCA of Greater Seattle (Y) is committed to leasing the site for a minimum of 50 years. The Y would use the site for outdoor day camps for youth, family events and environmental education. The site also aims to meet the needs of the surrounding community.
Camp Kilworth lies northeast of Dash Point State Park. For more than 80 years, the property was the venue for a Boy Scouts of America camp. When the camp closed in 2016, nearby residents and former Boy Scouts formed Kilworth Environmental Education Preserve (KEEP), a neighborhood nonprofit, to chart a new direction for the property.
“Since 1934, Camp Kilworth has played an important role in our community. It has been a place for youth to learn through outdoor programs,” said Mary Ehlis with KEEP. “It is important to us that we preserve the property’s natural habitat and historical features for future generations. We are thrilled to see the Camp Kilworth legacy continue to live on.”
KEEP partnered with Forterra and the Y to develop a strategy to conserve the camp and prevent the area from being sold for housing development. Forterra’s strategic purchase prevents residential development at the site. KEEP, Forterra and the Y’s shared vision is to ensure that community and youth will continue to gain valuable outdoor leadership experience for many years to come.
“The YMCA of Greater Seattle is committed to connecting all youth, especially Black, Indigenous and youth of color, to the outdoors and build a generation of diverse outdoor leaders,” said Loria Yeadon, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle. “Outdoor programs like expeditions and resident camp include relationship building and conversations that promote learning, leadership, equity and social justice.”
For over 130 years, the Y has run camps throughout the region — and currently operates 14 branches, two overnight camps and more than 200 program sites. Camp Kilworth will be the Y’s first outdoor camp in the centralized urban area of South King County. Just this past year, the Y has raised more than $1 million toward restoring the operation of Camp Kilworth, with more grants pending and planned. The Y will provide transportation to camp for children living in surrounding areas to make the camp accessible for community.
In addition to outdoor programs developed by the Y, the Puyallup Tribe will provide Indigenous outdoor education programs for campers. The Puyallup Tribe will also receive access to the site for cultural purposes.
“The Puyallup people have been stewards of these lands since time immemorial, and this property has special historical and cultural significance. Partnerships with entities like Forterra help the Tribe actively conserve natural and cultural resources in areas facing major development pressures,” said the Puyallup Tribal Council.
The site provides a public health benefit, and through a community engagement process, the site aims to meet the community’s needs, continue the legacy of the camp and allow dedicated public access to the property.
Camp Kilworth is one of the last remaining undeveloped shoreline habitats in Federal Way, with a critical salmon rearing habitat and nearly 30 acres of second-growth high bank forest. It is home to many native plants and animals, such as bald eagles, blue herons and Townsend’s warblers. The camp also hosts the oldest structure in Federal Way, a Rotary Lodge built in 1936 — more than 50 years before Federal Way officially became a city. The lodge will be historically restored prior to use by the Y and community.
“This property could have easily become a luxury housing development. Now Camp Kilworth has the potential to serve the well-being of the greater community,” said Michelle Connor, President and CEO of Forterra. “By conserving the site and creating an inclusive atmosphere beyond the camp, we can keep this unique space for young campers, salmon and wildlife and the community.”
The Conservation Futures (CFT) and Cooperative Watershed Management funded the acquisition of the site. Site and lodge restoration will begin this summer. The Y camp anticipates being in operation the summer of 2024.
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Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning; innovative programs and policies; farming and forestry approaches; community ownership opportunities; and development solutions. Visit forterra.org.
ABOUT THE YMCA OF GREATER SEATTLE
The YMCA of Greater Seattle is the Northwest’s leading nonprofit organization, strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Founded in 1876, the Y reaches more than 238,000 people of all backgrounds, abilities and financial circumstances annually through 14 branches, two overnight camps and more than 200 program sites throughout the Puget Sound region. The Y nurtures more than 92,000 youth and teens to develop their gifts and give back to our community. The Y engages 23,000 volunteers who contribute more than 388,000 hours of service each year. Visit www.seattleymca.org.