The WA. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, in conjunction with the Center for Natural Lands Management and other partners comprising the Cascadia Prairie Working Group, has spent more than 25 years attempting to acquire the entire 1,650 acres of valuable Rocky Prairie habitat. In 2006, approximately 800 acres of Rocky Prairie were purchased for conservation and restoration purposes, now known as the West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area Unit.
Also in 2006, the Port of Tacoma purchased the remaining 745 acres of this biologically diverse area to develop a logistics center. Their plans contained numerous possibilities, including a rail-switching yard, chemical manufacturing plant, solid waste transfer station, warehousing and a truck-to-rail distribution site. This would have created a massive 24-hour-per-day industrial complex the size of Olympia, and would inundate roads from Olympia to South Thurston County with 1000s of trucks and blocked railroad crossings. From what we have been able to learn the new project is larger.
Friends of Rocky Prairie believed this facility was a serious threat to this rare prairie environment, to Millersylvania State Park, to the Black River watershed, and to the rural treasure of South Thurston County.
In June of 2008, pressure from Friends of Rocky Prairie and thousands of Thurston County citizens convinced the Ports of Olympia and Tacoma that the SSLC was not a popular idea in Thurston County.
Friends of Rocky Prairie then began working with state and federal agencies and non-profit conservation organizations to preserve this unique habitat into the future.
In April 2010, the Port of Tacoma sold the property to a southern California developer who formed a company called Maytown Sand & Gravel. They attempted to mine the site, but after about a year they defaulted on their payments to the Port of Tacoma and went out of business. The property then reverted back to the Port of Tacoma.
In mid-2019 the Port of Tacoma entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Missouri based NorthPoint Development to purchase the Rocky Prairie site. NorthPoint then submitted a request to Thurston County to rezone the property from 1 house per 20 acres to Industrial. In June, the Thurston County Commissioners voted 2 to 1 to consider the rezone in 2020. The Port of Tacoma then extended the feasibility period for the sale of the site to February of 2020.
Chronological History of the Site:
July 17, 2006: The Port of Olympia approved an interlocal agreement setting up a partnership with the Port of Tacoma to develop a rail logistics center near Maytown, 12 miles south of Olympia.
July 18, 2006: The Port of Tacoma paid more than $21 million to buy the 745-acre former explosives plant site from Citifor. The site’s nearby rail lines and I-5 proximity and its potential for gravel mining attract the port.
Late 2006: As word gets out that the two ports are planning to turn the largely undeveloped prairie tract into a rail yard and industrial center (the proposed South Sound Logistics Center-SSLC), local groups organize to derail the proposal.
2007: As the ports create plans to develop the land, Friends of Rocky Prairie lobbies the Olympia Port Commission, the Legislature and the Thurston County Commission to block the project. Friends of Rocky Prairie also petition the Thurston County Commission to rezone the property to a lower density.
Late 2007: Local political enthusiasm for the SSLC project wanes as opponents win battles over the land’s fate.
January 2008: Seeing their backing falling away, the ports study alternate sites for the logistics center including one near Chehalis, another near Tenino and another on the west side of Offut Lake.
June 30, 2008: The two ports allow the interlocal agreement to lapse, ending any possibility for the Port of Tacoma to develop the site.
September 29, 2008: the Board of County Commissioners vote to extend the moratorium for another six months on the 40% of the site that is zoned RRI (Rural Resource Industrial)
Fall 2008: The Port of Tacoma hires CenturyPacific LP to develop a marketing plan and market the tract to sell it.
Fall 2008: FORPrairie begins working with State and Federal agencies and non-governmental conservation groups to acquire the Maytown site for conservation purposes. This is a continuing effort.
April 2010: Port of Tacoma finalizes sale of the Maytown Property to a Southern California Developer. He joins with Lloyd's Enterprises of Federal Way to create Maytown Sand and Gravel Company.
July 2010: Thurston County Commissioners decide to change the zoning on the Maytown property, lowering the allowed density to 1 house per 20 acres, to better conform with the surroundings and help protect this sensitive area.
2011: Maytown Sand and Gravel defaults on their payments to Port of Tacoma and goes out of business. The ownership of the property reverts back to the Port of Tacoma.
Mid-2019: The Port of Tacoma enters into a purchase and sale agreement with Missouri based NorthPoint Development. NorthPoint asks Thurston County to rezone the property from 1 house per 20 acres to Industrial.
June 2019: Thurston County Commissioners vote 2-1 to consider the NorthPoint request for rezoning the Rocky Prairie site in 2020. Port of Tacoma amends the agreement with NorthPoint to extend the feasibility period until February 2020.