State Parks, Swinomish Tribe complete development of Kukutali Preserve

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Washington State Parks and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community have completed improvements at Kukutali Preserve, a unique, two-island landform with rare plants and ecosystems, that lies off the shore of Fidalgo Island near Deception Pass State Park.

Kukutali on the Swinomish Reservation is translated from Lushootseed as “Place of the Cattail Mats,” and is named for the traditional shelters and multi-purpose mats once made, with painstaking labor, from the cattails on the Island.

The preserve is co-owned and jointly managed by Parks and the Tribe. The partners completed the last phase (III) of development Aug. 24, by removing a 90-year old road between the islands and restoring the natural tombolo or sand spit connecting the two. This restoration allows water to flow between Similk and Kiket bays at high tide, enhancing salmon and forage fish habitat.

A grant to the Swinomish by the Salmon Recovery Funding (SRF) Board financed the project, at a budget of $271,000.

Last spring, the partners oversaw the addition of a picnic shelter, seven interpretive panels, two information kiosks, two benches, five unsheltered picnic tables and two vault toilets, which completed Phase II.

Swinomish Tribal member and artist Cecelia La Pointe and Swinomish Archivist Theresa Trebon worked with Parks interpretive staff to create the panels. They depict the importance of Kukutali to the Swinomish people, whose ancestors used it for millennia as a seasonal hunting, fishing and shellfish harvesting ground.

Phase II cost $372,500 and was funded by a grant from the Recreation Conservation Office and funding from Parks’ capital budget and the Tribe.

Phase I, completed in 2014 and funded by the Tribe, added a six-car parking lot to improve visitor access and removed non-Swinomish structures at a cost of $288,000.

Kukutali consists of Kiket Island and Flagstaff Point, connected to each other and Fidalgo Island by tombolos. They are among the last undeveloped isles in Puget Sound.

Managed by a board of three State Parks and three Tribal representatives, the co-ownership agreement was signed in 2010 and is believed to be the only partnership of its kind in the United States.