History of Chambers Creek Regional Park

Chambers Creek Regional Park is comprised of 930 acres along the shore of south Puget Sound. While Pierce County's ownership is relatively recent, the making of the Park properties and its surrounding land uses began to take shape hundreds of years ago, influenced not only by the physical changes made, but by the people who lived and worked here.
1963 Aerial Picture of Chambers Creek Regional Park
2006 Aerial Picture of Chambers Creek Regional Park
Aerial photo of the Chambers Creek area circa 1963 (left) and 2006 (right).

The first settlers of the area were the Steilacoom Indian Tribe, a small group of Puget Salish speakers who lived along the east shore of Puget Sound in the current location of the Town of Steilacoom. An ancient summer fishing village was identified in the southern-most portion of the area within the historic entrance to Chambers Bay. The arrival of the Hudson Bay Company and its Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) in 1832 was the start of the European settlement in the area. Fort Steilacoom, built just south of the properties across Chambers Creek, was the PSAC headquarters and commercial trading settlement until it became a US Army outpost established to help keep the peace following establishment of the Canada-US Boundary in 1846. Many of the historic fort buildings are still in existence today.

Industrial development of the region began in the 1850s with grist mills and small-scale timber activities supporting nearby agricultural and lumber mills. In the early 1890s, the federal government selected Pacific Bridge Company to construct Fort Casey, Fort Warden and Fort Flagler, strategic military locations guarding the entrance to Puget Sound. Pacific Bridge was one of the two fledgling gravel mines operating on the site where the Chambers Bay golf course now lies. Subsequent owners over the next century enjoyed the rich gravel deposits found there. By 1992, Lone Star Northwest had merged all the gravel mining into the single largest producer of sand and gravel in the nation. Large scale mining continued until December 2003 when commercial mining ended and reclamation of the Chambers Creek properties began.
1940s Mine and Lumber on the River
1950s Mine
Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant
Chambers Creek Properties Master Site Plan
Timber and mining operations circa 1940 (left) and mining circa 1950 (right).

Pierce County first began operations at the properties in the 1950s with the development of a small County road shop and gravel mine where the Environmental Services Building and playfields exist today. In the 1980s, portions of the Chambers Creek Canyon began to be acquired and donated to protect this unique, wooded canyon and creek area from overdevelopment.

The Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant began operations on a small portion of the Lone Star Northwest Gravel Mine in 1984; and, eight years later, the Sewer Utility purchased the entire mine. The Utility's 650-acre purchase triggered the creation of the Chambers Creek Public Work's properties and the development of the Master Site Plan in 1997 to govern the reclamation and restoration.
Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (left) and Chambers Creek Properties Master Site Plan drawing (right).

In less than 15 years, the transformation from mineral extraction and resource industry to reclamation is clearly evident. The public offices and government operations, public access and recreation areas, habitat restoration and enhancement, championship golf and fine dining venue, and miles of trails are just a portion of the changes.

In 2011, recreational opportunities were expanded to the 930-acre site due to the growth in popularity. The Executive shifted day-to-day responsibilities to the expert staff in the Parks and Recreation Department, making it easier to coordinate and promote public access, events and opportunities, and commercial activities at the site.

Currently, expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, the overpass bridge opening more than two miles of salt water beach, and more trails are the most visible changes. Pierce County Parks and Recreation along with Public Works will continue to work on additional amenities detailed in the Master Site plan as funding becomes available in the years to come.