Herons-eye view.
Heron's-eye view. Shared Spaces

There’s a quiet, tree-covered slip of land near the Duwamish River known as The Heron’s Nest. Currently owned by a developer who bought the property with plans to build twenty townhomes, it could instead become home to nature-skill workshops, campouts, fruit and vegetable gardens, and the ever-growing footprint of the original stewards of the land.

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The nonprofit Shared Spaces Foundation is working furiously to rehabilitate the property and raise money to buy it from its current owner, Cardiff Investments. The plan is to purchase the property, build facilities for classes, agriculture, and community events, and then repatriate it back to the Duwamish Tribe.

But time’s tight. They’ll need a million dollars by the end of this year.

“We started work on the 3.5 acres in West Seattle in the spring of 2020 and since then we’ve removed about 40 tons of garbage,” says Amanda Lee, president of Shared Spaces. At some point in the past, the property was occupied by squatters using it to strip stolen cars, she says, and “it had become a dump.”

After clearing away around thirty stripped vehicles, Lee and her crew set to work fixing up the property’s one structure, turning it into a makeshift office space. Their work has been documented on Instagram: They’ve constructed a trail connecting the property to the nearby Duwamish Longhouse, built a greenhouse, and they’re in the process of installing an aquaponics system “so we can grow fruits and veggies year-round for the Duwamish Tribe.”

Next on their list: Accessible outhouses, campgrounds, more trails, and a community tool library.

There’s more at stake here than just a pleasant nature center. The Duwamish Tribe is currently in court, seeking federal recognition; Lee hopes that owning land will help the Tribe show that they have a distinct community, one of the requirements for recognition. The Tribe recently acquired the property next to the Longhouse, and members have expressed interest in using the Heron’s Nest property for bow-making and beadwork, alongside workshops in trade skills like woodworking, landscaping, agriculture, and home repair.

For now, Lee says, Shared Spaces has a lease agreement with the current owner with an option to purchase. The land was last appraised for $860,000 (it was $157,000 in 2001 — an indication of just how inaccessible ownership has become in Seattle). Fundraising is currently underway through a variety of fundraisers, from GoFundMe to drive-in movie nights. (Last weekend they showed But I’m a Cheerleader.)

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“We’re making a lot of progress in the cleanup and proposed use of the land, but the funding has been a little challenging,” Lee acknowledges.

Their agreement with the property owner only extends through December of 2021, but so far they’ve only raised about ten thousand dollars, much of which has covered the lease and cleanup. If they can’t raise enough by the end-of-year deadline, Lee says, they might pursue a loan or possibly extend the lease, though that’s far from certain.

“We have a lot of work to do in raising funds,” Lee says. “We have a long ways to go.”