The Heron’s Nest Project: A dream with the chance for you to be the wind beneath its wings

(WSB photos. Above, Amanda Lee at The Heron’s Nest)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Off Puget Way – one of the few streets that connect to busier-than-ever West Marginal Way – a parcel of land is in the process of healing from decades of serving as a dumping ground.

A group of passionate volunteers are working not only to heal the land, but to use it to help heal injustices done to the area’s First People.

They call the site – three and a half acres with the official address 4818 15th SW [map] – The Heron’s Nest. Its entrance off Puget Way, a short distance uphill from West Marginal, is marked by simple signage with the outline of the iconic Great Blue Heron, which has long nested along the nearby Duwamish River. Much of the site is covered with deciduous trees, but a clearing near the entrance holds a greenhouse, outhouses, even a screen for outdoor movies that the Heron’s Nest has hosted this summer.

Next month, they’re organizing the biggest Heron’s Nest event yet – an outdoor dinner and auction to help make their dream a reality: Raising the money to buy the land and give it (back) to the Duwamish Tribe, which relinquished its tens of thousands of acres of land in a 19th-century treaty and now owns only the site of its Longhouse at 4705 W. Marginal Way SW.

That site is a short walk away on a new trail that’s part of the Heron’s Nest Project, explains Amanda Lee, field director for The Heron’s Nest Project and board member for the nonprofit Shared Spaces Foundation. We spoke with Lee at the site on a recent Saturday, our conversation punctuated by birdsong from the treetops and traffic noise rising up from the busy street down a steep slope at the property’s east edge.

The site currently is owned by a developer; it was owned for decades by the McFarland family and is still known to some as “the old McFarland property.” Lee first got involved with the site as a caretaker/security person two years ago. For years before that, the site was home to squatters, stolen cars, trash, and needles, Lee says; the cleanup filled dumpsters. The potential of the site – beyond holding single-family houses, for which it’s zoned – sparked the imagination. Some questions led to the discovery that the owner was “no longer invested in the project and wants it off their books.”

So if they can raise $1 million – it’s theirs. First, a $180,000 down payment. Their lease, with option to buy, runs through the end of the year.

We asked about the partnership with the Duwamish Tribe. Lee says that the tribe was told about the opportunity to buy the site but had limited funds and was focused on purchasing a parcel next to the Longhouse for expanded parking. But they’ve been talking about how to partner on stewardship of the land, including the outdoor education that The Heron’s Nest Project already has been offering, such as skill workshops and sustainable urban farming practices.

In a background document about the project, Lee writes, “This project is the first-ever repatriation attempt with respect to the Duwamish Tribe and would have significant impacts on the Tribe’s recognition claims. Now that the property has been cleaned up and new facilities have been built, there is ample space for meaningful community programming, education, social events, traditional practices, gardening/farming, and more.”

Now the challenge is to bring more people into the fold – introduce them to The Heron’s Nest, show them the value of the site as greenspace, education, culture. That can be done in small ways; they’re offering parts of the site as rentals for parties, meetings, classes, even camping. They’re continuing to offer events of their own at the site. And one big one is on the calendar for next month: Return the Land, a dinner and silent-auction fundraiser. They’ll be screening a documentary on that big outdoor screen, too.

Return the Land is happening at 5 pm Saturday, October 16th. Dinner is free; you can RSVP at An option to participate virtually will be offered, too. But if you go in person, there’s much to see.

In the meantime, they’re also accepting online donations. And volunteer help is appreciated as they continue to work at the site, where Lee has logged thousands of hours – email contact is the same as the RSVP above,

14 Replies to "The Heron's Nest Project: A dream with the chance for you to be the wind beneath its wings"

  • S.M. Alki September 15, 2021 (8:06 pm)

    Great work Amanda!

  • Heron Lover September 15, 2021 (8:23 pm)

    We were up there a week or two ago and were given a wonderful tour of the land as well as information about what they were trying to accomplish. I was just talking with some friends about the need for more people to hear about this and BOOM! WSB to the rescue. In a city where so many have so much, it would be a shame for this project not to reach its goals.

  • fiestapinguino September 16, 2021 (9:52 am)

    I’ve been working with Amanda and the team on this since January. So glad to see this get media attention!

  • invalidsyntax September 16, 2021 (10:23 am)

    Humanity needs more people like you. 💚🌄

  • SuzD September 16, 2021 (11:05 am)

    Any updates regarding   501C status for this project?   It sounds like wonderful work and a great vision.

    • WSB September 16, 2021 (11:37 am)

      They’re working with a 501c3 as a fiscal sponsor, as do many community organizations, while pursuing their own, which takes time (I believe this is explained in the document linked in the story).

      • fiestapinguino September 18, 2021 (10:11 am)

        Yes! They are currently fiscally sponsored by Angels for Angels

  • Ws prayers September 16, 2021 (12:48 pm)

    They are also on hipcamp for local camping :)

  • Karyn M. September 16, 2021 (2:38 pm)

    WSB – can you connect with the Seattle Times, tv or other local media partners to help get the word out more broadly?  There’s a chunk of money to raise in a short amount of time!  I’ve volunteered a bit with the project and it’s truly an incredible opportunity for our community to realize.  If 2,000 people all gave $100 each, the down payment goal would be surpassed!

    • WSB September 16, 2021 (3:21 pm)

      We don’t have “local media partners” but the regional outlets read WSB, trust me, and do their own stories on what they see here if and when they feel it’s worthwhile for their audiences. But I hope Shared Spaced already has reached out to those organizations directly – as well as contacting advocacy organizations on the many facets of the project (environmental, Indigenous rights, etc.). Meantime, we have 100,000 regular readers, some off-peninsula, so this is reaching a fairly broad audience as it is. – TR

      • Karyn M. September 16, 2021 (5:31 pm)

        Awesome, thank you so much for getting the word out there, WSB!

  • KJI September 17, 2021 (8:33 am)

    A breath of hope.  Thank you. I’ll attend the dinner, I look forward to it. In the meantime I am retired and a small scale farmer and long time educator so if I fit in to help at all m just let me know. Kea Ireland

  • datamuse September 17, 2021 (12:54 pm)

    I just recently heard about this place which is not far from my house. Very interested in their mission and in supporting it.

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