McNeil Island in Pierce County once had a school, prison, lumber mill, and homes.
Now the only residents on the six-square-mile island in southern Puget Sound are the 200 sex offenders living in a special state facility. But reminders of the island’s past can be found on its beaches.
“There’s just so much debris along here,” Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Restoration Manager Monica Shoemaker said while pointing out the remnants of a barge and copper pipes on one of the beaches.
Shoemaker is part of a state coalition that's removed more than 1,000 tons of concrete, creosote-soaked pilings, scrap metal, and discarded bricks from the island’s shoreline.
"A lot of what we're finding is rubble that was dumped when they demolished a building somewhere else on the island and protected the shoreline in the way thought best in the day,” said DNR Archeologist Maurice Major.
The state is spending $500,000 to remove the debris.
Shoemaker said the project should result in improved conditions for aquatic wildlife.
"McNeil Island has a lot of undisturbed shoreline,” said Shoemaker. “So trying to create these long stretches of pristine habitat is what they (wildlife) need."