Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunrise Beach Park

The Gig Harbor Kayak and Canoe Club has grown tremendously since it's inception, and of course we are always reading on Facebook or in The Peninsula Gateway or other local newspapers about their success in various meets whether here in Gig Harbor or out-of-state.

However, how many of us remember when, Rudy Moller, a lifelong resident of Gig Harbor tried to start a rowing club in 1980?  His idea was to show rowing is just as much fun as powerboats or sail boats.  Rudy thought that rowing provided a different perspective on what you see when you are on and so close to the water.  The Peninsula Gateway did a full page article and photos of Rudy and some of his friends plying the harbor waters March 26, 1980.  A copy of it is in the Harbor History Museum Research Room.

But this was not the only thing or the most important contribution Rudy wanted to share with us, our community and, of course, visitors.  Around five years earlier in 1975 Rudy, his brothers and sisters decided to donate 30 acres of their parents' 1890 homestead at Sunrise Beach to Pierce County for a park.  Rudy also talked his cousin Carl Moller into exchanging 2.3 acres of his parents 1892 homestead land for the park in exchange for a piece of property with the same assessed value, but only if the donated land remained in its natural state as parkland.  In other words, undeveloped raw timberland, wetlands or swamps and populated by the natural wildlife of the area.

The first donation was 12 wooded acres along with 800 feet of Puget Sound waterfront.  At the Mollers' insistence, Pierce County also purchased an adjacent 18 acres with an additional 360 acres of beach waterfront property.  The Mollers then purchased an additional 7 acre wetland adjacent to the parkland and requested that it too be incorporated into the park.

Rudolph Moller's Farm

Rudy, his family members including cousins wanted to be assured that some of the oldest evergreens on the Peninsula would be preserved and that the land would not, under any circumstance, become another subdivision.  Their idea was to turn the land into an environmental classroom where the main features would be sea life, plants and birds of all kinds.  Some of the birds and animals include fox, raccoons, beaver, mink and Great Blue Herons.  The land also includes a natural amphitheater in a meadow above the beach, three springs and a marshland.  The lands also included several fruit trees which had been planted when his parents first settled there in 1890.  There were also some cabins on the beach that could be used by those studying the unique environment along Sunrise beach.

By 1982 that park had grown to 43 acres with prime waterfront on Colvos Passage.  And today, when I checked the internet Sunrise Beach Park has grown to 82 acres with 2,400 linear feet of shoreline.  The internet also shows the park as a popular scuba diving destination.  It has two miles of walking trails and forest paths with views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier.  There are designated parking areas, picnic tables as well.  But it is also important to remember when you visit that the hours are 7 AM until dusk.

Doesn't this make you want to visit or revisit Sunrise Beach Park and see it through the eyes of the three families that first settled there?

Herman Claussen was the first of the families to arrive on Sunrise Beach and then was followed by his cousins Henry and Anna Moller and their children:  Madeline Marie, Henry Carl, Hubert Joseph and Carl Maryon.  Rudy's family arrived in 1890 and his siblings are:  Gerhart, Norman, Margaret and Carolyn.  Herman's daughter was Elsie Claussen who, following her father's death in 1930, took over and operated the passenger launch Elsie C II and his three docks at Sunrise Beach.  Unfortunately Elsie died in 1935, but she too was, like her younger cousins, a person who enjoyed the out-of-doors ( and with friends loved climbing Mt. Rainier).  Three families, all related, who loved their new home in the Pacific Northwest.
Elsie Clauusen

Herman Claussen in his Berry Field
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