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Rallying around the trees at Nason Ridge

By on August 28, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Kim, Eric and daughters Anna and Claire and dog Bella stop for a moment at Big Red — a giant ponderosa pine on the Nason Ridge trail.

By Hillary Clark

Eric Prestbo remembers the last day he saw his childhood cabin at Priest Lake. “I walked down to the lake to say goodbye to this place.”

He had made so many memories here in his youth. He remembered their one-room rough timber cabin, and swimming with his family and their shaggy dog at their sandy beach with its iconic rock. “My grandparents’ ashes are scattered there,” he said.

But time and distance meant the family couldn’t visit enough to give the place the care and attention it deserved. They had made the difficult decision to let the cabin go.

That day, as he turned to leave, a flash of movement caught the corner of his eye. He spun around just in time to see an osprey plummet out of the sky and splash into the water, talons first. It emerged right off the end of the dock with a fish — right where he and his grandfather used to frequently catch Kokanee.

A few years later, Eric and his wife Kim realized they wanted their two daughters to have somewhere to fall in love with, too.

After searching for a place that felt right, they built their own cabin nestled below Nason Ridge, just a short walk from Lake Wenatchee.

They used local contractors and plenty of Prestbo family elbow grease. They filled it with things from the old cabin, and recovered Eric’s grandfather’s old, hand-built, wooden fish smoke house. “One day, I’m going to catch a salmon in Lake Wenatchee and smoke it,” Eric said.

Now, their kids are grown themselves. They too have a youth filled with memories that mirror their father’s. They remember spending time with family, swimming at Lake Wenatchee, and hiking on the Nason Ridge trail to visit Big Red, the giant ponderosa pine.

Eric and his family have put a lot of work into their Lake Wenatchee cabin. He and his father Wally have spent hours hauling a chainsaw around, thinning the overgrown forest and restoring it to a more natural and fire-resistant state.

Wally was one of the first two people at Lake Wenatchee to apply for and receive Firewise USA® status for their neighborhood 10 years ago. This means that the community is better prepared to withstand a wildfire without the intervention of the fire department.

Eric is now a Firewise USA® captain himself, motivating his friends and neighbors to prepare their properties for wildfires as well. He’s driven by the idea of leaving the place better than he found it, and making sure his daughters never have to lose their connection here.

Last summer Eric found out that Weyerhaeuser had plans to build roads and harvest almost all the trees on the steep slope above Lake Wenatchee.

Eric said he knows that logging can often be used to improve the long-term health of a forest, and that it’s an important part of our northwest culture. “It holds up the roof of my cabin.”

But the plan for Nason Ridge would have drastically changed the character of Lake Wenatchee, impacting people, water and wildlife.

The community rallied. They contacted Weyerhaeuser, started a petition to raise public awareness, and reached out to the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust for help. Weyerhaeuser listened, and agreed to pause the timber harvest and allow time to craft a permanent conservation outcome.

Western Rivers Conservancy, a nonprofit that buys and conserves river lands across the West, was able to secure a deal with Weyerhaeuser to buy all 3,714 acres on Nason Ridge. After that, Eric and his family had reason to feel hopeful for the future of Nason Ridge.

WRC is now purchasing the entire property, and the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust has committed to raising $1 million from the local community to help pay for the purchase.

Because this place means so much to him, Eric volunteered to join the fundraising team. “It’s for our kids,” he said.

Now, he can look up at the deep green of Nason Ridge from the shore of Lake Wenatchee State Park and see a path to protection.

And every once in a while, he’s lucky enough to see an osprey dive for a fish in Lake Wenatchee. When he does, he remembers his favorite fishing friend — his grandfather — and he’s thankful that he can pass on this place to future generations.

Hillary Clark is the membership and education coordinator, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.

An aerial shot captures the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park with Nason Ridge in the background. Photo by John Marshall Photography

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