Friday, September 01, 2006

Finding Community At Salmon Beach

Salmon Beach residents, Roxanne, Amelia and Timothy

Salmon Beach is perhaps Tacoma's most secluded neighborhood. Consisting of about 80 homes on stilts, it's located at water level on Tacoma's western shoreline, just south of Pt. Defiance Park. (If you use GoogleEarth, take a look at the satellite image of the long, single-file line of houses that comprise this neighborhood.) The only access to Salmon Beach is by way of long and steep footpaths from the cliff-top above, or by water. Residents must leave their cars in parking lots at the top of the cliff and hand carry their groceries down to their homes.

My friend, Terry, and I descended the terraced stairway to Salmon Beach today, and walked the single, narrow, sometimes tunnel-like foot path that comprises the neighborhood's one "street." We met long-time resident Roxanne and her children, and chatted about life on the waterline. The view is spectacular. One of the best views of the Narrows Bridge is from Salmon Beach, and "Beachers" can also see parts of Gig Harbor across the water, and some of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Residents can fish, swim and boat from their front porches and decks (the saltwater of the Sound was crystal clear today).
Not that living at Salmon Beach is without its inconveniences. One man told us about having to lug over a hundred pounds of tools up the hill for work each day (the cliff-top parking lot is not secure against theft). I've already mentioned having to carry groceries down. Then there's the storms. Roxanne said that in our most recent windstorm she and her family had to evacuate their house because the sea-level wind was lifting it off its pilings.

But perhaps the biggest reason people choose to live at Salmon Beach in spite of its drawbacks is because of the sense of community they find there. When Roxanne's family had to evacuate their house, a neighbor with a secure building immediately took them in. If there's a heavy job to be done, the neighbors pitch in. If someone finds a cedar log floating free in the sound, they'll get a Salmon Beach neighbor to bring a second boat and lug the log to shore. Then 3 or 4 families will work together to cut and split it into firewood. Terry and I walked past beautiful firewood piles today!
The southernmost house of Salmon Beach

I must admit I envy the folks of Salmon Beach. They are surrounded by natural beauty and enjoy a real sense of community. And they have art! For example, they have Chloe, the mermaid by Marilyn Mahoney, and a totem pole by Chris Brooks.

Not to mention wildlife!
What Salmon Beach residents don't have are some of the building permits they need to improve their houses, and confidence that their cars up at cliff-top won't be tampered with at night. We're praying for you about those things, Beachers!

11 comments:

i'm_inspired said...

I still read your blog frequently. Although I have to admit, not especially for what you have to say...but for looking at your pictures!

The photograpy is incredible!

vwsista said...

Wow! Can anyone go to Salmon Beach?

Anonymous said...

I lived there for years. The moonlight on the water, the bridge lights twinkling at night, the serenity. I miss the beauty of the place.

And the neighbors are great too.

Jon-Paul said...

Googled Salmon Beach and came up with this. Don't know you but am grateful to see notes on community and faith. God bless.

Lorna said...

What a wonderful commentary on Salmon Beach! It sounds like such a close, caring community. I love the idea of praying through the streets of Tacoma, and it's refreshing to remember how much God loves each person in every part of the world - entire cities! Thank you for your faith and inspiration...

Anonymous said...

We have lived at Salmon Beach for YEARS! My mom grew up there and now my husband and I have decided to raise our family there. It is a lovely community, and it is it's own little word. The trips up and down the stairs with gorceries and a child on your back is completely worth it... When I go home, I get to see the most breathtaking sights and my child will grow up in a community where is front yard is a beach full of wonder and discoveries. There is not a better place in this world to live.

Mathias said...
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Lorna said...
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Anonymous said...

My dad had a friend who lived their and took me and my brothers there as kids in the early 90s. I loved that place and I googled it when I just saw a news story about a mudslide in Seattle it reminded me of a slide they had there when I was a kid. I think I will have to go visit that place soon.

Anonymous said...

I went walking along Salmon Beach today and was verbally accosted by one of the rudest people I've ever had the displeasure to meet. He tried to tell me the staircases are private property and only residents are allowed on them. I don't think this is true. There is a sign at the entrance saying non-resident pedestrians are not permitted after dusk but this is a safety issue, not a trespassing issue.

Anonymous said...

I lived at Salmon Beach about 70 years ago. In fact, it is the first home that I can remember. At the time we had no refrigeration and only screen covered boxes on the side of our house to keep things cool. Our "facilities" dumped directly into the bay and flushed naturally twice a day. We finally had to move away when my father injured his back and could no longer make the trek up the path.