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Schuster Slope Landscape Management

Highlights of the Schuster Slope Landscape Management Project

In a hurry? See the highlights on this project by viewing the Schuster Slope Stabilization and Restoration one-page handout on the first Habitat Management Unit.



 View the Schuster Slope One Page Summary.


Schuster Slope

Schuster 1893

One of the defining characteristics of the Puget Sound region is the dynamic coastline, which includes more than 1,400 miles of beaches built out of sands and gravels from nearby bluffs.  These actively eroding bluffs, including Schuster Slope, are an essential part of our coastal ecosystems.  They provide a significant amount of coastal forest, support nesting birds and raptors, serve as refuge for native wildlife, and provide sediment and nourishment to our beaches as they erode along the shoreline.


Site Conditions

Schuster 2015Schuster Slope is located along the west shore of Commencement Bay in Tacoma. The lack of healthy vegetation on the steep slopes, along with frequent rainfall, causes Schuster Slope to experience skin slides, debris flows and sloughing as it tries to revert to its pre-development, natural feeder bluff state.

Slope stability has been the focus of two previous City-led studies conducted by GeoEngineers, the first in 2000 and the second in 2014.

2000 GeoEngineers Hillslope Area between Schuster and Stadium Way Report 2014 GeoEngineers Baseline Conditions Assessment

The entire Schuster Slope area is classified as a Critical Area under Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) 13.11 due to the steep slopes, wetlands, streams, and priority habitat (as defined by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). For long-term management activities to occur, a 20-year permit under TMC 13.11 Critical Areas Preservation Code will allow Environmental Services to efficiently move forward with restoration actions and improve the slope stability.


Landscape Management Plan

In 2014, the City began a public process to create a landscape management plan for the Schuster Slope. The goal was to ensure the new plan was reflective of the current conditions, best available science, and regulation compliance.



Metro Parks Tacoma provided assistance with outreach while GeoEngineers and Landau Associates provided scientific analysis.

The result of the City's efforts is a 20-year landscape management plan built on the concept of achieving a target ecosystem composition to maximize the ecosystem services that Schuster Slope can provide. The vegetative management goals for the project area include:

  • Achieving a sustainable target ecosystem
  • Improving slope stability
  • Maximizing stormwater benefit
  • Increasing public safety and infrastructure protection

The management plan’s success depends on effective implementation and regular updates to incorporate the best available science and management techniques.

View the entire Schuster Slope Landscape Management Plan

Schuster Slope Work Implementation


The management plan is well under way with work continuing along the top bench closest to Stadium Way. After a successful winter planting season and many lessons learned a reprioritization along the top of slope was done to focus on tree health and speed up long term management.


Schuster Slope Management Unit Layout Map - All Units


A long 3-acre band along the top of slope from South 4th Street to Division Way was worked over by City staff, pruning unhealthy limbs on many damaged and coppiced trees. A total of 179 individual trees were pruned, surveyed with handheld GPS units, and physically tagged. Click on the link below to view the new 2.8 acre work unit and the location of pruned trees.


Pruned Trees Map 


Management Unit 2 Work Plan


Schuster Slope Management Area - Unit 2 Work Plan (coming soon)

Schuster Slope Management Area - Unit 2 Work Plan Map

Unit 2 Work Plan - Treatment Plots (coming soon)

Unit 2 Plant List and Quantities 


Sample Planting Plans

Plant species distribution and quantities have been selected in accordance with the Schuster Slope Landscape Management Plan and the existing site conditions as specified in the Management Unit 2 Work Plan. The following sample planting plans have been developed to illustrate the typical distribution and spacing of these plant communities on the site. 


Top of Slope - Dry to Moist Soils, Sun

Top of Slope - Dry to Moist Soils, Shade 


Management Unit 1 Work Plan


The Process


An extensive public process was conducted to inform the development of the management plan and to address concerns and desires of the adjacent property owners and the greater community. Three public meetings were held to discuss the progress and answer questions, and a citizen steering committee was formed to help guide the direction of the management plan.



Task Estimated Start Date Estimated End Date
City Restoration Work Unit 1 November 2015 March 2016
Unit 2 Prep Work June 2016 September 2016
City Restoration Work Unit 2 November 2016 February 2017
Monitoring and Adaptive Management Summer 2017



For more information regarding the progress of the Schuster Slope Landscape Management Plan, please contact the City of Tacoma Schuster Slope Project Manager:

Brandon Drucker

Environmental Services Department
(253) 591-5780