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.
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.
Schuster 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.
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.