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A Pleasant Gem in Federal Way, WA Paul Richardson
West Hylebos Wetlands is a 120 acre enclave that preserves wetland as you would expect from the name but also very old trees; big leaf maple, red cedar, Douglas fir, western hemlock, and ancient Sitka Spruce growing since the time of the Mayflower landing. There are many varieties of flora and fauna. I saw a large owl up in a tree on a recent visit. Appeared to be about the size of a Great Horned but wasn’t, could have been a grey I suppose but seemed a little on the small side for that. Also saw lots of fish rising in the lake. Stimulated the fisherman in me. More than 100 species of birds live in the wetland and they list a huge variety of smaller vegetation types. The park is in an urban area but once you walk away from the street to the interior and especially the boardwalk through the wetland you feel as if you are in a totally secluded wilderness— wonderful. It is a great place for reflection and contemplation as the thick foliage protects from outside sounds intruding. It is interesting to me that on multiple visits I never heard loud talking by anyone there. The ambience promotes a kind of natural reverence for the setting. There are two log cabins nearest the street. One is the oldest building in Federal Way, the Barker cabin. The other was a real estate office of a fellow named Denny, hence the Denny cabin. You will note the distinctive angled treatment of the first floor of the Denny cabin in the pictures. If you get the chance to visit this park it is important that you do so. It is very unique in my experience and I think it will appeal to anyone who loves nature. I want to make a brief mention of the history of the Hylebos name. It was the name of a famous and well-loved priest from Belgium who came to the Washington Territory after ordination and
remained. I have appended more detail at the end of this taken from the King County website.
Big Leaf Maple
From the King County, WA website Father Peter Hylebos honored by naming of seventh floor in King County’s Chinook Building King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer announced that the seventh floor of King County’s Chinook Building would be named in honor of Father Peter Hylebos. “The history and accomplishments of Father Peter Hylebos are intimately connected with the Puget Sound region,” said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “His enthusiasm, inspiration and drive to make a better community for those around him made him one of the most popular men of his time, and one of our region's most significant figures.” Each King County councilmember selected a name for the building floor number that corresponded to their respective council district number, allowing for the naming of floors one through nine. The County Executive selected the names for the Father Peter Francis Hylebos remaining four floors of the building. A plaque will be placed within the Chinook Building to memorialize those individuals selected for each floor. The building and floors were dedicated on Friday, January 25. The Chinook Building is located at 401 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle and houses many of the county’s administrative services. Most citizens of the South Sound region have heard of West Hylebos State Park [former name for the wetlands park] and Hylebos Creek. In Tacoma, there is the Hylebos Waterway and the Hylebos Bridge going across it. Several other lesser-known places, such as Hylebos Hill, as well as a few businesses also bear this name. “The name Hylebos is familiar to all who live in the Federal Way area,” said von Reichbauer. “With the naming of the Chinook Building’s seventh floor, the name Hylebos will now become familiar to all who live in King County.
This dedication will ensure the legacy of peace and service left by Father Hylebos lives on.” Peter Francis Hylebos was born in Graumont, Belgium on December 27, 1848, the son of a mercantile merchant, James Hylebos and Dorothy Stuart Hylebos. He was one of twelve children. Hylebos graduated from the University of Louvain in 1870 and was ordained a Catholic priest on June 12, 1870 before leaving for North America in September of that year. Father Hylebos showed interest in all areas and in all people of the northwest. During the 1880s, many cities in the northwest experienced violence when an attempt was made to expel the Chinese by force. Father Hylebos played a critical role in trying to prevent the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma in 1885. Native Americans played a major role in the life of Father Hylebos and he took a great interest in their welfare. In 1888 Father Hylebos purchased a 140-acre tract of land in what is now Federal Way for a school. This became St. George’s Industrial School for Indians. The school officially opened on October 26, 1888. In 1890 Hylebos opened a home for orphans and young women in Seattle. He established a hospital and several schools as well as a residence for women in Bellingham. He also helped establish a hospital in Aberdeen and a school in Pomeroy. Two schools were established in Tacoma, the Aquinas Academy and the Visitation Academy. In addition to his work on behalf of the underprivileged and his duties as pastor of St. Leo’s, Father Hylebos held the office of Vicar General of the Diocese of Seattle for 25 years. He went to Rome in 1910 and was accorded a personal interview with the Pope. It was the unique record of Father Hylebos never to have been pastor of a church he did not build, and never to have left a church or school he built in debt. His friends could be numbered by the thousands, many of whom were on the most intimate terms with him and constant visitors to his Parochial
home. Father Peter Hylebos died of influenza on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1918 at age 69. [If you are interested in history you might want to explore the 1918 flu pandemic that killed huge numbers of people across the world.]