The Women Who Dreamt of Preservation
Written by Scott Eilrich, Park Ranger 1, Federation Forest State Park
A legacy before our eyes
The morning dew wraps itself around the old growth forest at Federation Forest State Park. Rolling down from the surrounding mountain ranges a thick blanket of fog encroaches. Pine needles are raining down from the towering coniferous old growth giants blanketing each side of the walkways leading to the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center.
As we enter the building, a large information board is spotted detailing the story of the women, history, and founding of Federation Forest State Park.
“The members of General Federation of Women’s Clubs – Washington State deeply appreciate the park staff who care for Federation Forest State Park. Without a doubt, the prescient Clubwomen of the 1920s who saw a need to preserve old growth forest and donated the land for the first location of the park would be pleased to know that future generations continue to be able to walk among the gentle giants as was their intent at the time of their gift."
The women who made history
From its earliest days, members of the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs (the predecessor of GFWC-WS) have understood the importance of preserving natural resources. Minutes from a meeting in 1898 reflect that importance; one of the founders pleaded “for the preservation of forests because they purify the air and water, modify climate, prevent freshets and keep up supplies for springs”.
Women of the GFWC-WS have a lengthy recorded history of contributing prolific monetary donations, and hosting fundraisers to Federation Forest State Park. They take a personal interest in park maintenance as well and host an annual “clean up” party at the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center and vicinity.
In the mid 1920’s a teacher at Everett High School, Jean Caithness Greenlees, had a dream of preserving old growth forest, and initiated an effort to preserve a tract of old growth forest for use as a park. Greenlees presented her idea to Esther Maltby, president of the Washington State chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and together they launched the “Save a tree” campaign in 1926. Donors purchased pins for $1 and “trees” for $100.
Today, a bronze plaque is dedicated with the names in the park’s upper picnic area. “Save a Tree” pins are currently being sold at the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center. Two years later, the fundraiser was successfully completed, and the vison and dream of Jean Caithness Greenlees was a reality.
The name “Federation Forest” was chosen to honor the work of the GFWC-WS.
Catherine T. Montgomery, for whom the interpretive center at Federation Forest is named.
Rebirth of the park
A decade later in 1938, a turbulent windstorm devastated Federation Forest State Park and it was condemned as a safety hazard.
On January 16th, 1941, the deed to an old growth tract of land along the White River was transferred from the White River Lumber Company to Washington State Parks. This tract of land would expand over the next few years. On July 16th, 1949, the present-day location of Federation Forest State Park was dedicated.
Almost a decade later in 1958, Catherine Montgomery, a member of Washington State Federation Women’s Clubs and pioneer educator had dreamt of preservation, and lived a life exploring, left an enormous sum of her estate for interpretation at Federation Forest.
On August 20th, 1964, the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center was completed and dedicated in her honor.