If you like surprises, you’ll love Price Sculpture Forest in Coupeville. It’s a new trail recently added to the latest edition of Hiking Close to Home which is coming soon with 70 local trails! This one is particularly fun for younger outdoor explorers. There are surprises around every turn. Its’ fun for us older adventurers to watch them discover the sculptures hanging from trees, sprouting out of the forest floor or hidden among the branches.
I was there last weekend with an off-island friend. It was early and ours was the only car in the small parking lot. As we wandered through the woods moving from one sculpture to another, we found the artistry of pileated woodpeckers and nesting birds mingling with the wood carvings and creations of other talented sculptors. I noticed some of the artwork had changed since my last visit which was another delightful surprise. There are two short loop trails that form a figure eight. Nature Nurture stays fairly level and is considered doable for those with mobility challenges. Part way along, we turned downhill on to the Whimsy Way trail. We paused at one of my favorite pieces. It’s like a giant bouquet of flowers that snakes around overhead made with traffic light lens and old tools painted bright colors.
The excited squeals of children sang out from the trail above us and we smiled knowing our experience was about to get richer. Being able to walk among a series of sculptures in a forest setting adds intrigue to a trail in the woods. But being able to observe kids interacting with the artwork magnifies the experience. We slowed our pace and looked over our shoulders.
A father with a young son and daughter came up to a wooden sculpture as we hovered nearby. The wooden blocks seemed to explode from a log that looked like it had been laying on the ground for years. I asked them, “Do you think this sculpture was carved out of the down tree that’s lying here, or do you think it was brought here and assembled on site?” The boy was quite sure it was brought in. It was fun to watch the kids examine each sculpture as the family moved ahead of us. Another family with kids seemed to run from one art piece to another pausing briefly to point and shout excitedly. The mother raced to keep up. A family of grown-ups moved slowly stopping to consider each one. This trail is full of wonder for all ages.
My friend asked how this place came to be. I’d read that in 2008 the Price family bought this 15 acres on Penn Cove near Coupeville with the plan to build a home there. Then another site was chosen for the house instead leaving this property undeveloped. They wanted to preserve it so they consulted with Whidbey Camano Land Trust who created a conservation easement that permanently removes development rights, prevents clear cutting and protects the property for wildlife habitat with allowances for specified infrastructure. Since then another 1.2 acres have been added as a buffer.
The property was logged about a century ago. Prior owners planned to subdivide it and build a road through the middle to the waterfront, but those plans never materialized. The Price family want to enhance the sculpture forest with a visitor’s center and an indoor art gallery someday. But for now there are no buildings, no restrooms and no entry fees. It’s just a walk in the woods with plenty of surprises.
(Please, no dogs or bikes on the trails.)
Address: 678 Parker Road, Coupeville.
Directions: From Highway 20 in Coupeville turn north at the light on Main Street (toward the hospital). Turn right on NE 9th Street and drive 1.5 miles. Look carefully for the paved parking lot on the left. Parking is also allowed on the wide shoulder.
By Bus: Island Transit serves Main Street in Coupeville and stops at Morris Road 3 miles south of town, but not on Parker Road. You could walk from 9th Street in Coupeville on a gravel pedestrian trail alongside the road though it’s hilly. That walk round trip is three miles plus the half mile trail at the Sculpture Forest. You can also bring a bike on the bus.
By Bike: Though it's hilly, there are wide shoulders on Parker Road and slow speed limits.
Mobility: The Nature Nurture Loop is nearly level and smooth but not paved. The Whimsy Way Loop is hilly. Both loops combined are about a half mile walk.